Régis Perray, in praise of the discreet

Philippe Piguet, February 2016

Few are those who saw it, but that is precisely what he is after. The act of gluing a small daisy, cut out from some wallpaper, onto a pillar right down at floor level* as if it had grown there without us really knowing why: this comes from a will to not want to attract attention, or from an astonishing discretion which is not without recalling the profound relationship of meaning that this word has with the idea of discernment. For Régis Perray lacks neither one nor the other. There is no-one like him for infiltrating a situation and finding the appropriate place within it. Without fuss or pretention. Just his own particular way of responding, with a smile at the corners of the mouth, trying to catch another’s eye. With rigour, obstinacy and inventiveness. These are, incidentally, three terms that not only characterise his practice as an artist but also his personality.

In an art world that is too often humdrum, or even standardised, Régis Perray’s attitude is an exception. There is something about him that comes close to impertinence, but without ever giving way to mockery or smugness. Far from it. No-one is more accommodating than he is. What’s more, he is frank and direct, as when, for example, in the course of a conversation he says to you that he is a believer, and that this is as important for him as a man as it is for him as an artist. If you win his confidence he will tell you how he came about the felt pads and how he replaced the act of prayer with the act of cleaning, with a great deal of polishing, the wooden floor beneath the rose window of the church that he frequents in Nantes. Régis Perray has the sense of beauty. Beauty that is as much attached to objects charged with history and dust as it is to the know-how that draws on the ancestral practices of craftsmen. Without nostalgia though, unless it’s for the future, given the way he knows how to play with time, compose with symbols, and ultimately surprise the eye right where it doesn’t expect to be caught. In that, his work is full of mischief, wit, and poetry.

*in the group exhibitions Chercher le Garçon at MAC/VAL in Vitry-sur-Seine in 2015 and Virus at NETWERK contemporary art centre in Aalst, Belgium in 2014.

English translation Richard Gray