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Cycle of the bicycle-riding Cheval

(Fragments from the "Collections" of the Mailman Cheval).
What is the Cycle of the bicycle-riding Cheval about? What do the Fragments from the Mailman Cheval's "Collections" more properly deal with ? Under the guise of these two rather intriguing titles, both the Cycle and the Fragments have something to do with letters and with nothing else. With a few fanciful letters. Those delivered (as any kind of mail would be) by a mailman who, himself, does come into being only through letters. Named Cheval, this postman gets into existence by the means of a few letters (very precisely, those of the word VELO, as will be explained below); he arises from a bunch of four letters (V.E.L.O.) which Jean Lancri, a French artist who is quite a joker, enjoys turning into paintings. The whole set of these pictures now form what their author calls the Cycle de Cheval à Vélo [roughly translated into English by the Cycle of the bicycle-riding Cheval ]; therefore, they now constitute, within this Cycle, the fictitious and playful Collections of the bicycle-riding Cheval.

As a matter of fact, this Cycle , evokes, in a fictional and humorous way, the Facteur Cheval , an actual early twentieth-century French rural mailman or postman [facteur means a postal carrier in French], quite famous for the odd architecture of the house he built for himself and, consequently, a naive artist much beloved of the French surrealists poets of the period.

Jean Lancri started working on the Cycle of the bicycle-riding Cheval when he realized that VELO [the French colloquial word for bike or bicycle] was the anagram of LOVE. Why, indeed, should not one consider that the French word VELO is haunted by the English LOVE in the same way as the unconscious (according to Freud's theories) keeps haunting the conscious mind? That eccentric question has provided the whimsical reason why Jean Lancri decided, some fifteen years ago, to call this "ghost" back into being. In fact, the entire cycle of paintings (of which only a small selection is visible in the Popy Arvani Gallery) is based on a reversion / recycling of VELO into LOVE and back again. And so, when Jean Lancri shows the Facteur / Mailman / Postman on his
bicycle delivering his mail, we might find ourselves wondering whether it is he, the postman, who imposes his will on the bicycle he rides or rather LOVE in the guise of his VELO which rides him. When the Postman Cheval takes his bike out for a spin, is it not perhaps in fact LOVE (that is to say EROS in disguise) who pumps the pedals ?

As one can see, the Cycle is based upon a number of puns in two languages, to do with cycles, of course, but also, mainly, with the
French word VELO (bike) and the English word LOVE. Let us add that "Cheval" (the mailman's family name) means, in French, "horse". This accounts for the fact that the postman's face, in Lancri's paintings, often changes into the muzzle of a horse.

Since 1991, when the first exhibition of the Cycle was shown in Brussels, in Belgium, and before pedalling on to Paris and the Popy
Arvani Gallery, the postman has been riding his VELO, for all kinds of artistic events, performances and exhibitions, in eight different
countries. This year, as one can see, just before coming back to Paris, he has even pulled up his bicycle in a prestigious palace, the
Hermitage State Museum of Saint-Petersburg, in Russia. What can we behold on the works now exhibited ? First of all, a postman
who is a very strange man indeed. The rise of the bicycle-riding Cheval to the ranks of the visible remains irrevocably linked to four letters, to their orderly or disorderly array. Arising from words turned back to front, from LOVE to VELO and vice versa, perched on two languages, English and French, our postman is obviously, too, a very strange animal: always more or less halfway between visible and readable, riding between drawing and painting, straddling humanity and animality. Is it necessary to say that animality, within this Cycle, means the depths of humanity ?

Thus can we recognize that, in many pictures, our postman is shoving his human features into the profile of a horse-like animal. As for the handle-bar of his bike, often shaped as a teasing and alluring woman, does it not allude to the very change of VELO into LOVE ? Elsewhere, for instance in the Fragments from the postman's collections of couples making love , the postman can be seen practising one of his favourite activities: voyeurism. If one goes on scrutinizing those pictures, one may then realize that, very often, the wheels of the bicycle [that is to say, of VELO] have been drawn with wax pastel: by the means of the application of a red-hot iron. Therefore, one may become aware of the fact that the impression of these wheels has been made, so to say, with eyes wide shut. The wheels of the VELO are thus produced in utter blindness. In the night of the mind: much alike what happens when one
is under the sway of the unconscious or under the urge of some erotic activity.

Indeed, the vehicle of the Cycle of the bicycle-riding Cheval , its true carrier, its most effective "postman", is language itself. "There
is nothing beyond the text" reminds us the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. As far as he is concerned, our musing and amusing
bicycle-riding Facteur Cheval slightly alters the stakes of this statement into the following question: "Is there anything beyond
language ?" His unique ambition would be to raise this question in the glow and glare of colours.



Peintures & dessins

du 10 décembre 2005 au 14 janvier 2006

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