Movement Free Figuration

Across several countries in the 1980s, artists began moving away from abstraction and offering instead figurative and colourful paintings; Neo-expressionism in Germany, Trans-avant-garde in Italy, Bad Painting in the United States and Figuration Libre in France. Artists of Figuration Libre (Free Figuration) took the “freedom" to represent all forms of art without the barriers of origin or the hierarchy of “high" and “low" cultural value. Works belonging to Free Figuration were suitable for both applied, fine, cultivated, Western and non-Western art. 


Free Figuration received a lot of media coverage in the 1980s, and was built around prominent figures such as Robert Combas, Hervé Di Rosa, Richard Di Rosa, Rémi Blanchard, François Boisrond, Louis Jammes, Pascal Le Gras and Catherine Viollet. Between 1982 and 1985, these artists exhibited several times in New York, London and Paris. They showed their works alongside their American counterparts: Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Tseng Kwong Chi, Crash, Ronan Munuera and Psek. In 1985, Free Figuration was represented at the Biennale de Paris.


This new generation of artists was driven by both an enthusiasm and a nonchalance that juxtaposed the severity of 1970s Conceptual art, Arte povera and Minimal art. However, unlike the Italian Trans-avant-gardists and the German neo-expressionists, the Free Figuration artists did not take refuge in nostalgia. They instead indulged in current events, utilising comics, science fiction, suburban culture and children's drawings to influence their work. This inspiration can be clearly felt in Robert Combas' works, who explored monsters, rock music and robots in his paintings, whilst Hervé de Rosa was guided by African aesthetic and culture. 


Robert Combas: French painter and sculptor who can be considered as the father of Free Figuration. His own works are usually completed on large, unstretched canvases and frequently explore the human figure and themes of war, crime and sex. 


Hervé Di Rosa: French painter, sculptor, animator and key figure in the Free Figuration movement, his works are often impetuous and amusing, and are greatly inspired by comics and graffiti. 


Richard Di Rosa: French sculptor and brother of Hervé di Rosa, Richard di Rosa was inspired mostly by comics, rock music and graffiti. He was additionally the only member of the Free Figuration movement to practise sculpture. 


Catherine Viollet: French painter, Catherine Viollet, participated in the "Finir en beauté" exhibition with Robert Combas, Di Rosa, Jean-Charles Blais, Rémi Blanchard and François Boisrond.


Rémi Blanchard: first artist of the Free Figuration movement to exhibit at the Yvon Lambert Gallery in 1982. He also participated in the New York exhibition, "Statements New York 82"  with Robert Combas and François Boisrond.

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