GABRIEL DUBOIS   SIGNS AND TIMES

Gabriel Dubois’ surefooted relationship with abstractions of the past permits a characteristically personal humour, variation and wit. A powerful strength in line and curve play in these new works with the non-art colour of brown and the textures of wood grain juxtaposed with singing strips of lilac, turquoise or green. In these newer, more rigorous rectilinear abstractions, there is a sense of a three-dimensional object bursting to leave the constraints of a picture plane; of constraint as a game which knows very well where it is coming from (the Bauhaus, De Stijl, later geometric abstractions) and where it is going. Dubois’s confidence and optimism is striking. He takes his precursors on a trip to new cities and more challenging spaces where tagging persists in illicit signs and names, the persisting fire-crackles of anarchism. A sense of mischief is countered by a feel for positioning and balance, so evident, too in his collages, where not only the juxtaposition of words (‘Chopin’, ’fingerpuppet’ - inverted) delight in a high/low clash, but his textures, colour reproductions, letters, squared paper, are orchestrated with slabs of colour. Specific double curves and circles, create a hybrid poetry of words, images and silent forms.


Works on external walls, whether on an abandoned temple in India or an ancient doorway in Saignon, Provence are of a particular elegance and power. If the sign says ‘I was here’ this message seems submerged by the sense of a recondite meaning , a secret sign, pointing to a past or future event. The snaking lines seem like twenty-first century circuits, but yet again ancient labrynths, with a hint of the Eastern shop-sign. So fresh, reterritorialising the space, we know that they will weather and one day disappear; hence the preciousness of his photographs taken at the moment of watching paint dry.


Dubois brings the vitality of the survival instinct into the gallery space with his stripy huts of found wood, built inside the gallery - a paradox in an already-curated situation, the ‘white cube’ that offers a modernist ground for his smooth and witty paintings. Yet his creation of a ‘space inside’ the cabin creates a closed and intimate place for conversation, a sneaked cigarette, a caress or a curse, beyond the gallery’s own jurisidiction and surveillance. The huts elude not only gallery decorum but often the market itself, always retaining a dash of Hansel and Gretel, a whiff of the Brothers Grimm transported into the present.


Just as painting can become architecture, so his new Obelisk sculptures can be table-top size or expand to the monumental. And just as words are a game with meaning — Okeneko, N’fumo, Das Kykkeliky Eingang — scale, too, is one of a set of variables. The relationship between sport or play and Dubois’s intensity of focus and form (the hut as a survival mechanism — art as a survival mechanism) is clear. Dubois’s traversals of time and space, Canada, India, Britain, Germany, his polyglot and nomadic existence, so typical of now, give his works both a sense of security, of being made in the here and now, and a slippery elusiveness. Many of those huts no longer exist; what if the signs on wall or canvas were one night to disappear, leaving surfaces bare? Beware.


Dr. Sarah Wilson, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, England