The title of this exhibition, which literally translates as Baking: becoming pizza, is a wry parody of the Deleuzian notion of “devenir,” or becoming. “Le devenir pizza” is an allusion to the future, the “à-venir” of humanity and of what we will become: “roasting, here on Earth or in hell,” to quote the artist Hédy Gobaa. We are overheating, constantly subjected to the tensions from geo-historico-political dissonances and the anthropocentric environmental crisis. How should today’s world be portrayed? As conflicts erupt worldwide and temperatures continue to climb, should our current era be represented by fire? These are the questions Gobaa asks himself. Hell, if there is one, is here, perhaps even right now; we are like pizza ready to be baked at degrees of intensity that are beyond our comprehension.
In his most recent body of work, Gobaa paints a range of subjects that are, to say the least, unexpected, and that straddle the boundary between comedy and tragedy: vulnerable kittens hiding under a burning hot car engine, a satyr-like demon stretched out under a broiler, a woman sits on a boiling wood-burning beach. These are recontextualized as non-sites, suffocating environments, versions of a mise en abyme. The surface of the canvas is treated like a screen that frames a still image. We find ourselves colliding before our imminent end; a true impasse that defies our apprehensions. Here, we confront our own existence.
Gobaa’s painting style is combustible. His ember brush lights their compositions with incandescent nuances. His oil and pigment combinations are like smoking liquids. Colours, notably reddening oranges, represent flames. It’s as if the canvases were illuminated, fired up. Special lighting designed especially for this exhibition augments this effect. Gobaa’s renderings, a product of his bold technique — carefully prepared surfaces, controlled movements that ensure precise, flat tints and layered glazing — are vectors of sensation linked to heat, and even suffocation, and reveal the manifest persistence of what awaits us.
Demonstrating the radical gap between perception and reality, Cuire : le devenir pizza can be viewed as a possibly humorous, illogical experience, but one that is equipped with a sense of how we interpret the current meaning of our existence in this smoldering world.
— Jean-Michel Quirion
Hédy Gobaa considers his paintings as a hypothesis of reality, which question our relationship to culture, habitats, intimacy and immigration. By linking them to the digital technological sphere, his work revives the doubts that Richter and Hyperrealism raise about history and the question of the sensible. Gobaa holds a PHD in art studies and practices at the Université du Québec à Montréal (2018) and a Masters in visual arts, art sciences, living and image arts at the Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (2011). He grew up in Tunisia, studied in France, then returned to live in Tunisia — a country he finally left for good two years after the Arab Spring. Gobaa has lived and worked in Montreal since 2013. He has exhibited extensively in Tunisia and at Art-Mûr in Montreal, for solo and group shows. He was part of the 2022 residency at the Baie-Saint-Paul Symposium.