For a half-century, French artist Jacques Villegle wandered the urban landscapes in search of anonymous, torn and deteriorated posters to turn into paintings with a strong visual impact that told the story of his generation and documented the ever-changing history of our contemporary cities.
“I did not try to criticise society. I just wanted to illustrate it in an original way,” he says. An insatiable collector and historian, he retrieved fragments from the life of the streets, shreds of barely visible letters and figures from advertising posters pasted on public billboards lacerated by the elements or ripped by anonymous hands, which he saved from obscurity, assembled and mounted on canvas.
Everything had already been done for him by the poster designers, passers-by who tore or traced graffiti onto the advertisements and the weather. He just had to conceive the composition. Instead of an idea, it was about a gesture because he had read a philosopher’s reflection saying that there is an evolution in art when there is economy of labour.
“I transformed lacerated posters into works of art – that was my goal,” he states. “I chose the posters for the interest of their composition, then for the interest of a word, a fragment of a phrase and, in the 1960s, for their colours.” For him, laceration wasn’t a destructive act; it was a way to build a new type of beauty while recording traces of civilisation.