‘Salvatico è quel che si salva.’
[‘Savage is he who saves himself.’]
- Leonardo da Vinci.
In his new exhibition, Sauvage, the French artist, Sylvain Lefebvre, invites us to save ourselves on a journey through the dreamlike oceans and untamed forests of his imagination. It is a world of light-filtered deeps and dense tree- canopies, inhabited by magnificent beasts: benign whales and enigmatic octopuses; the stately rhinoceros and the lonely dinosaur. But the human presence is also there – fragile, inquiring, connected.
These are paintings of almost sumptuous richness – detailed, fecund, suffused with colour. Technically daring, they combine elements of collage and decoupage. And they play brilliantly with the effects of negative space. But they have an emotional richness too. They reflect Lefebvre’s great love of the natural world and his connection with it. (He lives in Biarritz and swims daily in the ocean.)
‘Wild animals, hidden in their vast habitats, are an intimation of an unexplored part of ourselves. They attract us, fascinate us, and scare us at times, because they reflect a hidden part of us that has remained wild and uncivilized. If we are destroying their worlds it is perhaps because we have forgotten to look at the riches of our own interior forests and oceans.’