The Community Centre + Garden










To celebrate the Midsummer and the long-awaited endless summer nights, The Community welcomes ten artists for our second exhibition in Pantin to take over The Community Centre on 9 rue Méhul and the neighbouring The Community Garden on 13 rue Méhul.

In “Mystic May”, the artists, whose works linger between fantasy and realism, reinterpret the existing structures of the urban environment and place them into re-imagined settings with otherworldly characters and narratives. The works witness a search for alternative identities, spaces and times, and a sketch for imaginary universes surrounded by magic and folklore tales. Suburban houses become alive and haunted, alley cats rule from the rooftops; metamorphosed plants grow in the garage boxes while sculptures become shelters for bucolic spirits and totems erect from the concrete garden. The conveying forces and energies of the natural and spiritual world are expressed through careful study of materials in their contemporary forms - including 3D printing, bronze, clay, epoxy resin, and graffiti. The techniques and materials reflect a quest for sensuality and a return for expressivity, even romanticism, recalling the artist’s role as a refined craftsman.

At 9 rue Méhul, the gallery groups together works by B. Anele, JeanMarie Appriou, Eetu Sihvonen, Will Sheldon, Anna Slama, and Marek Delong. Upon entering the exhibition space, visitors can step into the acid-green covered tale of Eetu Sihvonen. The video work Heavy Iron Gate tells the story of a tall-legged house, which transforms from an idyllic domestic environment to an alienating edifice. This research on aestheticised barricades continues with the 3D-framed prints on the wall. Three paintings installed on the opposing wall lead us towards the entrance of a grim staircase and facades of stylised houses. Wellknown for his tattoo practice, artist and illustrator Will Sheldon equally paints and draws, always informed by the same Gothic, fairytale-like characters and landscapes also seen in his practice as a tattoo artist.

In the middle of the gallery space, two sculptural works, Lip Kit Situation and The Oracle by artist duo Anna Slama and Marek Delong, have entered a dialogue. In both pieces, the emphasised tactile materials and figurative aspect highlight the relationship created between the author(s) and the work. Sculptures and installations become characters and an act within a psychedelic summer theatre play. On the left wall, one discovers a bronze bas-relief work Alpha and Omega (Mist) by Jean-Marie Appriou. The work narrates an archetypal chivalric hero, a vulnerable yet always protected knight whose destiny intertwines with the serpentine folkloric creature.

In the very back of the space, a pink-hued room glimmers. It is taken over by B. Anele, a transdisciplinary artist who works with painting and drawing, moving image and garments. The video work More 2 C shows an ornate mural forming the backdrop for the stage where the artist changes moods, colours, and clothing. Everyday artefacts seem familiar, both in the video as in the works on paper and garments: yet they are revisited as if it was a second childhood discovered within realms of the unknown.

In The Community Garden, on 13 rue Méhul, the artists have been inspired by the topography of the outdoor space, positioned somewhere in-between a concrete highway and suburban jungle. In the middle of the garden, Tom Volkaert’s sculpture, Steering Wheels & Horfeeceries, erects from the ground like a totem. Featuring circles, contorted arachnoid limbs, intestines and sickly satanic tongues that are carefully arranged, the sculpture can be seen as a testimony to the materiality of memory as much as it is an ongoing tribute to the spiritual and shamanic force of art. Carefully researched materials, forms, and colours also embody both personal and universal memories, and the matrixial mother in which all creativity is situated.

Positioned towards the sunlight is The Everyday Dress by designer and artist Elina Laitinen - a process-based installation that will transform throughout the exhibition. The work brings forward the artist’s interest in the transformative and haphazard processes dictated by nature. In her native Finland, the Midsummer nights are long and enveloped with sunlight: this generates the sun-dyed forms of everyday tools that are positioned on the garment and reference to highly domestic settings. Under the neighbour’s giant tree, protecting the central part of the garden, artist Mathis Perron has installed a performative tea bar. Working in tandem as a herbalist, he has prepared a new infusion from seven different plants that he has cultivated for Mystic May.

The artist’s detailed studies on plants and their literal and functional meanings continue with his installation in one of the garages: a massive dandelion installation which is inspired from the Goethian notion of Urpflanze, the mother of all the plants. It is the archetypal prototype plant that contains all the plants of the past, present and future. A gang of alley cats and dormant bats play hide-and-seek above the garage boxes: Cyril Debon’s ceramic pieces in the form of empathetic animal characters are layered with the expressions and poses we all know from children’s tales in all its theatricality and naïvety. The animal characters also provide us with a new navigation outdoors, guided by a feline point of view on architecture.

The fantastical characters and sometimes zoomorphic limbs and structures in the exhibition guide us towards a more sensitive and embodied relationship with the surrounding nature: the ensemble of works creates shelters and manifestations of collective imagination and communal care, questioning the liminal space of physical and imaginative boundaries. Eco-sculptures and organic artefacts intertwined with sometimes shamanist layers and historical tales provide a different scenario as if revisiting a childhood dream. By looking deeper into the moods of suburban and metropolitan realities and environments, the artists bring forward the potential of this expanded space as a site for daydreaming, bringing forward a different psychology of space and time.

MYSTIC MAY | The Community Centre + Garden, Paris
by B. Anele, Jean-Marie Appriou, Cyril Debon, Elina Laitinen, Mathis Perron, Will Sheldon, Eetu Sihvonen, Anna Slama & Marek Delong, Tom Volkaert