There is no risk of cacophony in the Babel Tower created by Bernard Quentin. Unlike the Esperanto, his language is not oral but written; his BabelWeb is a universal art-language based on symbols and colors acting like modern hieroglyphs. Quentin, a pioneer of cybernetic art, has imagined a written language, initiated with universally used symbols, and from there has developed verbs, adjectives, and nouns to shape sentences, as he shapes his sculptures.
Art and signs
Already in primary school, the young Quentin use fancy calligraphy to write his homework. In high school, he discovers and develops a passion for stenography, invented by Marc Jeandjean, one of his schoolmate’s grandfather. As a student at the Beaux-Art, and latter at the Arts Décoratifs of Paris, he explores the roots of human writing from some 6000 years ago. This research leads him to question the correlation between art and sign, and to better understand the expression of symbolic thinking in human beings.
Graffiti and ideogram
His meeting with Picasso in 1945, inspires him to create his first important piece, Les Horreurs de la Guerre, a graffiti, in homage to the Spanish master’s Guernica. At the international expo 57 he uses graffiti elements again, to compose the large fresco that welcomes visitors to the French pavilion. At this period, Quentin becomes convinced that Modern Art is primarily an Occidental expression; not satisfied with this restriction, he continues his quest for a more universal art form.
Quentin suddenly comes up with the idea of the BabelWeb in 1962, as he visits the Olivetti’s typewriters’ fabric in Milano. There, he sees an enormous Chinese model harboring 3000 keys, and he imagines how a universal art language based on ideogram and colors (verbs in red, nouns in bleu, …etc) could unite men of all nations and cultural horizons. Involve in a study of electronic graphs through oscilloscope, he is confronted with the machines’ artistic limitations at the time. The Internet has not yet been invented, and he abandons his project. He will take it up again some forty years latter.
Pneumatics and Anamorphism
Meanwhile, during a design project for the tire manufacture, Pirelli, he becomes fascinated with inflatable shapes, and imagines inflatable art pieces, “breathing sculptures” as he calls them. He parades in the streets with giant inflatable letters, conceives Cybule the first sculpture with programmed breathing, and then designs the first inflatable armchair, as well as the Venus de Chicago, a 120 meters high architecture.
One concept separates big sculptures design from a reflection on the urban space around it, Quentin assimilates that step and creates Art +. In this new endeavor the street becomes an ephemeral art piece: light projected on sky-scrappers, giant dolmens, painted streets, or “poem-streets” stenciled with big letters. The letters become monuments, giant calligraphy in concrete and glass; to decorate a caravanserai in Saudi Arabia, he uses the Koran’s first verse, and in France, he reinterprets Monet’s Nynpheas in sculpted concrete.
Art for all
In 1998, Bernard Quentin resumes work on his international art language project. He renames it Quentin-BabelWeb creating 3500 ideograms, which he transcribes on a variety of mediums, from paper, bronze, wood, ceramic, to flat screen. In 2011 he covers the entire front of Gérard Depardieu’s Parisian seventeen-century mansion with a steel composition, a poem in homage to Confucius. When not designing jewelry for Hungaro and Hermès, or customizing extremely huge cakes for the celebrated French pastry Chef Pierre Hermé at the FIAC, he imagines art objects accessible to everyone. For example, plates decorated with Quentin-BabelWeb writings, made by artisans all over the world, and sold in department stores at affordable prices.
2013 « La vie est belle », Galerie W Matignon, Paris
« Le Gâteau-Nuage » pour la Journée Pierre Hermé, Paris
2011 : rétrospective « Langage des signes, graffiti et poésie »,Salle Gothique, Saint Emilion
« Quentin-BabelWeb », Galerie Catherine Houard, Paris.
2009 : « Quentin-BabelWeb », Millenium Museum, Pékin
2007 : rétrospective « L’écriture au cœur de l’Art », Musée de la Poste, Paris.
1996 : monuments à Agadir, Casablanca et Matera (Italie)
1995 : « Paix contre guerre », joute vidéo géante de calligraphies en japonais, Hiroshima (Japon).
(Born in 1923 in Picardie, France)
Painter, designer, sculptor, architect