Q&A: Flog gets transparent about debut U.S. solo show ‘Rewind’ at SCOPE Miami Beach 2023
Flog sees people for who they really are. The fast-rising French painter acclaimed for his signature Human of Glass character exposes the emotions and experiences swirling below the surface, bypassing our exterior selves to capture the true essence of our beings.
You can see what Flog sees at SCOPE Miami Beach 2023, which runs from Dec. 5-10. There Vertical Gallery, Chicago’s premier urban-contemporary art gallery, presents Rewind, Flog’s debut U.S. solo exhibit — a playful, poignant and deeply profound collection of paintings and sketches inspired by the artist’s most formative childhood memories.
Flog (born Florian Gaborit in 1984) began drawing during childhood, going on to study graphic design at Nantes’ École Pivaut before pursuing his painting career. He gained international attention following the 2020 introduction of his ongoing Human of Glass series, which depicts humankind in the form of transparent entities filling up with a dazzling array of colors — in short, mere vessels for the elemental forces within.
“The colors symbolize the emotions that we feel, or the knowledge and the values that were transmitted to us and that make each of us unique,” Flog says. “These glass figures are intentionally non-gendered to allow each and every one of us to identify with them, depending on our own feelings.”
Flog reveals more about the Human of Glass, the Rewind show and his continued creative evolution in this exclusive Q&A with journalist and media critic Jason Ankeny.
What can viewers familiar with your past work expect to see from the collection you’re unveiling at SCOPE?
Rewind is by far my most ambitious exhibition. My Human of Glass character is evolving in a universe different from what the public has seen to date, and with 30 paintings and as many sketches, spectators will discover my work in proportions never seen anywhere before. Beyond references to childhood, emotions, dreams, symbolism, metaphors and a little poetry — and, above all, a lot of colors — I hope viewers will also notice a technical evolution linked to painting my character in new formats, both small and large.
Tell us more about this evolution.
There was a great deal of exploration and research required to create these works, and the wide variety of formats allowed me to develop my character, particularly in the treatment of its transparency. The treatment of backgrounds and clouds has also improved. Spectators will still find many references to the theme of children's games, but the approach is different, and more thoughtful. The large number of paintings also allowed me to work on this theme from many different aspects and offered a lot of freedom, leading to richer subject matter.
Which dimension of this exhibition is most likely to surprise spectators?
Visually, this series deviates most from my previous works in regards to the presence of very colorful but plain backgrounds, without the gradients that I usually include. I combined many different colors for the backgrounds and in the waves inside my characters to create a totally new color palette, which allowed me to explore more things and not make everything monotonous. It’s like entering a candy store.
Color is life, so that’s what colors convey for me. I am not generally attracted to one color more than another: I think that each color has potential, and its own way of speaking to people. My favorite colors are not necessarily yours, but each color is able to express and convey something.
For this exhibition, I relied a lot on the colors of the Eighties and Nineties –– the era I grew up in. It seemed obvious to me, and in line with what I wanted to paint. From an emotional point of view, I wanted to create a very colorful series in order to catch the viewer’s eye and remind them of their own past. As the title Rewind suggests, there is a slight graphic distortion in each painting that reminds us of time passing and altering our memories, as if you were watching an old videotape.
What inspired you to explore this subject matter?
The experiences we had as a child shape us as adults. They are our most important memories, but as we grow up, we tend to forget them or put them aside, for all kinds of reasons. Each work in Rewind draws on my own childhood; it is a very personal exhibition. But, as is very often the case in my work, spectators will be able to identify with my characters through the situations or dreams told, because ultimately, we all share similar memories and the same references.
What may seem very intimate in regards to what I say in these paintings is ultimately quite universal, I think, since anyone can appropriate and interpret what they see differently from what I wanted to convey. This is why I very rarely reveal the symbolism in my paintings, so as not to disturb the viewer's reading. Once exhibited, the work no longer belongs to me. It is up to the public to bring it to life.
I don't really know what pushed me to explore this theme at this point in my life. Probably it's to remember where I come from –– what era I grew up in, and what I've been through in my life. It’s also a way of exploring the innocence that we have when we are children, and it reminds me of the time when everything was just discovery and games. It’s a simple step back, but it allows me to preserve my childish soul, and to learn to love the little boy that I was and who still lives within me.
I hope to awaken similar memories in viewers –– to make them smile, and perhaps make them remember the children they were: what they played with, what their dreams were, and who they were at that moment in their lives. I also hope they will rediscover their own innocence, their own childish souls, even if just for a few seconds.
Rewind is your first solo U.S. exhibition. What does this milestone mean in the context of your life and career as an artist?
Exhibiting in the United States –– especially a solo show –– is a real honor. I am French, and I hope to make my art known to as many people as possible. There is no better way to spread my art outside my country than the incredible setting that is SCOPE: I have never had an opportunity to show my work like this. I put aside a lot of things in my life hoping to become an artist one day, so this exhibition is a dream come true, and it validates the choices I have made over the last 20 years to get here. But this is only the beginning. The road is still long, because I hope to be here for the next 20 years.
Because this road has been so long, I want to thank the people who believe in my work and support me. Vertical Gallery was the first to show my work outside of France, and I want to thank them as well as the collectors for the incredible welcome I received. [Vertical founder and curator Patrick Hull] has put so much faith in me and my work — I don’t really have the words to express my gratitude. It’s a real privilege to live all these crazy experiences.