In the universe Florian Mermin has created, spiders' legs end in pointed nails, benches bristle with spikes and tree trunks are covered in hairs. In short, everything is subjected to transformation. Dishes, a screen, pegs, flowerpots and curtains form a setting that is both indoors and outdoors, evoking interior design and the cinema – plenty of films spring to mind on viewing it. For although the objects could possibly be functional, what they are primarily doing is playing a role, creating a familiar mood, romantic or horrific, now sympathetic and now unsettling, compelling or repellent, or – often – all at the same time. It is unsurprising that some people associate them with personal memories, from childhood for instance, or with literary reminiscences, necessarily poetic in nature.
They emit an ambivalence rooted primarily in the techniques and materials the artist uses; the forged metal and terracotta imply both skill and unpredictability. They are the fruit of a desire for form and embracing accidents. Their surfaces, ranging from shiny to dull, smooth to coarse, suggest a whole array of sensations. The same applies to the doormats – who can describe the scratchy nature of a doorstep? Is that where the tender promise of Home Sweet Home resides? – and the furs which plunge us into a world of appearances and imitations. The former include unusually-shaped bristled mats which bring to mind dry grass that has turned brown, as they are here, or green grass, the impossible dream of a lawn that resists abrasion. The latter, whether natural or synthetic, come to the aid of humans struggling hopelessly with biting cold, restoring a protective layer that has fallen away over the course of evolution. What we thus see here is the barriers between species dropping away, an intertwining of nature and artifice; the objects are ordinary or even domestic, because they can be found in the home, but more especially because the wildness in them has been tamed and might well be ready to resurface at any moment. This instability and sweeping motion ushers in a profound questioning of how our relationship to the world is ordered: is the world at our disposal – as humans have always seemed to believe – or is it simply playing along with our little game for a limited period? Is it at one with our frame of mind, or does it project itself in us and express its unspoken movements through us?
The installation created by Florian Mermin for the gallery entrance would seem to provide a good starting point for answering these questions: we tread on the earth, paying attention to the sensations it arouses in us, the colour, unusual for the floor of an exhibition space, the elasticity and sinking-in, the muffled sound, the smell of soil. We believe that we leave our mark on it, even though it is quickly covered up and obliterated, while the earth clings to our soles and accompanies us surreptitiously, making us the vehicle for its dissemination throughout the space. Which begs the question, who is using whom in a story that is as old as the earth itself? And are not our destinies linked by something more than a relationship rooted in domination? What we have thus have here is an incitement to modesty and consideration, or even solidarity.
Born in 1991, Florian Mermin is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Paris with honors and also of the Otis College of Arts & Design in Los Angeles. He has won a number of awards, such as the Sculpture/Installation price of the Beaux-Arts of Paris and the Kristal price of the Salon de Montrouge in 2017. His works have been exhibited widely, including at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, the Cité Internationale des Arts and the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris, Mains d'Oeuvres in Saint-Ouen, but also the Castello di Lajone near Torino, and in London, Los Angeles and Seoul, between 2013 and 2017.
With the support of Centre national des arts plastiques (National Center for Visual Arts).