Artworks of the artist
Born in 1957 in Lyon, Robert COMBAS spent his childhood and teenage years in Sète, France. Since 1980 he has lived and worked in the Greater Paris region.
“He manipulates images from everyday life, while combining them with historical and mythological references. Cultivating a style that is inspired by comic books and graffiti, he creates paintings that veer from casual and humorous to violent and sensual.”
Le Petit Larousse – 2005 edition
At the dawn of the 1980s, Robert COMBAS brought a new figurative style of painting to the art world. Part of the art scene since 1979, he created a movement that Ben called “FIGURATION LIBRE”, bringing together Rémi Blanchard, François Boisrond and Hervé Di Rosa.
His painting is made up of liberties: it speaks of society, violence, sexuality, the suffering of humans, their little joys, their smallness, their greatness … It is inspired by rock music (the artist is a keen amateur), popular images, children’s books, school textbooks: by everything that makes popular culture accessible to all.
“I sometimes work in the abstract with streams of paint, a sort of abstract expressionism. The figurative part is the fun side of my art, grounded in reality -although at first it was a derisory reaction to the intellectual paintings of the art world in the ‘70s. I have a working-class background and at that time I lived in two different worlds. Even so, there are messages in my paintings. In the beginning there was a certain energy; I wanted to paint what I wanted. In comic books, you’re pinned in the corner by the characters, whereas with painting I’m free, completely free, even when it comes to the size.”
Robert Combas, between liberty and provocation.
“Robert Combas’ paintings are constantly alert, just like a living being. His work is a structure that is constantly open and, for this reason, continually needs “food” to stay alive. It goes without saying that such a phenomenon is not possible without the presence of “the other”, that is to say the spectator. Between them and Combas’ work a relationship of a complementary nature is forged, where the one needs “the other”. Robert Combas uses images to “provoke”, to trigger a reaction in the spectator only to “invite” him, beckoning him in and whispering in his ear: “Come over and talk to me, I want to tell you about the stupidity, violence, beauty, hatred, love, seriousness and fun, the logic and senselessness that pervade our day-to-day lives”.
The artistic language does not stop at the boundaries of the “intimate”. Quite the contrary, it is by beginning with this “intimate” element that Combas then goes beyond it and enters the realm of the “social”. At the same time, his language heralds a positive attitude: beyond the scenes of violence or intense sexuality, beyond the combination of images and words (or phrases), the work of Robert Combas is primarily a gesture. This gesture has no didactic basis (the subject is not the epicentre) but is representative of a behaviour that yearns to broaden its remit far beyond the enclosed borders of a language of History of Art, so as to turn towards that which, until now, had been spurned by the elite that dominated art during the 1970s: the drawings of children and fools, comic books, rock music. His childlike style is in fact nothing more than a strategy, the strategy of a painter who wants to extend the ground of his iconography. And this is the work of Robert Combas: the behaviour of a painter who, finding himself constantly developing, becomes synonymous with attitude. An attitude which does not content itself with being essentially “artistic”, but also wants to be “social”. That is to say a critical attitude.”
Demosthènes Davvetas. Appeared in “DIALOGUES”, published by Au même titre. September F16-F22 1997.