How A French Artist Transforms Scraps Into Metallic Angels and Other Ethereal Art
Junk and throwaway tools? Not quite. For the most creative and unorthodox of minds, anything could be a medium of art — and an expression of secular philosophies.
Baptiste Debombourg, who describes his artistry as “a conveyer of encounters,” transforms everyday objects — like glass, wood, and metal — into unique and riveting art installations.
The Aggravure series, one of his most notable projects, involved Renaissance and Mannerist-inspired murals made entirely of staple wires.
According to the French artist, the medium itself was inspired by engraving, which is considered an archaic and ancient technique. However, the use of staple wires alters it into something entirely contemporary.
“What interests me in ancient engraving is the question of representation around themes developed in mythology, religion, and their potential echoes to our ideals today,” said Debombourg.
Aggravure, which was exhibited from 2005 to 2015, included “hundreds of thousands” of staple wires against walls and wooden panels. The murals were mostly re-imaginations of the works of famed Western artists like Renaissance painter Raphael, Dutch painter Harmensz Muller, and modernist Edouard Manet.
‘Contemporary Aggression and Secular Usefulness’
Like many of Debombourg’s thought-provoking projects, Aggravure juxtaposes a few things: differing artistic techniques — separated by centuries of practice — and differing views of human ideals.
“This work explores and associates ancient and contemporary themes around the notion of human representation,” reads the exhibit statement in Debombourg’s site.
His source materials often involve famous characters and heroes — historical and mythological — which serve as an allusion to the human ego. The flaws and resolutions of these subjects intrigue Debombourg, and he often expresses this fascination through his artworks.
“I am interested in individual repeated attempts, which sometimes lead to failure,” he wrote. “The impression of impotence generated by such situations and by the individuals themselves simply highlights the fragile and endearing nature of the human being.”
Finding meaning in these, Debombourg’s philosophical explorations would also involve construction and deconstruction — themes that were extremely present in the Aggravure series. “The recurring theme in these paintings revolves around the collapse that resonates with staples,” he said.
To him, staple wires had been the perfect symbolic material. The site describes staple engraving as a medium that “plays with contemporary aggression and everyday life’s profane utility.”
The action and concept of stapling against wood also represent a visual form of modern violence. “Five hundred thousand staples pierce the wooden support,” reads the exhibit statement, “like missiles.”
It goes to explain further: “The aestheticization of the unaccountable arises through a theatricalization of reality. His sophisticated compositions, staging intertwined bodies in an ever-actual violent action, denounce the world’s, and people’s instability.”
‘The Agony in the Garden’, A Staple Art Exhibit in 2012
Christ with two heads by Baptiste Debombourg (Source)
One of the Aggravure series, ‘The Agony in the Garden’ — exhibited in 2012 at the Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries in Germany — meant to paint the Christian religion in a modernized, uncertain light.
Here, Debombourg puts his own spin on the iconic portrait of Christ on the cross. But unlike any other image of its kind, Christ was depicted with two heads.
“The subversive motive choice of a double-headed Jesus established a sensible moment of uncertainty that leaves room for metaphysical and spiritual doubt,” the exhibit description read, according to an art publication.
Its unconventionality is rooted in Debombourg’s fascination with human nature and relationships, and this time, it is with regard to divinity. The notions he expressed in these stapled portraits are tinged with another layer of depth — one rooted in curiosity and doubt.
‘Agony in the Garden’ by Baptiste Debombourg (Source)
Regardless of Debombourg’s ambiguous commentary on modern religion, the emotional themes of the Christian story needed to be retained.
“Through the use of staples carved in wood, the suffering of Christ is almost physically tangible,” said the installation’s official statement.
On Seeing Artistic and Philosophical Value in the Mundane
Although there are many novel ways of exploring these ideas, Debombourg ironically seeks the least novel materials for creative expression. After all, his oeuvre tackles human relations above all — and mundane, routinary objects are the perfect tool for these inquiries.
“My inspiration and influences come from everyday life and, more specifically, the day-to-day objects that condition our lives,” he said. With these, he also hopes to see “the behaviors and affective relationships [people] may have” with such objects.
For Debombourg, the value of throwaway items goes beyond mere creative tools — they also provide a threshold for exploring his ideas about reality and the human condition. By interjecting his philosophies with his unique artistry, his works become exceptionally meaningful.
And, of course, it gives leeway to an ever-evolving landscape of postmodern culture: “I believe it is also a way to examine the position and the function of what we define as contemporary art,” he said.
Check out our collection of contemporary spiritual wall art here.