Jean Recoura uses jobs (a layer of his work functioning in terms of a personal protest against the glamourous, frenzied art world hype bubble) to dive into the marginalised peripheries of society. Having previously worked at a fairground, his exploration of forgotten and neglected strata continues at elderly homes. The endeavour to gain input for his oeuvre,required his art practice to serve as a psycho-hygienic tool in the end, having had to witness
terrible scenarios, such as abuse of the inhabitants by employees, portrayed in a painting of a nurse kicking a wheelchair with an old person sitting in it, a frequent occurrence in the early days of his caretaker career. His particular interest in elderly homes has been sparked during
the catastrophic heatwave in France, the canicule in 2003, that resulted in a devastatingly high amount of deaths among elderly people in homes. The upside of the misfortune was that the French government was forced to investigate and found itself confronted with pressing issues such as poor hygiene and unattended mental health of the inhabitants. This politicization of elderly homes led to improvement, today the status of the residents has been bettered immensely since heaving the matter out of indifference. Daily life in a home in France now includes highlights such as themed days (i.e. the painting of a “British day”, featuring british food, british music and decoration). This kind of entertainment strikes one as random and would be rather somewhat ignorant to events in the political sphere, and this is what renders it inherently macabre, for one cannot dodge comparisons to nurseries. Both,
elderly homes and nurseries reflect the insignificance of their dependents via utter disregard of current events and a naive approach to distraction (the opposite, of course, would be observed in regimes). When you get old, you turn into a child again, and often this saying proves true by way of a deteriorating mind, if not that then by a common involuntary loss of majority experienced in old age that affects most. If you are of no use for labour -
categorically too young or too old - you are literally deprived of the right to dictate your everyday life. But there are also those, for whom the withdrawal from the labour market harvests a thorough liberation, as in the case of the painted baker who now functions as the editor in chief of the magazine, published by the elderly home.
Even though the rhythm of an old person has been slowed down due to diminishing bodily capacity, the artist mentions to what extent the elders have to endure waiting, and how they bear it with accepted boredom. It might be this abeyance, that also seems to saturate the paintings, along with high age, that stirs and urges thoughts of one’s own approaching death.
Jean’s painting of an elder’s contemplation about their own fatality is held in black and yellow, the expression on the face is as so often indeterminately somewhere between anxious, stale and glum. A plethora of sights, some of which one wouldn’t wish to recall, are on display. Facets of rage, sheer panic, dullness, boredom, apathy, absurdity as well as scenes of abuse, extradition, illness-induced profanities and decay are balanced by depictions of occasionally nightmarish but often close to idyllic spontaneous inner visions.
The expressionistic tenor accentuates the gravity of the topic, even in those works that reveal an amusing incident. Accounts of the daily rut such as meal time, a machine for cleaning or the work environment bring to attention the operational aspects and the corporate substratum. Using, inter alia, sheets that are typically used for company meetings further underline the fact that such homes have to be run efficiently, and hopefully increasingly to the benefit of their residents. A demand for a more holistic approach regarding elderly care might be indicated in the sheet with notes taken at a meeting, with an elder in a wheelchair scribbled on the bottom right corner, almost in the manner of a jolly conqueror.
by Sandra Petrasevic