With Russian, German, French and Italian origins, Michel Scarpa was born in 1942 near Paris, the great-nephew of the guru Gurdjieff. Diverse influences which coloured a precarious childhood in the post-war years, followed by his discovery of London in 1958. His studies at the Chelsea Art School introduced him to the world of painting, and he continued to live in London until 1981. A few years previously, he had begun to invest in the commodity markets, a form of speculation which suited his temperament very well, but would not last very long. This activity took him to Monaco, then a new life in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, where he began to work with paper instead of paint.
The works which have since been produced - collages, large abstract compositions, the "bricks" and "cubes", objects inspired by vintage toys and other icons, and today's double images on perspex - can be seen as variations on the same theme. Aware that the concepts of originality and creativity are merely delusions for artists, or anyone else, Scarpa uses existing materials and gives them a new life. A born collector, a connoisseur of films, magazines and comics, he has accumulated thousands of images waiting to be noticed, used as inspiration, chosen, like pieces of a patchwork or a puzzle whose enigma also waits to be solved. So many isolated or intermingled fragments, like moments in a lifetime, whose significance can be ephemeral, striking or temporarily lost, because we cannot always stand back from a story that unfolds before our eyes.
Indifferent to theories, not keen to impose his own interpretations, Scarpa sometimes embodies a spirit of contradiction, and often plays the part of the devil's advocate in order to seek out the truth. Refusing to take himself, or most things, too seriously, he readily swapped French "wit" for Anglo-Saxon humour and irony. Distrusting "esthetics", he has an infallible eye, and is always ready to allow exterior or random elements to come into play, building bridges across abysses. As an artist and human being, he respects the weight of our collective and subjective experience. Skimming through images that tell stories, occasionally borrowing words that carry resonance but little logic, offering connections, counterpoints and contrasts which perhaps give clues, he unfurls the complexity and richness of the human condition.
Endowed with intellectual resources which often only lead us further into the maze, we experience moments of truth in the physical expression of our deepest instincts: searching for each other in sexual relationships, feeling the exaltation of physical achievements, enjoying beauty in all its forms, striking a sensitive chord among others, there where words would have failed. In work which could be called the "art of understatement", Scarpa offers his personal world, never claiming that it is unique or universal. His experience is that of a gambler who is aware of the stakes, deals the cards, and waits for the dice to fall. Despite all the tools and techniques at his disposal, the game of life always demands humility, intuition, passion and lucidity.