States of the Line, by Henri-François Debailleux

In Passages, Henri Michaux wrote about the works of Paul Klee: “A line is waiting, expecting, germinating, a line for the sake of being a line. A line is dreaming; never before had anyone left a line to its own musings”. With Pascal Dombis, the line is given a stretch.

Since he started to work with lines – more precisely with curve fragments, arc portions, or ellipses, Dombis has been in the know: when you take a line fragment and give it a stretch, as you do with the string of a bow, the first result is a parenthesis, then a half circle, then almost a full circle and in case you go for it, endlessly, the ultimate artefact is a line again. And so on and so forth, looping and looping again. What he did not know though were the various stages and successive states through which Line A turns into Line B, from start to finish. He then decided to concentrate on these interim phases and to push the principle of fake straight lines and genuine curves (as if straightened up eventually, out of saturation) to its utter limits.
Pascal Dombis has been working with computers for fifteen years. Before, he used to work with paint and etching, which acquainted him with lines and outlines, precisely. Since then, he has often repeated that new technologies were not an end in itself but merely a tool which made it possible for him to overlap, weave, juxtapose, and superimpose a vertiginous number of lines, actually something that cannot be done by the human hand.
The starting point for the new artworks is still the fractal algorithm, as it is the case for the rest of his production. But whereas the previous works showed hundreds of thousands of curves generating squares (or is it the other way round?) or accumulating and confronting spam messages flourishing into an arborescence of words, fonts or typographic units which eventually become undecipherable, Dombis’s latest pieces are based on straight lines, multiplied into zillions of other straight lines with a life, an identity, and a freedom of their own.
These “irrational geometrics” (for such is the name given to the new exhibition) remind us of the principles of self-reproduction, proliferation and excess which have always been at the core of his art, but this time with effects and aesthetic results of an entirely different kind. In order to display the various states of a stretched line, Dombis has chosen different angles, so to speak, from which his art is developed on four different media: one video installation, lenticular plates, digital and mural prints. With videos, he can animate real-time line movements and their very progression which might be wrinkled at times. The straight line undergoes so much harassment that it ends up losing its head and finds itself alternatively in the horizontal or vertical positions. Digital prints, on the contrary, freeze those movements at a certain moment, as if time were suspended for a while. When the digital prints are covered with lenticulars (functioning then as optical lenses), the number of points of view grows and multiplies according to the viewer’s physical displacements or changing angles of vision. The phenomenon will be magnified on an interminable 30-meter wall along which the viewer will walk in order to be in a position to follow the lines and see how their ramifications stretch and spread. On another wall, circles will proliferate endlessly into a huge vortex gradually swallowing up lines, us and all – balefully.
Thus, every new piece offers plays on lines, stripes, and rhythms and chromatic variations which open up to new spaces and give to the whole a highly pictorial dimension; all the more so since colours, commanded by a random access programme, enrich the compositions. At first sight, these new artworks take us back to kinetic art but this is misleading. What Dombis is after is not optical or geometrical effects ; his art aims at showing, out of excess, how a given as simple as a line can engender multiversity: in other words, stretching the line to unleash the potentialities and complexity of the real.


Henri-François Debailleux
Translation : Didier Girard