Stevens Dossou-Yovo uses primarily steel and focuses on representations of space through his commanding geometric compositions. The elements joining the structures are well-concealed giving them a weightless appearance and, as a result, counterbalancing the gravity of the metal. Drawing inspiration from the sky and playing with optical illusions, his work communicates limitlessness, questioning the origins and confines of reality. Mathematical and metaphysical, Dossou-Yovo treats the surfaces of the steel in his sculptures in a variety of different ways. He polishes some areas while leaving others raw, alters the color and texture of some areas to play with light, adds depth and tone by applying acid to their surfaces, etc. Together the combination of the textures, finishes and colors (or lack thereof) on Dossou-Yovo’s geometric abstractions form what could be compared to three-dimensional pixelated clouds.
Stevens Dossou-Yovo was born in Paris, where he later graduated from the Penninghen Design School. He dedicated himself to metal sculpture and was soon producing anthropomorphic sculptures and automata. In recent years, Stevens Dossou-Yovo has moved away from figurative sculpture; he now focuses on the representation of space through powerful mural compositions. Steel remains his favourite medium: a fairly basic material, it lends itself to all sorts of experimentation. Stevens says he derives inspiration from the sky. It is no coincidence that his studio should be suspended in mid-air, commanding an impressive view over the Paris skyline. It is a confined space with a large bay window open to the horizon, recalling a camera obscura in which the artist condenses and refracts the outside world. Stevens Dossou-Yovo’s geometrical compositions derive form an inner vision. They are poised between the weightlessness of a mental picture and the gravity of the metal. The resulting tension even hints at a metaphysical dimension. Indeed, Stevens Dossou-Yovo says that the play on optical illusion in his work reflects his questioning of the origins and confines of reality. His work is the result of his quest for some kind of order. In the artist’s studio, archaeology meets spatial exploration: “I probe, I excavate”, he says. “Working is a way for me to get closer to what I’m looking for”. Thus each sculpture leads naturally to another, and so the vision renews itself, becoming more acute in the process. With his Broken Clouds series, Stevens Dossou-Yovo believes he is getting closer to his ultimate goal. The work on volume and perspective he has pursued over the years here shows an unprecedented degree of mastery. Each sculpture offers up a spatial equation, a mathematical formula. Each combines the principles of concentration and expansion: the optical illusion is the result of a process whereby the tension between opposing forces is cancelled out, producing a striking impression of suspended motion. The structures holding the elements together are carefully concealed, so that each composition seems to be floating.
Tirelessly, Stevens explores the properties of steel; sometimes enamelled, sometimes brushed, sometimes oxidized, sometimes covered with digital images or matt white, the metal as it shapes it multiplies illusions. Broken Clouds is a series of new pieces that take the optical effects obtained through intense work on volume and perspective even further.
Stevens says he needs the sky to create. It is certainly not a coincidence that this one occupies an entire part of his studio. Space both confined and widely open on the horizon, his studio is a camera obscura in which the artist condenses and refracts the cosmos.
Each of his sculptures materializes an inner vision. Suspended between the weightlessness of a vision of the mind and the gravity of the metal, his compositions of variable geometry refer, he says, to metaphysics. There is in fact in his assembly work a questioning on the origin and the confines of reality, but also the search for an order.
“I question, I dig,” says the artist. In this metaphysics of cubes, the Space Odyssey merges with archeology. Following an artistic logic which is also an interior necessity, Stevens digs deeper: “By working, I get closer to what I am looking for”. This is how each piece leads to another, the vision is refined and renewed. With the Broken Clouds series, Stevens says he hits his target as close as possible.
Each sculpture is presented as a spatial equation or a mathematical formula. Each combines the principle of concentration and that of expansion: the optical illusion is that the tension between opposing forces is canceled out to create the startling effect of a still movement. The assembled elements seem both in free fall and in levitation, both static and animated by the circulation of the air, by the earthly attraction.
In addition to the strengths specific to each of the compositions, the optical illusion is refined thanks to the different finishes of the metallic elements. The artist achieves textural effects through a patiently developed range of processes. Thus the application of matt white on the steel allows to obtain a lightness and an aerial calm which tends towards dematerialization: the material is forgotten, to let express the volume, the space, the movement. On the contrary, the oxidation with the acid brings a depth and a coloring which enriches the metal. In the rooms left intentionally raw, the sheet metal is brushed in places to promote the play of light on the surface.
Broken Clouds invites us to contemplate the color of the sky and the expanding universe.