Florian Pugnaire


Florian Pugnaire pays particular attention to the notion of the workshop as a place of practice, but also as a place of fiction, an in-between where the goal of work is not yet defined and where everything can still be invented or modified. Through a personal or collaborative practice (with David Raffini), he shows an interest in the process of fabrication and creation, and situates his work in an intermediate space between the workshop and the exhibition space.


He works on the material, time and space contained in the act of creation. In this, he joins Robert Morris, who – in rejection with Greenbergian thought – refused in 1970 to see the work as a timeless, finished object, which would only be experienced optically: “I think that, in the past (…), such efforts [the creative process] have been seen as an unsystematized sequence of technical, anecdotal or biographical facts, unrelated to the real “work”, plated as a timeless deposit and frozen on the flypaper of culture. 1 »


Through a field of cultural references revolving around martial arts (L.E.W. Q , Shadow Boxing, Stunt Lab), the automobile (Dyane +, Expanded Crash) and the world of the building site (In Fine, Meurtrières), Florian Pugnaire produces constant back and forth between sculpture and video: “These connections between film and sculpture, then between sculpture and narrative, involving the time factor and summoning the image, are the essential data of Florian Pugnaire’s personal works (the recent Stunt Lab, film of a combat choreographing the destruction of a set, projected with the compression of the latter at its side, offers a very immediate example of these combinations. 2 »


Pauline Thyss

Florian Pugnaire was born in 1980,
Lives and works in Nice and Paris.




Solo Exhibitions



Fahrenheit 134, Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière, Paris



Show Me, L’étrangère, Londres
Ressac, Le Portique, Le Havre
Artbrussels, solo Pugnaire et Raffini, Galerie Ceysson et Benetiere


Mechanical Stress, Galerie Eva Vautier, Nice
Show me, Galerie Torri, Paris
Florian Pugnaire & David Raffini, Prix Ricard


Florian Pugnaire et David Raffini, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris


Le coefficient de Poisson, Le Patio, La Maison Rouge, Paris *


Chjami rispondi, Galerie Torri, Paris *
Energie Sombre, Musée Picasso, Antibes *
Matières temps, Centre d’art contemporain Les églises, Chelles *
Fondre Battre Briser, Centre d’art Le Pavillon Blanc, Colombiers *


III, Centre culturel Una Volta, Bastia *


Amnesia, Espace contemporain Domaine Orenga, Patrimonio
Glissements, Le Dojo, Nice *
Paris – Berlin 2011, Galerie Carlier I Gebauer, Berlin *


Hors Gabarit, Galerie Torri, Paris *
In Fine, Palais de Tokyo, Paris *
E figura si l’isula, fantasy island, FRAC


Expanded-Crash, Villa Arson, Centre d’art, Nice *
Expanded-Crash, Module 2, Palais de Tokyo, Paris *


Group Exhibitions



Artbrussels, Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière, Bruxelles


Scar / Face, Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière, Paris

Kanal – Centre Pompidou, anciens locaux Citroën, Bruxelles
Précipité, Atelier de Jette, Bruxelles
Dawing now, Paris (galerie Eva Vautier)


FIAC hors les murs, galerie Ceysson et Benetière, jardin des Tuileries, Paris
Artbrussels, Galerie Ceysson et Benetière, Bruxelles


Sculptures, matières, matériaux, textures, Galerie Ceysson et Benetière, Foetz, Luxembourg



Sphère, Galleria Continua, Les Moulins, Boissy-le-Châtel
L’ordre des lucioles, Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris
GAS Station, Gagliardi Art System Gallery, Turin, Italie
Artbrussels 2015, stand TORRI, Bruxelles, Belgique
Chercher le Garçon, MAC VAL, Vitry sur Seine
Énergie sombre, Artemovendo, Porto Alegre, Brésil
Énergie sombre, ArtVilnius, Vilnius, Lituanie
Énergie sombre, Athens Digital Arts festival, Athènes, Grèce
Videonale 15, Bonn, Allemagne
Collective collection volet III, Le BBB centre d’art, Toulouse


Shit and Die, Palazzo Cavour, Turin, Italie
Energie Sombre, Biennale de Belleville, Paris
J’écris donc je suis – Ben et La Station, le Garage, Brive


Saison 17 – La Station à Lieu Commun, Lieu Commun, Toulouse
Boîte en valise, Institut Français, Exposition itinérante
Sans matières ajoutées, CNEAI, Chatou
Entrée libre mais non obligatoire, CNAC Villa Arson, Nice
Réinventer le monde – exposition du Frac Acquitaine
Sala Rekalde, Bilbao, Espagne


Impressions d’Ateliers, Galerie Maud Barral, Nice, France
First Shanghai Sculpture Project, Shanghai Art Institute, Chine
Matières grises, Lieu commun, Toulouse
Sunshine and Precipitation – exposition de La Station, Catalyst Arts, Belfast, Irlande
Texture – Material (Berlin Paris 2012), KLEMM’S Gallery, Berlin, Allemagne
Les feux de l’amour, FRAC Aquitaine, Bordeaux
Paper, Galerie du MAMAC, Nice
New Abstract generation, Le Box, Fonds M-ARCO, Marseille, France


La fabrique sonore, Domaine Pommery, Reims
FIAC 2011 – stand TORRI, Grand Palais, Paris
Art-o-rama, Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille
Focus, Parcours associé de la Biennale de Lyon, Vienne (France)
Programme video, Module 1 du Palais de Tokyo, Paris
Collectionneurs en situation, Espace de l’Art Concret, Mouans-Sartoux
La Sculpture autrement, Ecoparc, Mougins
Que sera, sera… La Station au CAN, CAN, Neuchâtel, Suisse
Tout ce que vous avez toujours voulu savoir sur le blanc, Frac Aquitaine, Bordeaux

Auto – Station, La Station, Nice
Dynasty, Palais de Tokyo et Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris

Reset, Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris

Kit invite n°2, Paris
Group show, RDF Galerie, Nice
Points, lignes et plans-séquences, Galerie des musées, Toulon
II, RDF Galerie, Nice


Home Cinema, Trafic, Lausanne, Suisse
Panorama 9-10, Le Fresnoy, Tourcoing
Accidents de parcours, Performance, Corte, Corse


Temps d’images, La ferme du Buisson, Noisiel
Panorama 8, Le Fresnoy, Tourcoing




Prix de la Fondation Ricard, Paris
Videonale Audience Award of KfW Stiftung, Bonn, Allemagne

Prix des Amis de la Maison Rouge, Paris




Le Fresnoy, Studio National des Arts Contemporains, Tourcoing


Diplôme National Supérieur d’Expression Plastique, La Villa Arson, Nice

Avec David Raffini *




Fahrenheit Foundation By Flax, Los Angeles, États-Unis


Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris
Synagogue de Delme


Public Collections 


Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Frac Aquitaine



Pauline THYSS


From the mechanical constraint to the narrativity of the gesture


Using materials traditionally used in construction (plasterboard, sheet metal, lead), he is interested in their physical properties, their resilience, their remanence … which is measured through mechanical stress. This concept, used in material sciences, evaluates the elastic and plastic capacity of an element to absorb the effects of torsion, tension or pressure. Florian Pugnaire relies on certain specificities – the flexibility of lead, the resistance of metal, the brittleness of plasterboard – to which he imposes a work force that can sometimes bring materials to their breaking point. To do this, the artist uses mechanical tools such as straps, winches, hoists and hydraulic jacks which are sometimes an integral part of the work. This tooling is diverted from its ordinary application to operate stresses and deformations, creating a plastic vocabulary whose industrial aesthetics, here tormented, tends towards collapse, ruin, degradation …


Florian Pugnaire’s works would be vestiges of the fight he leads with matter, because he considers the studio as the place where he practices the battle of art: he confronts the elements in a struggle where each round tests their respective physical capacities. His approach to sculpture is therefore fundamentally defined by a performative dimension, characterized by the action and involvement of the body. In this his sculptures are haptic works: touch and self-perception in the environment are at the center of his process. If in his duo practice with David Raffini, he explores the sculptural field through monumental installations or “event-works”, he individually produces works on a more human scale. The question of process is however at the center of these two practices, which we could call action-sculpture : just as in action-painting, the gesture is more important here than the result.

There is a form of indeterminacy in his practice, since experience directs the process: his sculptures are both reproducible (once their manufacturing process is established) and singular, since they are each time the result of a unique action. In this perspective, Florian Pugnaire’s practice is in line with the theory of Anti-form ² defended by Robert Morris and including artists such as Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman or Barry Flanagan: to produce his works, he does not look for a precise figure but finds his form by manipulating the material. Formal connections with the work of Eva Hesse are also sometimes blatant: her metal sheets constrained by a metal frame (Untitled, 2016) echo Aught (1968), a piece composed of plastic sheeting held to the wall by a tape frame. But his combative approach to the process takes him away from the soft works of the Anti-form: his sculptures are dynamic, visually sometimes violent.


 Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Sans titre 2016 – polished aluminum, stainless steel lacquered aluminum, stainless steel


Florian Pugnaire thus proposes formal potentialities more than determined forms: he freezes the material in a given state at a decisive, empirical moment “T”. This process produces freeze-frames that generate recognizable shapes (a punching bag, a flag) or snapshots (folding, twisting, compression). For example, his series of lead sculptures (2016): the artist uses the same amount of material – sheets of 60 x 90 x 0.1 cm – that he works to obtain five variations. A dense and tortuous knot unfolds little by little to become an aerial drapery, seeming to float lightly. The form thus evolves from a simple gesture, the maximum twisting of a leaf (the knot) to the creation of an image, an erected flag. The deconstruction of the movement, almost chronophotographic, produces here visually the idea of a duration. A sort of timeline with different formal potentialities, it produces a plastic narrative, a silent narration. It takes us back to a history of the sculptural gesture, from the classical drapery to Richard Serra’s Hand Catching Lead (1968).


Nœud, drapé, drapeau, 2016 plomb

Nœud, drapé, drapeau 2016, lead


In other works, this narrativity is rather suggested, but the form always contains an analepse (or flash-forward) in its movement: the base of Constriction (2016) is potentially totally destroyed, the sheet metal of Traverse (2016) could pass completely through the partition, the punching bag of Untitled (2016) could be nothing more than a shapeless mass. In other words, the form always contains the anticipation of its total and irreversible destruction. This temporality is thus based on the entropy of matter, which naturally tends towards a state of disorganization, and on gesture, thanks to which the artist maintains this disposition to chaos in a transitory state.



Traverse 2016, stainless steel, winch, cable


On the other hand, this plastic narrative contains two forms of prolepse (or flashback). A historical memory that translates into artistic references that are sometimes antagonistic (Greek sculpture meets minimalism, the ready-made plays with processual art…) and a much more specific reminiscence, that of the time of elaboration. This past, usually invisible in a finished work, refers us indirectly to the space of the studio and the innumerable potentialities of a work in progress: “I pay particular attention to the notion of the studio as a place of practice, but also as a place of fiction, an in-between where the finalité of the work is not yet définie and where everything can still be invented or modifié.³ “



Fiction of the process: video and cinema

From his third year of study at the Villa Arson, Florian Pugnaire documented his gestures in the form of films. Initially thought of as archives, these videos quickly freed themselves from this status to become works in their own right. The influence of Bruce Nauman was then important, especially his videos from the late sixties in which the artist stages himself in the studio, performing a simple and repetitive gesture (walking, balancing on one foot, bouncing off a wall…). These elementary gestures experimented in the form of filmed actions, not unrelated to the activity of dancers such as Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown or Brecht’s theater, allow Nauman to experience modalities: those of the body intervening in time and space, those of the limits of relevance of an action, even those of the body as the primary material of the work.


His first video was intended to document the making of a sculpture: in Dialogue with Sculpture (2004), we see him shaping a punching bag made of aluminum sheet metal with his fists for three minutes. Aware of the performative dimension of his action, he filmed himself from three different angles in order to obtain a complete vision. He explains: “It was by importing the media from the three cassettes that I understood the impact of the editing: my three cameras were not only around the object, but also framed three different shot values, which gave the action a dynamic look with the right rhythm. While my intention was to create a sculpture in a performative way and to document the process, I realized that the archive I had produced was an integral part of the work as a whole.4 “From this initial desire to bear witness thus arose a reflection on the video medium itself, leading the artist to think of it in terms of its own characteristics; over time, the shooting, framing, grading, sound and editing of his films have been perfected and today give his works a truly cinematic dimension.


The problems he addresses in his videos are the same as in sculpture: he questions the processes of fabrication of the work by staging constraints, transformations, destructions… We find an aesthetic of the construction site and the workshop as well as the same plastic vocabulary (metal, plaster, hoists, straps…). But, by revealing the processual phase in time and not only in space, Florian Pugnaire transforms it into a fictional experience. Here, the narrativity of the work is no longer based solely on the entropy of matter and gesture, since the moving image induces a temporality per se. Often accompanied by installations taken from the film set, his videos question creative time in a complex way by distorting it: analepses and prolepses overlap, blurring the linearity of the narrative; the work continually renews itself between construction, destruction and reconstruction.


While in his early video works he focused on archiving the activation of a processual sculpture, Florian Pugnaire quickly autonomized the gesture to produce movements seemingly induced by the process itself, without human intervention. Taking place in indeterminate spaces, between the wasteland, the studio and the white cube, his videos unroll the processual gesture to create chain reactions: the decor self-destructs and the materials become actors of spectacular pyrotechnic and mechanical disasters. And when the body comes back into play, as in Stunt Lab (2009) or Agôn (2016), it seems to undergo the same extraordinary force: the gestures are destructive and the organisms are as mistreated as the materials around them. In watching his films, we think of Der Lauf der Dinge (The Course of Things, 1987) by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Water Boots (1986) by Roman Signer or One Minute Sculptures (1997-1998) by Erwin Wurm: temporary sculptures, resting on a precarious balance, leaving an imminent and programmed catastrophe in abeyance or activating, they bring into play, with derisory dramatic intensity, the fundamentals of sculptural practice as a determined and immobile form.


But Florian Pugnaire’s films carry within them a gravity foreign to these works: nimbed by a strange, sometimes nightmarish atmosphere, they send us back to the fantastic film. In Paramnésis (2011), we observe a succession of events unfolding through different spaces, initially immaculate and circumscribed, then increasingly dirty and indeterminate. Several mechanical reactions take place: impacts, flows, absorptions. The atmosphere becomes unhealthy, disturbing: acetone flows over polystyrene, which melts to create blackish threads, reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979); a sheet metal sheet is pushed into a wall to leave a gaping hole, black as nothingness…”. In space, no one will hear you scream,” these poor tortured materials seem to tell us.

The works he creates with David Raffini have something more romantic about them. Their videos, whose main characters are generally vehicles (backhoe, van, car) are the subjects of a poetics of metamorphosis, leading the processual fiction towards phantasmagoria. From these videos come the sculptures made from these vehicles: playing an ellipse between cinematographic and real time, these often violent works – In Fine’s backhoe pulls back on itself, Dark Energy’s truck is dismembered – send us back to the fiction of their making. The filmed account of their metamorphosis is inscribed both in the real (the effects are mechanical and not digital) and in the myth: we cross with them abandoned wastelands and plains, we sympathize with the inevitable transformations they undergo to end up conferring them an anthropomorphic and ontological dimension. “In Dark Energy, or in In Fine, mechanical machines are shown as both “utilitarian” and fantastically glorified, human and extra-human. (…) Thus these mechanical machines are associated with the idea of almost mythical ancestrality at the same time as they are metaphorical of the “homo faber”, that definition of man forever restless, forever taken from the desire to manufacture – and consequently, to transform his environment.5 “We then think of Christine, a book by Stephen King published in 1983 and adapted by John Carpenter the same year, or Ballard’s Crash! (1973), adapted by David Cronenberg in 1996: the machine becomes mortal, raised as a symbol of the human condition and a vector of our own loss.

Agôn (2016) would be the sum of all these reflections, and it is Florian Pugnaire’s most syncretic work. We see two combatants confronting each other, prisoners of a timeless loop. The set comes to life and metamorphoses around them to finally self-destruct: carried away in this perpetually changing scenography, the actors seem absorbed by the violence of their own action, almost indifferent to the brutal reactions that surround them.



Exhibition View Film Agôn 2016


Here again, Florian Pugnaire tells us about the process and Agôn is certainly a sculptural film; however, it is also a truly cinematic work. The narrative thread is based on a chain reaction leading us into a succession of spaces in which the fight unfolds. The montage alternates between close-up shots of the action of the two protagonists and elliptical shots revealing the scale of the set, creating dynamic variations in rhythm. The sound brings a fantastic atmosphere while reflecting the realistic aspect of the fight. Close to the bodies, it focuses on the impacts and the runaway of the breath while evolving according to the changes of space, recalling at times the disturbing Polymorphia (1961) by Krzysztof Penderecki, used by William Friedkin in The Exorcist (1973) and by Stanley Kubrick in The Shining (1980). This agonizing atmosphere is grafted onto the aesthetics of the studio: the construction and deconstruction of the decor bears witness to a process involving the making, the undoing, the gesture, the gestation, the sculpture in the making.

Produced with the professional techniques of the film industry, Agôn is thus an art video in which cinema is integrated both as a reference and as a form. Florian Pugnaire’s influences are varied here but all belong to genre cinema: martial arts films (from Akira Kurosawa’s Chanbara to John Woo’s Hong Kong cinema), fantasy and science fiction films (Tobe Hooper, David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick)… By drawing on this repertoire, the artist allows himself an incursion into entertainment, leading his aesthetic issues towards the spectacular. We are indeed taken aback and come out of the projection by fantasizing an improbable remake of The Course of Things by Fischli & Weiss by John Carpenter.


Florian Pugnaire

Film  Agôn  2016


However, Agôn has nothing to do with Hollywood productions: for Florian Pugnaire, artistic fiction must understand the way in which the image industry generates codes of representation in order to divert them and create alternative forms. “Since Greenberg, the flow of globalized images, online exploits, and endless replicas of entertainment productions have flooded into our receiving channels. Game and fiction are now included in the self-reflection of art. And unlike entertainment, artistic fiction does not aim to hypnotize the spectator, even if it lets him or her absorb the content.6 “In Agôn, the spectacular plays with the spectacle, artifice is thwarted by the real and performative staging of the action, and violence poses an axis of reflection on human nature.

For if Florian Pugnaire uses certain mechanisms of Hollywood cinema, he sets aside the Manichean vision. The fight, like the term Agôn and its polysemy 7, offers several avenues for reading. From a narrative point of view, it is absurd: we will never know why these two adversaries are so keen to annihilate each other and we will never know their story. The absence of context transforms the film experience into a powerful visual and sensory exploration that imprints itself on our retinas and chases us for a long time. The atmosphere, full of ruins and mists, at times reminds us of Stalker’s Zone (1980, Tarkovski): physical space becomes mental and the struggle is then tinged with an ontological, even metaphysical dimension. Between instincts of life and death, Agôn reminds us of the vanity of our existence and our irrational and essential will to overcome it.

As Kubrick said: “A film is – or should be – much closer to music than to a novel. It must be a sequence of feelings and atmospheres. The theme and all that is in the background of the emotions it conveys, the meaning of the work, all this must come later. You leave the theater and, maybe the next day, maybe a week later, maybe without you realizing it, you acquire something that is what the filmmaker has tried to tell you”.


Pauline Thyss, September 2016


[1] Claire Moulène, in the article Action Sculpture published in Code 2.0 in the fall of 2010, defines the practice of Florian Pugnaire and David Raffini as follows.
[2] Article published in Artforum (VI, n° 8) in April 1968 in which Robert Morris, opposing minimalism, defends a process according to which the artist delegates artistic choice and gesture to the material. This article lists, since Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis, the American expressions of this process which “lets matter, gravity and chance “speak”.
[3] Florian Pugnaire, about Stunt Lab, 2010
[4] Interview, Pauline Thyss and Florian Pugnaire, 2016.
[5] Sylvie Coëllier, Dark Energy: Chronicle of an Announced End, in catalog Dark Energy, Pablo Picasso National Museum, 2014.
[6] Sylvie Coëllier, Pugnaces et raffinés – Florian Pugnaire et David Raffini: une épopée des moteurs, 2013.
[7] The genealogy of the term Agôn goes back to the texts of Ancient Greece and reveals, since its origin, numerous shifts in meaning. It appears in the Iliad to describe the assembly that witnessed the establishment of funerary games, before evolving in the Odyssey to designate the arena in which the tournaments took place. It then expands to define the panhellenic games, and then some of their specificities linked to the notion of combat, such as contest, struggle, rivalry. Finally, Agôn can designate the place of the combat as the combat itself, the combativeness and, by extension, the judicial or verbal joust, the dialectical debate, the theatrical dispute…
[8] Remarks by Stanley Kubrick collected by Peter Lyon for the magazine Holiday (February 1964).
Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Sans titre, 2016
Stainless steel, winch, cable
100 x 166 x 26 cm

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016 Projection "Agôn"

Projection Agôn, 2016

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Traverse, 2016
stainless steel, strap


Noeud, drap, drapeau, 2016

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Meurtrière III, 2016
BA13, strap, white paint, caparol binding agent
90 x 250 cm

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Sans titre, 2016
gas bottle, galvanized chain, aerosol paint 
170 x 30 x 30 cm

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Tôle sanglée, 2016
stainless steel, strap 
165 x 90 x 100 cm

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Traverse, 2016
stainless steel, strap

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Traverse, 2016
stainless steel, strap

Florian PUGNAIRE Meurtrière 2016 Plaque de plâtre cartonnée, sangle d'arrimage 74x37cm édition 25 exemplaires Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Meurtrière 2016
Gypsum plasterboard, lashing strap 





September 24 – December 31, 2016


+ informations

Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view



Vue d'exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view



Vue d'exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view



Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view



Florian PUGNAIRE Exposition "Mechanical Stress" Galerie Eva Vautier 2016

Exhibition view

Article de presse de Florian Pugnaire paru dans le numéro 260 du magazine de La Strada du 26 Septembre au 9 Octobre 2016

Press article on Florian Pugnaire published in the n° 260 of La Strada magazine from September 26 to October 9, 2016.



Article de presse sur l’exposition MECHANICAL STRESS paru dans le n°866 du magazine Tribune le vendredi 21 Octobre 2016

Press article on Florian Pugnaire published in the n°866 of the magazine Tribune Bulletin Côte d’Azur on Friday, October 21, 2016.


Article sur l’exposition MECHANICAL STRESS de Florian Pugnaire publié sur le blog Chez Lola Gassin le lundi 14 Novembre 2016.

Article on the exhibition MECHANICAL STRESS by Florian Pugnaire published on the blog Chez Lola Gassin on Monday, November 14, 2016.