TITLE: Les Hommes ont divisé le soleil et déterminet le travail



LOCATION: Collège des Jeanneret


In the top left-hand corner of the mural, following the direction of western reading (top to bottom and left to right), the sun is the source of life. If, according to Darwin, humans are descended from monkeys, then according to Thoma Vuille the cat is descended from the sun. The head of the famous tomcat is a sun in itself. Naïve and primitive, Thoma Vuille’s art is first and foremost sincere and generous. With a touch of the carefree about it. The sky is like the roof of a circus big top. The clouds are popcorn.

Always grinning and with his heart-shaped nose, M. CHAT [Mr Cat] is bonhomie personified. The shape and colour of his head vaguely remind you of a smiley face, the ambiguous symbol of house culture. With his crescent-shaped mouth showing a set of teeth spread out like rays, the tomcat’s ecstatic smile appears to mask a hint of underlying insanity. An impression that is reinforced by his hypnotic eyes with the colour of their irises and pupils inverted, giving the character an air of being “high”.

Evidently at ease, the famous cat feels very much at home, lolling amid the region’s iconic buildings like a holidaymaker on an inflatable pink flamingo. A way for his creator, who is originally from La Sagne, to indicate both his fondness for the lakes and mountains that make up the identity of the canton de Neuchâtel and his fascination for history and buildings that house the institutions fundamental to democracy, in other words power: Le Locle’s Town Hall (the seat of communal power) and the Collegiate Church of Neuchâtel (the seat of cantonal power).

M. CHAT affectionately places a paw around the church of Le Locle, as if around the shoulders of an old pal. Taking pride of place, the building is elevated to almost the same height as the Eiffel Tower. On its steeple, the clock face is blank, giving onlookers the freedom to imagine its hands. There’s never any stress with M. CHAT! “What’s the big hurry?” is an expression Thoma likes to use.

Thoma Vuille loves his adopted home of Paris. Rising above the city’s roofline, the Eiffel Tower, a kind of cultural beacon, is a reminder that French is the first language of Neuchâtel. The monument’s presence underlines the cultural influence of the City of Lights on Romandy and on the world in general. By teleporting the Eiffel Tower to Neuchâtel, Thoma is expressing an ideal of cultivating a coming together of cultures.

Lake Neuchâtel and the Alps with the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau form the backdrop to the composition. The work’s spatiality comes from a juxtaposition of planes or scales, and perspectives are joyfully mixed together.

The title of the work reflects the mural’s light-hearted tone. The artist has hijacked the phrase that adorns the pediment of the Town Hall, “Les hommes ont divisé le cours du Soleil et déterminé les heures” [Men have divided the course of the sun and determined the hours], altering the word for determined, “déterminé”, to include the French word for “puss”, minet, and swapping “hours” for “work”. Proof that you can pay homage to an illustrious predecessor, here Ernest Biéler(1), and have a bit of fun with his values in the process.

The size of the artist’s signature bears witness to a certain narcissism, most likely a hangover from tag culture.

(1) Voir la page «ARTISTES», section «HORS PROG».

© exomusée – January 2022 – Redaction: François Balmer – Translation: Proverb, Heiler & Co

Collège des Jeanneret



M. CHAT is the graphic creation of the French-Swiss artist Thoma Vuille that first appeared in Orléans in Loiret in 1997. This enigmatic character always has a beaming smile, with white wings growing on his back from 2003 onwards. Generally painted on walls in inaccessible places, images of M. CHAT can be found all over Europe (such as England, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Bosnia Herzegovina) but particularly in France: in Paris (more than 80 walls painted on the main road between Porte de Clignancourt and Porte d’Orléans), in Orléans where his creator founded the contemporary art space Galerie Wall (now closed) in 2003, but also in Rennes, Nantes, Tours, Trouville-sur-Mer, Blois, La Rochelle, Île de Ré, Sète, Saint-Étienne and Hénin-Beaumont. He can also be found outside Europe in New York, Hong Kong, Macao, Seoul, Hué and Dakar. M. CHAT was the topic of a 2004 film by Chris Marker entitled “The Case of the Grinning Cat”, screened that year at the Centre Pompidou. A giant M. CHAT was painted on the square in front of the Centre Pompidou for the occasion. To mark this event produced by Arte, the newspaper Libération gave his creator free rein, following in the footsteps of Annette Messager and Philippe Starck. An article by Annick Rivoire on Chris Marker’s film concludes with a conversation between Chris Marker and Thoma Vuille. (source: Wikipedia)
© exomusée – January 2022 – Redaction: François Balmer – Translation: Proverb, Heiler & Co

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