Wes 21



Unity is key

Title: Unity is key

Technique: BRUSH, ROLLER


Location: Col 31

Surface area: 55 m2

Le Locle is a border town. Therefore, the exomusée wanted to enrich its collection with a work that illustrates the Franco-Swiss friendship and which praises the rapprochement between peoples. The project immediately attracted Wes 21, a young Biel-based figurative painter who excels in the art of metaphor and whose breathtaking virtuosity is no stranger to his growing international reputation.

The building chosen as a support for this project is one of the last on the road to the French-Swiss border, a stone’s throw from the singular cliffs of the Col-des-Roches, a vertiginous rock cleavage that invites the eye to plunge into the velvety ether of ever-changing skies. This mineral indentation overlooks a tunnel which swallows and regurgitates some 25,000 vehicles every day, many of them coming from neighbouring France. The density of this commuting traffic bears witness to the intensity of cross-border exchanges. On the Swiss side, while the flow of commuters may give some locals the feeling of being invaded, it is necessary to emphasise that neighbouring Francei is the source of a qualified workforce, essential to the local economy.

The mural created by Wes 21 puts us in the lens of a surveillance camera, equipped with night vision. Operating in near total darkness, these cameras amplify residual light and produce green images, with green being the colour of which the human eye distinguishes the most nuances in poor luminosity. These greenish images are well known to the general public, especially in war and action films. Positioned at a key point on the border, the camera detects a suspicious activity: a cat and a mouse who join forces to open a lock, to which they miraculously have the key. Surprised to be discovered despite their stealth, the two allies stare at the camera, paralyzed. The camera’s night vision highlights the tapetum lucidum of animals (also called «clear carpet» in French), a reflective layer at the back of the eye of certain mammals, which promotes good night vision by increasing, through reflection, the amount of light captured by the retina. At night, the cat’s white eyes echo the headlights of passing cars.

Since cross-border relations are the theme of the fresco, one can imagine that the cat symbolises France and the mouse Switzerland, if one compares the size of the animals with the respective surface areas of each country.

Wes 21 called his work « Unity is key », because he is convinced that the key to a problem can always be found by overcoming antagonisms and acting in complementarity. Wes 21 tries to persuade us by this image : the feline is not dexterous enough to hold the sesame between its paws, but the rodent is able to do so, thanks to its small prehensile limbs. However, being too small, the mouse cannot reach the lock without the help of the tomcat. The predator, who has read Jean de La Fontaine and knows the phrase « One often needs a smaller one than himself », keeps his claws in their sheaths and lets the mouse climb on his head, so that he can then hoist it to the right height. The fact that the key is antique and richly worked suggests that it gives access to something precious. For Wes 21, the arched entrance to the railway tunnel, visible on the right of the mural, resembles a keyhole. In a somewhat subliminal way, this analogy of form contributes to the integration of the mural into the landscape.

As a preparatory work, Wes 21 painted a preliminary draft on a small panel in his studio in Biel. Then, while executing the fresco in Le Locle, he strove to reproduce the same gestures as in the creation of the preliminary project, proportionally increasing the amplitude of his movements and using large brushes, rollers fixed to poles and a paint gun. The result is more than convincing. One gets the impression, that the 55 m2 fresco is a miniature created by the hand of a giant. Thanks to a very dynamic, rhythmic and angular gesture, the painter reveals the energy contained in the organic and inorganic matter, bringing to light the very essence of what is perceptible. A geometrisation of the shapes allows him to bring out the lines of force that structure and hierarchise the elements of the composition.

While this parable of Franco-Swiss friendship may be reminiscent of a children’s story in form, it also raises delicate questions about the policies that govern freedom of movement, the surveillance of the masses, the sovereign functions of the state. The concept of the border is ambivalent depending on the geopolitical context. Peoples who consider themselves better off than their neighbours often see their country’s borders as bulwarks against invaders or potential profiteers.

In contrast, for populations under the yoke of totalitarian regimes, national borders are synonymous with confinement, self-withdrawal and police violence. By depoliticising the discourse and understanding the border from the perspective of curiosity, it becomes a passageway to the exotic, to the other, a doorway to something similar and different at the same time. For some lucky people, ‘border’ rhymes with ‘holiday departure’.

Camera. Computer. Video projector. During the creative process, Wes 21 uses all the technological tools at his disposal to materialize his works. In general, he is inspired by various iconographic sources. In order to achieve the desired level of realism, he usually photographs the subjects he wants to paint. With this approach, Wes 21 has found the perfect balance between realism and pictorial material. He creates worlds that he likes to call surreal.

© exomusée – August 2022 – Redaction: François Balmer – Translation: Wolfgang Carrier


Col 31


Wes 21

Born in Biel in 1989, Remo Lienhard, alias WES-21, began his artistic activities in 2001. Graduated from the College of Art and Design in Biel, the artist became an independent illustrator and designer. He creates large-scale murals, canvases and 3D sculptures. He is one of the pillars of SCHWARZMALER, a collective of exceptional artists and illustrators of international renown. His detailed works are undeniably amazing by nature. Remo is constantly working to develop his unique visual language.

> Link to Wes 21 website


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