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Published: 12 August 2021

By Andy Ross

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An animated painting

The French artist and sculptor, Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet, was interested in exploring beauty in all its aspects, moving away from traditional representations to a more avant garde and idiosyncratic approach.

It was Jean Dubuffet who coined the term "art brut, which is also known as "outsider art. The artist had been inspired by nomadic people who were constantly were in a constant state of flux, and by Hans Prinzhorn's book Artistry of the Mentally Ill. Linked to this, the work produced by untrained and untutored artists represented unfettered imagination and depth of emotion to him. For Dubuffet this freedom of expression was not satisfactorily explored by traditional artistic means and he began to experiment with materials and techniques to bring out the inner lives of people and places.

Coucou Bazar was the ultimate result of a doodle. One day, while on the telephone, Dubuffet drew a tangle of black lines and in the cells created by the criss-crossing of the lines he added colour. The movement that was created by the lines and colour led to the belief that this evoked the way in which images appear in the mind, and so L'Hourloupe was born. This style of painting grew into sculptural pieces and, with the artist's interest in music and movement, Coucou Bazar came into being.

This massive animated painting crosses the boundaries between painting, performance, art and craft. Using the style the artist had developed in L'Hourloupe huge figures and static and moving structures create a multilayered spectacle through which costumed dancers move, interacting slowly with their surroundings and each other. Music for the original performance was composed by Turkish composer Ilhan Mimaroglu. To hear what that music sounds like follow this linkand click on the play buttons beside each listed piece. Nowadays this sort of staged event is more commonplace but in the early 1970s it must have been quite startling. 

To see a trailer for a recent performance in London of a couple of the costumed characters click on the YouTube video below. Coucou Bazar is currently part of a show, Brutal Beauty, of Jean Dubuffet's work at London's Barbican Galleries until 22nd August.