Robert Combas was a pioneer of the figuration libre movement in France. It is the equivalent of Neo-Expressionism in the United States. Inspired by the punk movement, graffiti art, and comics, it was a reaction against the heavily conceptual, academic, and studio driven practices of the 1970s.
Extolling spontaneity and unfettered expression as virtues, Combas fills his paintings with recognizable cartoon characters, Rock’n Roll imagery, cyborgs, body parts come to life, calligraphy, and sexuality, among many other elements.
The paintings came from the artist’s direct visual engagement with the world, rather than an internal process of epistemic revelation. Combas hoped viewers would access his paintings without recourse to arcane theoretical knowledge or a thorough grounding in art history.