Transfiguration review – a hideous horror show you’ll never forget

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Olivier de Sagazan’s Transfiguration, a performance first created 20 years ago, has to be one of the most original, incredible things you’re likely to see. That doesn’t mean you’ll like it.

The French painter, sculptor and performer takes his audience on a terrifying journey into a tortured artist’s psyche. It’s a shriek-out-loud horror show, the antichrist’s claymation. He’s up to some freaky voodoo, kneeling centre stage, stoking the sparks and smoke of a fire and chanting, ready to summon spirits.

But De Sagazan himself is to metamorphose into those spirits, a succession of creatures, demons and bogeymen. Smearing clay over his face, the sculptor is now the sculpture. He dots two blank, black pupils on his closed eyelids, a stroke of red for a mouth. As more layers are added, the distortion grows, the weirdness escalates. De Sagazan transforms into birds and beasts. He is a face-melted monster, a cadaverous grotesque, a peat bog man come back to life.

Olivier de Sagazan in Transfiguration.
 The weirdness escalates … Olivier de Sagazan in Transfiguration. Photograph: LIMF

It’s truly visceral, as the artist tears open his own muddy flesh. He completely erases himself, applying thick daubs of clay until he has smoothed his head into a blank orb. It’s suffocating to watch him obliterate his airways, only to violently stab at his eyes and his gash of a mouth. In this world the body is an ugly, troublesome place.

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