“Abstraction” is a word that I find difficult to use: it catalogues us, confines us to being sweet dreamers. It encloses us in a story, an aesthetic, whereas its definition has been so knocked about, disputed: I’m thinking of Philip Guston, Gérard Gasiorowski, Charles Maussion, back and forth between matter and drawing, the porosity by which painting incorporates representations, while remaining abstract, but above all very concrete. Today painters live within these uncomfortable boundaries. If there is to be abstraction, it’s by abstracting from a previous image to enter painting.
To create a reality, not an image. An act, a phenomenon, a presence.
This term doesn’t refer to painting in a moving, unstable, permeable place. I only use the term abstraction if I need to describe my work, in its very absence. Painting overflows the image. Abstraction means a detachment from reality, far
from my sensual, material approach to the work innervated by life. A living painting vibrates with reality, the only master to observe. You can feel the weight of things. The gravity of matter. The fight of the avant-gardes no longer seems to me to be ours in its modalities. Today the history of abstraction nourishes as much as it liberates from any school. For me it’s a movement of the heart towards the simple, the naked: a long stretch of time to gaze at that unknown that’s strangely familiar to us.
Time necessary to see the painting. That’s what places it in a certain margin. I miss radical abstraction (Günther Förg, Didier Demozay...). It's as if our time were evacuating this dimension that’s contrary to the fast-seen, the fast-thought. This painting’s stark, without message: it confronts our body, our face, doesn’t serve any discourse. Its the opposite of communication and of an art that feeds on the tragedy of the world. The difference isn’t formal, but political. “Today’s society floods us with ugliness. I’m not interested in the art of producing art to criticize our world”, says Gérard Traquandi. This painting that asserts its silence is also the opposite of one that submits to photography. I’m not talking about the painters who create a sensual disturbance of the photographic image with painted matter (Rémy Hysbergue or Christopher Wool), because they create a sensation of lost memory, an elusive image, which makes the perception of reality waver.
The photographer can fall in love with the body of the painting or vice versa (Luc Tuymans, Liz Deschenes...). A photograph by Sally Mann, a film by Michelangelo Antonioni or Jean-Luc Godard are closer to what I’m engaged in than a formalist painting entrenched in its references.
Painting should dare to invent a vision. It’s important to lose oneself, to welcome disorientation. Of course our heart is wrenched by the state of the world, our gaze is gorged with its images. But these are our tools, not our goals. I also look a lot at painting of which the subject is itself. Confrontation of the body with a surface, vis-à-vis: I like painters who paint the painting, its presence-absence, its aura, the impossibility of the image...
The resistance of poetry is a life-affirming gesture. To stand upright, to spread colour in the beyond ourselves and at eye level. This is an ethical position that involves openness, distance, a lapse of time. To “live-paint” as Antoine Emaz says “write-live”, in the proximity of a painter like Agnes Martin. Abstract or figurative, this art of the surface is a skin-like requirement: how to touch, how to be touched. Pictoriality doesn’t only belong to the realm of painting or matter. The gesture can absent itself, relegated mechanically. Vincent Dulom paints without paint brush the shadow moving before our eyes. Presence is without technique.
Painting is a fact. Not a narrative. All painting is abstract upstream of what it puts into images. The gesture, the energy that innervates it, its flavour, the contact of the material with the surface, a detail, a contrast, a texture lead me to feel the painting itself. Like a kiss. It is this heart of the painting that I look at: a juice, a taste, extremely sensual, if not sexual. Impossible to say. Physical, vital. Painting is full of flesh, of the unconscious, of spirit. Full of the body of the painters. Painting transmits a body, is carried by a body, speaks to the body. Finding one’s family takes a long time. I
continue to discover it. I saw Raoul De Keyser and Howard Hodgkin belatedly. The link between all of them is perhaps the unknown: to be doing without knowing how to do it. Inventing what you need to see and don’t
know how to see yet. That gap. This curiosity, this state of non-knowledge makes me want to go back every day.
I wouldn’t say “painting the picture” in order to see wider and to consider James Turrell and Anish Kapoor sometimes as painters, just like the skin gestures in Pina Bausch’s choreography, a buried resin by Loïc Blairon, a poem by Ingrid Jonker... I digress. But it’s precisely in the subterranean mixtures that a horizon emerges outside the kitchens. Sometimes you have to breathe a different air, other than the chemical emanations of the paint.
The definition of a surface covered with colours doubles the tautology. There’s is much to be said for relying on the surface, but how impoverishing it is to keep the elements to their definition, instead of opening them up to gaping openings and splashes of meaning. I’m in favour of drifting where there glistens that which is nude as yet to be found by chance, the rhythms of my hand bumped by collisions or softened by caresses. Painting is an embrace. Isn’t the embrace the place where the nakedness of the body is also that of the soul? This counts for much more than the subject of abstraction which, more than a school claim, should be a high lighting of the happy loss of the subject.
Translation: Chloé Baker