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  • 1989 - Claude Bouyeure (art critic)


O distant dream of youth/ there lies my native land /

The old castle is only ashes/ all the trees are cut down /

Terrible as the storm/ rush upon us the savage army

Alas - this paradise is no more!"

Novalis (Henrich von Ofterdingen)

"But since everything will be called light and night, these two names answering the respective litters which place, here or elsewhere, the domains, everything is full of both light and night without light, one and the other equally, if nothing in either of them takes the share in isolation".

Parmenide (The Poem)

The straight line is the enemy. It encloses what is meant to be unlimited. Grataloup corrupts it. Reduces the certainties of the horizon. Exposes it to the thrust of light and color. Thus, he opens up to the clandestine games of the night and the chiaroscuro.

This is not enough. Confronted with the immaterial inscriptions of the bottom the abdic outline of its rigor. The moorings break. the figure begins to float, to move between the canvas and the gaze. The desired volatilization of the landscape is accomplished by a kind of vibration that moves the whole surface. This agitation does not emerge from immanence. One of Grataloup’s favorite modes is the whirlwind, the labyrinth, the interlacing of features and withdrawals.

Fugivity and fullness, breakage and expanse. The truth that Grataloup makes us see, without sparing, is not easy to admit: rupture and harmony are, here, in solidarity. The gaze is drawn by the fragments of a world -of islands- which escapes with a rapidity that prevents it from being grasped. A world that is neither captured nor fixed. A force is beyond that that leads to a mysterious outburst. One thinks of the fatal, magical attraction of the Egyptian hell as it is represented on a papyrus of the museum of Turin. The figure plunges into the abyss, bewitched by its fate. But the moment we think it will disappear, something shines, bursts, is saved. One would say to oneself that it is forever. That the figure escapes the fatal attraction. That henceforth it gravitates far from perdition. But it does not allow us to delight in this clarity of hope. Its circulation always brings it back to the edge of the abyss. But it never plunges. As the fruit drives the branch towards the ground but without breaking it.

Brief lights. Inexhaustible blood. These are the poles of this painting. Painting aruspice. To enter the universe of this painter, it is necessary to know that he uses a matrix: the drawing of a wheat or barley field. It cuts, cuts, the outlines of the plants sketched. Then, using a pastel, rub the surface of a canvas applied to the matrix drawing. The operation gives rise to singular and random patterns, to vegetal blooms, to a lacis of stems, of roots, to an entire herbarium of undefined forms. By shifting, by multiplying the inscription of these figures, Grataloup weaves indicial chromatic wefts, networks and overprints of transparencies that force the eye, from plan to plan, to cross the surface as if the canvas instead of being a flat surface, was a three-dimensional obstacle. Passages of dense, lively paint, applied generously to large or small strokes of the brush, create effects of resistance, contrast with the delicacy of the background networks. They reinforce the impression of depth. Are like a curtain raised on the circulation of light and chromatic movements. However grassy swarm or mazes traced with pastel attack this paint, absorb it. A feast, a voration where the transitive outweighs the certainty.

Through each of his canvases, Grataloup testifies to his conviction that painting is bearable only when it is abolished in its radiance. That what saves the surface covered with pigments is the depth discovered by the same act. Thus, he chooses the most difficult way. In the pictorial system elaborated by the Renaissance, the visible gradually replaced the imaginary, as on a theatre scene the real scenery is prolonged by false perspectives. Tired of so many lures, modern art has renounced this formula depriving itself, at the same time, of the advantages conferred by its ambiguity. Nothing more, now masks or attenuates the abrupt duality of matter and mind. Also the painting, fearing to succumb to the tearing, willingly amputates one or the other of these terms and chooses to be only a transparent symbol or an opaque spot.

Put to the grave

Having become simple, it easily attains success. But this simplicity, this success hinders us because man is not simple and he expects art to be faithful to this duality. And let him solve it if he can.

I believe that Grataloup lives this fidelity, he who readily quotes Swedenborg or Novalis. By this, it is connected with the plan of mediation between the body and the mind which defines the great tradition. And this is all the more singular as the road traced between them by the Renaissance is cut off.

The threat of spreading weighs, near or far, on all the canvases. They are tense to break. And sometimes they break. The harmony that then springs from their debacle is even more serious. The painting begins landscape and ends confession.

Claude Bouyeure (art critic) - Spring 1989 - Exhibition catalog text - Galerie Bellecour - Ocotober,14 - November,28 1989


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