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  • 2016 - Luis Porquet (art critic)


Open from July 2 to October 23, 2016, the exhibition dedicated to Guy-Rachel Grataloup at Vascœuil Castle celebrates the unique work of a great French artist. With a radiant chromatism, his painting, which places man at the heart of the Universe, takes on the allure of an alchemical quest. Its soothing power operates from the very first moments.

The exhibition could well have been called "From Earth to Heaven", less prosaic perhaps than "From Below to Above". But, if this is so, it is because the title adopted by the artist corresponds to his discretion, as if not to add to a concept sufficiently evocative to his eyes.

It would be necessary, in any case, to be very insensitive to art not to detect, in the work of Guy-Rachel Grataloup, a spiritual aspiration that testifies to each of his paintings. For him, painting is a way of questioning life, of deciphering its meaning beyond its visible part or of a conveniently materialistic reading of the world.

And yet, matter, curiously enough, expresses itself fully, not to say magnetically, in its art that is high in substance and covered with reliefs, telluric bursts, of which there are few equivalents in what it is agreed to call the current pictorial practice.

Speaking without ostentation, Grataloup, who was the Laureate of the Prix de Rome and gave much time to teaching, this art of transmission, seeks to find meaning in his presence on Earth. If he does not consider himself a mystic, his quest is that of a man turned towards the life of the spirit and his work is perceptibly nourished by esotericism (references to the Bible, to alchemy, to the treatise of the colors of Goethe nourish its elaboration). There is certainly an eminently symbolic dimension in his painting which makes use of metals, sand and mixed techniques. The emblematic figure of the tree, especially the apple tree, which brings us back to the lost paradise, is frequently invited there, making the link between earth and heaven, dense matter and ether, notions referring to the fleshly being and the more subtle world of the soul.

How can we be surprised that the four elements -Earth, air, water, fire (we should add Love, with a capital letter)- come into play in the radiant dramaturgy of this artist so close to the sacred, even if it affects to talk about it with this reservation specific to those who know much more than they say! For he who speaks does not know, he knows does not speak, as eternal wisdom wills.

In this flamboyant theatre where the color trembles with a rare intensity, but without ever attacking you, Grataloup grants an essential, fundamental place to the Woman, half-angel, half-acrobat, whose soul is able to rise without hindrance to God. Supported and guided by a thread of light, it climbs the degrees of the air until it reaches the empyrea, thus becoming the inspirational source of man, too often riveted to the earth and to what he calls concrete. In English, the word concrete, even a concrete translation, also refers to concrete and material. However, we have never seen concrete float, to use Salavador Dalí’s formula. In the language of Grataloup, the presence of the golden scale refers to the dream of Jacob, as it is evoked in the Old Testament. It is like a bridge connecting man to the divine and vice versa, the means of escaping the strictly terrestrial and too reductive limits of the immense universe.

For the writer Michel Tournier, Grataloup lies beyond form and matter. But he gives us keys giving access to what is hidden. For Lydia Harambourg, her work is an aspiration to infinity. The irradiant presence of gold, magnificently present in his Homage to Kaspar David Friedrich (1992) refers to the metamorphosis of man to which the alchemists aim, that is to say, to the purification of his mind. To find agreement with Life, its beauty, its radiant presence, is to find the way of this Eden lost since the mythical time of the fall of Adam. It is to find again, here and now, the way of the forgotten fullness. In the China of Confucius, Heaven is the place of constancy, in opposition to the Earth, a reflection of the chaos of the human soul and fleeting tearing.

For Jacques Julliard, Grataloup is a painter of the Middle Ages whose entire work is similar to the search of alchemists. An alchemist who would have succeeded in breaking the secret of matter. The acrylic paint spread on the canvas mixes with metal and sand to give gold... The presence of the bird, be it the eagle or a palmiped is also not accidental in the semantics of the artist. It also refers to the Spirit flying over water and material contingencies.

Testifying spontaneously to their very first impressions, several visitors told us that they felt a sense of lightness in the face of the soothing works of Guy-Rachel Grataloup who, for several months, will occupy the three levels of the Château de Vascœuil, as an invitation to a higher life.

Luis Porquet (art critic) July 2016


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