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  • 2002 - Jean-Louis Pradel (historian and art critic)

GRATALOUP’S DAZZLING PALIMPSEST


Resolutely on the side of the cum, Grataloup never sacrificed to the passage forced by the dissection room.Rather than putting paint in pieces and pieces, dismantling its mechanics or applying it, while the elementary dialectic of Mao Tse Toung’s thought prevailed among his friends in Supports/Surfaces, that the taste of the day was to decline a cascade of binary systems which endeavoured to distinguish the signified from the signified as the background of the form, Grataloup plunged body and soul into the painting to inscribe therein the privileged relationship which he wished to maintain with nature, memory and see it.


In May 68, which he lived under the aristocratic shadows of the Villa Medici where he had led his price from Rome, Grataloup made his first rubbings on the old stones of Ostia Antica in the company of Anne and Patrick Poirier who, for their part, retained the grain and volumes in the embossing of the papers of their first stampings.Against the ambient nihilism and its empty tables which strive to update the strategy of the avant-garde of the first thirty years of a century that it was necessary to reinvent from top to bottom, this patient and meticulous taste of imprint strives to retain some of the memory of places and things.


These readings are similar to revelation exercises where light, as well as form, spring from the very density of the graphite powder, automatically fixed and concentrated by the slightest irregularities.To these beginnings of arrangements with the darkness and chance of which the painter must be the lucid interlocutor, answer his explorations of the full light sketchbook by hand on the great paths of vast nature.


From these first rubbings, attentive to the infinitely small, almost indistinct to the naked eye, to the establishment of the first matrices cut with the scalpel in the details of enlarged drawings, carried over by photographic projection on paper or paperboard which will in turn be worked by rubbing and stencils, it is as much the complexity of the world as the alchemy of the gaze that it presupposes that are immediately summoned by the painter to make a little emerge from this consciousness of matter.


For thirty years Grataloup’s painting has been exploring this path of the peaks.It takes breath and breadth, a solid stubbornness to neglect the beaten paths and all-track routes proposed each season by the fashions and trends of the moment.This haughty neglect where insolence disputes him with an immoderate taste for the substance builds a great pictorial work crossed by sumptuous storms where is displayed a dazzling ease in guarding the immensity.


From its very first Parisian solo exhibition in 1973, Grataloup brought together the forces of colour and those of nature. At a time when modern art gives way to contemporary art, vulnerable prey, sometimes complacent, of a management that readily appears to a sub-category of the leisure industry, Grataloup raises the debate and builds useful forms to live and dream.


In contrast to the air of time, Grataloup’s journey disrupts many of the normative conformities established by the multiplication of instances of legitimation of contemporary art. While they continue to narrow the field on an academicism of know-how subservient to the technologies of exchange and communication, according to the almighty catechism of merchandisation, flourishes a religion of art for art with its chapels, its churches, grand masses and small casuistic accommodations that delight its sworn clerics whose power to judge is matched only by their power to manage and strengthen their own prerogatives.


Far from the upheavals of this milieu of art, Grataloup faces the wind from the open sea and the hard pleasure of standing, feet on the ground and head in the stars, in disregard of the levelling of generalized equivalence and its lazy horizontality, deadly when it sets in the black hole of the omnipotent present. Never forgetting this sacred time when the beasts spoke with all that noise on earth, Grataloup combines the memory of the primitive union of words and things with the metamorphoses of the painting, installs the place of a representation without stories and a music of silence able to stand up to the "too much reality" of the world. It still needed a tuning fork and a measuring instrument, both of them of high precision, to meet the impossible challenge to the noise and fury of the world. Halfway through the void and the echo, in tension between two realities, that of the painting and of this world "causes of itself", this preying exterior which does not cease to repeat the question "why is there something and not nothing?


Grataloup is situated at an equal distance from two prejudices, that of the agreed motif, still life or landscape, and that of the painting which would proceed from an analytical grammar of its constituents. No dissection, we had said, but definition of the territory of a magnetic field by the use of scarification on the skin of the painting of an artistic code whose weft is taken -by design- in situ, on the side of mountains, in the flower of meadows or fields of wavy wheat. Enough to place the undervoltage color on the surface of the palimpsest board.


Yet nothing of the dispersion of a Spanish inn - the only one that Grataloup had to know was the prestigious Casa Velasquez where, at the half-time of the sixties, he had become friends with Millares, Serrano or Villalba.


From the outset the workshop is dedicated to the great alchemist work where the rebellious utopia of Rimbaud and his "Alchemy of the Word" is repeated on the fly.Although it was initially very narrow, granted in 1967 by the City of Arts in the neighborhood and the shared fervor of Serge Gainsbourg, Robert Malaval or Vladimir Vélickovic, it has everything from a pot of the devil to come.The Rome stage was decisive.Participating in the essential grand tour of initiation, it offers the spectacle of an unheard of fusion, from classical antiquity to Bernini through Fellini where the decorative becomes the safest way to reach the total work of art, sumptuous and desperate as are always the so invigorating Baroque storms where death itself would be only metaphor and the sea, the plastic tarpaulin of the Naveva.


Back in Paris, the workshop expands in the surroundings of the Observatory, in the shadow of the dome of the Val de Grâce, as in a programmatic summary where the cosmos joins one of the most accomplished concerts of mystical expressions of the classical age.Complicity multiplied punctuated by exceptional encounters such as those of Francis Bacon or Michel Leiris.The place of the painter is that of a knowledge accumulated at the whim of the benevolent chance of the elect of life!


Today in Chevreuse, so close to the Port Royal where Pascal and Racine made a stopover and where Logic was forged, the great residence of Grataloup at once symbolic, functional and warmly friendly that he conceived and realized with the architect Denis Sloan, perfectly manifests this consistency found by putting the work back on the job.The most natural thing in the world is the Rainbow and Aurora Borealis, but also the insane interlacing of a life of friendships, of encounters and of willingness to combine method with desire, the unique and the profusion.


The work and the place, here and now, bear witness to the density and generosity of the initiatory pictorial phenomenon of which Grataloup is the catalyst both Promethean and Apollinian.Painting here is an art of fire that burns under the ice and consumes the wildest and secret energies to enchant the gaze again.At the antipodes of strategic enrolments or temporary fashion effects, the pictorial landscape that Grataloup makes us tirelessly travel in all directions, appears sumptuously supernatural by means of tutoyer immanence and transcendence.The aesthetic feat subjugates us as the materialization of an acute awareness of the unknown, the vision of lightning bridges launched very far towards the unlimited of thought.


Everywhere the sun and night and of course the eclipse of the sun which, in the summer of 1999, crossed France at midday. Everywhere the mountain, the desert or the sea, these inventions of the unlimited of space and time. Everywhere these mineral or vegetable enigmas and these meteorological beauties to confirm Gaston Bachelard: “The forms end. Matter never. Matter is the scheme of undefined dreams".


Explicitly autobiographical references, such as the fatal, inevitably fatal fall, in a crevasse of the Bossons glacier in 1988, or, very recently, the recovery at the rendezvous of the Massabielle cave, in the footsteps of Bernadette who drank the muddy water and ate the bitter grass, a golden watercress, wild, driven since then by the crowd of pilgrims.


And also, in the fashion of the past future that seals the act of painting and its prospective melancholy, bold and proud tributes to the masters, from the impressionists of the shattering entrance of the bursts of the solar discontinuity to Caspar David Friedrich climbed to the promontory of the dream to reconcile the most unruly romanticism to the most learned symbolism, without forgetting the universal Vinci whose "paradise" of vegetal decoration that he had imagined for the Asse room, at the Sforza Palace in Milan, is transposed, five centuries later, in 1989, in the middle of the skyscrapers of La Défense, to dress up a 30-metre-high ventilation tower with three trees with interlaced branches!


A good part of the confusion and fascination of Grataloup’s painting lies in this frankness which, without chiaroscuro or optical depth, without detours or illusions, does not hesitate to force the line of a painted metal rod, gold or silver, precious vector of a solar ray clarity diffracted by some imaginary stained glass windows, sign of a fight manifested by the high tower of La Défense, gigantic anti-sculpture swept by three pigmentary primary colors - colors fundamental materials of the painter - namely the red, the yellow and the blue, base and summit of the fight engaged with obstinacy for thirty years by this soldier forgotten of a war, that of the art of painting, which one said lost since that in Bern, In 1969, Harald Szeemann turns the page, no longer exposes but deposits, and what would have happened to the time when "attitudes become forms"!Yet this closed case that had institutionally become painting is today denounced by the very news.While the course of his micro-revolutions as his epic almanac, for more than thirty years, continues to push back the precarious survival of painting in the negligible backstage of the art scene and its store of outdated accessories, Today, on all sides, we see its discredit disappearing.Faced with the acceleration of the processes of communication, production and promotion, at a time when the territory of art is in full expansion, the need to reconnect with the temporality inherent in painting and its insolent inconvenience is imposed.


Against the generalized zapping, the stop on image seems more than ever necessary, even urgent.In our time, described by Habermas as "panicked by massacres and stunned by inventions", the ability of painting to inhabit time is the space resumes colors.


Like this "good armchair" that Henri Matisse proposed to his visitors, Grataloup’s painting is the surest way to undo the confinement of consciences by money, the commodification of bodies, the trivialization of violence and exclusion, the media generalization of pornography and voyeurism.The mastery of the storms of which she testifies is a response to the ravage that Afghanistan endures obstinately, through which passed the ancient route of the lapis lazuli of the mantle of Mary, extended to the far east by the road of the silk of this same mantle, and where, all of a sudden, through one of those mysteries where the culture of the world finds its foundation through an extraordinary fusion of time and space, the alliance of the art of the Scythians, India, China, Korea or Japan, Allied to the quintessence of Hellenistic art came to these ends with the Aristotelian Alexander the Great offered a face and a body, his smile to the Buddha.


The art of Grataloup, gathers and crystallizes in contempt of any agreed hierarchy, the nuggets of scattered fragments - I have not forgotten his pleasure to evoke, his bedside vigils during his military service in Berlin, in the company of an American recruit named Elvis Presley! - is the most salutary source of energy where the enjoyment ceases to be deepening of thought.


After the era of ruptures initiated by Impressionism, where subject and objects of painting are questioned by the chaos of touches and the emergence of the reserve, this incurable open wound in the continuum of the painting as of the history of art where, Like the said and the unspoken of any poetic of the orality, the vertiginous equivalence of the painted, came, post modernity helping, these times of a reconciled art whose painting of Grataloup gives the measure.It is a matter of height of sight, these "great silent landscapes that will extend for a long time" and which speak of what comes where the freedom of space is combined with destiny foretold in temporality, to lead the gaze of this "inertia of the landscape mineralized by the hour of noon", which Julien Gracq evokes, at the auspicious transparencies of the martin or evening when the time has come to pitch the tent and the contemplation of a vast expanse sharpens this blessed gift of clairvoyance, designating the rediscovered eternity of an all EastSuddenly so close that he comes before our eyes to love the infinite.


Jean-Louis Pradel (historian and art critic) - 2002

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