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  • 1998 - Jean-Philippe Domecq (novelist and essayist)

THE THOUSAND GRATALOUP MERGERS


Certainly signs and marks are discernible in the universe of this painter;his titles often echo it, which suggest some occult fable, initiated for who knows.Certainly, the whole of his work could have for panel of entrance this table titled the Tree to messages.But this painting itself, by its composition and its chromatic game, is sufficiently auto-ironic that one feels invited not to take to the letter any of the signs and symbols that the painter has woven, even when he holds to their intimate, universally intimate meaning.


So I prefer to retrace the path of this world by sticking to what is told to me by the strict means of painting: I prefer that my words retrace the path of a language without words that carries us so far beyond what we are trying to say about it.


I will start with the table entitled In Reality, Everything is Grey.This already makes a second painting, second panel, so to speak, on this territory of which I undertake the survey.Gone, the journey! it is the light allied to matter…


“In reality everything is grey”… Come on, Grataloup, Grataloup in the name of a amused fable, come on… You know well that no, you know well that yes, you know well that, yes, the real is grey as long as the artist has not given us forms to distinguish it – tell it, tell it in its components of light whose only refraction comes out of the grey the different states, bursts of matter-, and then, these forms once given to our eye to finally see what we have before our eyes but that without it we would not see, then «in reality all» is no longer «gray» at all. And so, yes Grataloup, this title also echoed maliciously the painting. Painting that, like an umbrella seen from below, opens the sky map that the archer aims at, figure of the painter with the arrow eye. The eye of the painter does indeed dart our gaze and thus reveals to us what, without the dotted line of his line-gaze and without the veinlets of his unfolded colors, we would not see within what we have taken the habit of naming, of a singularly illusory, “the reality”. And it is because it is necessary, to see, to lift the veil of the common illusion, that the veinlets of its colors depart to the six cardinal points; six, not four, in this particular world where my journey began. And why special, why does painting have to offer us a special world? Precisely to see all the realities that exist in «the» reality.


And what does this painter show us, if we look closely?What does he show us, from one period to another of this work, which, since time immemorial, unfolds the leaflet of his map on the main territories and events that can happen to an eye in a human life?


Thus, a continent.See a continent.The African continent for example: Africa is a shield whose painting is the tense skin.Like an arc stretched the painting since, starting from the figurine of the archer, it is as well as poorly contained by three nets of primary colors that come next to the edge of the painting, just at the edge, to burst the frame, almost -- as well as the shooter who’s aiming just has to shoot now.


From there, I stop before this event that is the desert, the discovery of the desert, I stop before Two tents.In front of this painting I realize that, since I have been there contemplating it, I have not been aware that my eye and my mind are constantly going from abstraction to figuration and return.For finally, the first reflex we have to identify known things led me to identify the two small recognizable forms: «like» two black tents, it is said at first;then the sandy powder, mixed with golden powder, is the sand mixed with light;blinding light of the desert, but precisely, if it blinds it dilutes everything, sprays and volatilizes any outline, leaving all figuration;and here I find myself immersed in a plane of matter, of painted material where, instead of contours and figures, there are densities of shades, flattens and edgings, concretions and then, upwards, gradients, always more gradients upwards as often in the country of Grataloup.Grataloup who, having brought my mind-eye to this point of entry into matter and nothing but matter, suddenly pulls out my head from this drowning by blocking the canvas with a stroke of gold.. A stroke of geometry that hurts us and reminds us that in case harmony is not only a human projection on the universe, then geometry would be the philosophical code.


I note in passing that at the moment when the spirit-eye tipped into matter beyond and below the referent, it seemed to him at first abstract.. matter is abstract.


And does the diptych Sable, day and night, relieve me of the tension I have just undergone between identifiable representation and concrete abstraction? What day, what night, have I ever seen such, and yet I recognize them, and these marks on our feet as bushes of footprints blown by what wind? The wind of the desert, whose still static plan of the painting gives us the breath – and God knows if the wind blows where it can, and God knows if it is beautiful to catch the trace between his painter’s fingers.


But this dust of universe where I have just found myself immersed in the favor of the desert, is not it first of all the matter of painting, and of painting alone? Painting alone, painting for painting, I know that we promoted it not so long ago, but it does not exist. Nor does the eye leave white the perfectly white wall that is put in front of it for hours. Grataloup settled this question in his demonstrative way as a scientific artist (his reading of Goethe’s colour theory was decisive for him). The proof is the double vertical sign Seasons with the arrival of the cold. Yes, other event for the human vision than the cycle of the seasons. Well, the bold move of this painting has been to weep layers of paint straight out of the tube and show them as they are, but chosen and applied in such a way that these layers of paint appear to decompose the effect of light when, in clear weather, the cold cuts it clean. A sharp cut that makes the shades of the landscape of the hills below vibrate all the better: pinkish and bluish mother-of-pearl on the bottom panel, as at dawn, and, on the top panel, chalky grit indicating the different geological strata.


Jean-Philippe Domecq (novelist and essayist) - 1998

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