Who are you, Pierre Soulages?

4 février 2020

He celebrated his 100th anniversary on the 24th December 2019 and still paints with passion: the French artist Pierre Soulages, an absolute master of black is everywhere. He was on the cover of all the art magazines and is subject to various recent books, highlighted on the stands of book shops-one of the book is written by the writer and poet Christian Bobin (Pierre, (2019), Gallimard). But most of all, Soulages is the main focus of two promising retrospective exhibitions. One at the Fabre Museum in Montpellier highlights his work with a literary look, due to the several notes and archives of the artist. The other which shall always be remembered, brings together 73 years of creation with a narrow selection at the Louvre museum, but definitely dazzling paintings, dating back to 1946 right until 2019.


A native of Rodez

A question remains though: who is Pierre Soulages, the most famous monochrome painter in the History of Art? Let’s start from the beginning. Born in 1919 in Rodez, Aveyron (a city which hosts a museum completely devoted to him, since 2014), Soulages lost his father at an early age and grew up with his sister and mother. He began drawing during his childhood and visited archeological and heritage sites of his region, with great interest (these include the abbey-church of Conques, which he saw again years later). He began his studies at the Fine Arts school of Paris at the age of 18, visited great museums and attentively observed paintings of two major figures of those days, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso…But he got bored in Paris and came back to Rodez, where he relentless painted. Then the war broke out-luckily he was quickly demobilized. From 1946 until 1979, he made a name for himself in the world of art, by creating abstracts in black and walnut stain-a brown color which he really loves.

1979, the emergence of Outrenoir

1979 was a turning point. Before, his style was a lot like the abstract painters, such as the German Hans Hartung, Soulages defined “Outrenoir” during a day in January…which he today explains as: “I see this as another country, like Across the Rhine, Across the Channel, another way of perceiving painting”. Relief makes way in his paintings: they are covered with a thick layer of black paint that he streaks, sculpts, shapes. This is where his unique game with light begins, which is perceived on his paintings and triggers nuances and projections, materiality and spirituality. The curator of the exhibition at the Louvre Museum, Pierre Encreve powerfully highlights: “the light adored by Pierre Soulages, is the light which derives from black. Soulages addresses your obscurity.” The visitors are active when faced with his paintings: they move, approach, distance themselves, to perceive light in various ways.


The black stained-glass windows of Conques

The quest of meditation of his untitled paintings, along with a simple date-still carry on today: the Louvre Museum presents three high and narrow paintings, dated 2019 (created at the age of 99!), which immediately evoke the 104 stained-glass created in 1994 by the artist for the Sainte-Foy de Conques church. These are definitely the most iconic works of the artist. He puts down roots in the 11th century Roman architecture-visited and cherished by the artist, right since his childhood. For this unique order, Soulages wanted to defy the tradition of narrative and polychromatic stained windows, evoking the sacred and exuding emotional “clarity”, that encourages the visitors to keep quiet, in order to better observe the mysterious texture…

Daniel Reymann, abstraction and the random

Daniel Reymann is contemplative, just like Soulages as he too gives particular attention to the field and the meta-physical reflections, which can be triggered within the spectator. “As a child, I would spend hours observing the reflections of light in a glass of water”, he willingly explains. Grand-son of a cabinetmaker, who gave him the passion for drawing, Daniel Reymann drew a lot through trials. He explains: “I touched everything that I came across. I am curious about everything. In terms of painting, I definitely prefer, oil, acrylic, a sort of tempera, pigmented Indian ink”. He likes mistakes, improvising, working in a somewhat urgent manner; his abstract compositions are entitled with poetic names like Invisible things or The Uncertain horizon, unveiling some of the secrets of his poetic universe. He pays attention to colors and materials, Daniel Reymann encourages us to observe the world, its glimmers, volumes, in a more precise manner through his great art variety.

                         Lignes ligneuses                                                                        Egalité