To celebrate the 💯ème anniversary of his birth in Rodez, three major exhibitions were organized in France at the beginning of the year. All the specialist press rightly celebrated the success of his worldwide career. A master of abstraction and "l'outrenoir", Pierre Soulages caused a shock wave in intellectual and multidisciplinary circles as early as the 1960s. In his work, don't look for a message or a representation; he confronts us with the movement of his black painting.
Of course, each of us feels rather positive or negative emotions, but certainly very strong.
The Alpes Maritimes Departmental Council presented a free exhibition of Pierre Soulages from February 8 to April 19, 2020. Interrupted in full success story last Sunday, the health crisis of Covid-19 forces us to change our behaviours. The exhibition had gathered 16,000 visitors in just 5 weeks, according to the article published in Nice Matin. The people of Nice, including me, were in a hurry to discover this master of contemporary painting on the Côte d'Azur.
In a refurbished building, the former prison, renamed "Galerie Lympia", is the perfect place to exhibit the essence of his work. The Lympia port is located in the heart of several historical monuments dating back to the foundation of the city Nikkaia by the Greeks. The many captivated visitors seemed quite silent as if they were in a sacred place.
All the conditions were in place to live the Experience, as we now say in marketing, in front of the 72 original works painted and engraved by the artist between 1946 and 2008.
"The creative power of Pierre Soulages"
The selection of works made by the curator of the exhibition, Gérard BOSIO, has been narrowed down to each representative period, which is perfect in terms of pedagogy to understand the stages of its creation.
This new painting is described as "mysterious beauty". Its deliberate choice for the study of light reflected from black surfaces can be confusing. He uses house painter's materials such as walnut stain used to cover the wood, large brushes.
Each work gives us something to think about ourselves. What do we see in ourselves? How do these black surfaces resonate in our imagination?
Oddly enough, there's never a dull moment. He does "Corps à corps", struggles with matter by playing with more or less thickness, various types of traces, the effects of light...
At the beginning I confess that I was destabilized, that's why I felt a certain "uneasiness" in front of this conception of the dark emptiness or whatever. Was it a form of representation of the black hole of the universe? or of nothingness? of infinity?
In short, "philosophical" notions invaded my brain in spite of myself, I came first to entertain myself and here I am confronted with the meaning of my life!
Then, this certainly unexpected inner turmoil, I now know that I owe it to this exhibition forever engraved in my mind and heart.
My favourite painting is shown here in a photo, entitled "Painting, 160×114 cm, 9.11.2008". This work made me realize that I needed to visualize even a tiny perspective. In all this darkness, these fine horizontal white interstices appear to me as a hope. These interstices let me imagine that another world is possible.
Although virtual tours are now being considered, there is nothing like experimenting with the work as dimensions and shapes can change our perception. In particular this copper plate pierced by acid, presented as a stele!
Here we are back to the eternal theme of Art and the sacred.
Let's pray that we can go back there together.