To paint the sky and only the sky, infinitely and indefinitely, until all the nuances are possessed and the subject is exhausted. This is the programme of L’Essentiel.
The exploration of the sky is truly exciting for a painter.
However, this piece makes sense by its process: it is indeed about conquering the sky, piece by piece. And in doing so, I am tackling a task that is just as difficult, if not impossible: to bring the dimension of Time into the painting…
L’Essentiel is a long-term process-art work that carries the aim of collecting all skies through painting in the manner of an inventory.
The protocol of creation provides for some specificities: although the process is intrinsically infinite and interminable, the work must nevertheless represent a total volume of 100 pieces maximum. Thus, once 100 canvases have been created, the inventory will continue by repainting over the existing canvases and thus erasing the work previously done. An assessment will be made every 100 skyscapes through photographic documentation.
L’Essentiel currently carries 78 paintings in various formats and has therefore not yet reached the crucial milestone of 100 pieces.
Through this work, it is a matter of «seizing» the sky, of appropriating it, through the painter’s gesture, through the somehow obsessive repetition of the same subject. To make it a “study”, to analyze its characteristics, by observing and reproducing the nuances that it takes according to circumstances and luminous phenomena in the manner of a scientific research protocol, without the rigour. Knowing and understanding it, so to speak, gives hope of one day “mastering” it.
The intention of this work is to apprehend the sky as a whole, in its infinity and impermanence. It also places the notion of Time at the center of the reflection. It is by the way a question of analyzing the processes in action through the not insignificant gesture of erasure carried out in this work by recovery, otherwise called repentance. To understand the tensions that this strong act entails. And to evaluate the negative charge it induces while being a liberating gesture.
The protocol of L’Essentiel recalls the work of Roman Opalka in its infinite process, it has many similarities in many respects with his work, and particularly in the extent of the artistic commitment that it represents. However, the search for L’Essentiel has the particularity of not considering painting in its conceptual form as Opalka did, but precisely in its most concrete, even traditional form, with an identified and figured subject: the sky. Indeed, for me the sky and the cloud characterize the very essence of painting. As the philosopher Hubert Damisch pointed out in an interview for the journal Perspective in 2013 about his work Théorie du nuage : pour une histoire de la peinture published in 1972: “Beyond the meaning invested in it, I also understood that the cloud had a substantial function. In a way, in the scribbling of the cloud, we were touching the very substance of painting ”. In this sense, the project L’Essentiel is intended to be directly in line with the pictorial artistic tradition.
The project particularly echoes that of the fictional artist Perceval Bartlebooth, the quintessential absurd artist, hero of La vie mode d’emploi by George Perec. The book tells the story of Bartlebooth, a wealthy eccentric who took watercolor lessons for 20 years in order to travel the world for the sole purpose of painting a series of five hundred watercolors that he would then commission Gaspard Winckler to turn into puzzles, which Bartlebooth will then have to reassemble. Bartlebooth will die at the end of the book without having been able to reconstruct the last puzzle. Through L’Essentiel, this project of a lifetime, it is to follow in the footsteps of this character, then to create my own personal mythology, where artistic practice gives a romantic dimension to existence.
Finally, this impossible lifelong project with an unattainable goal, the process of which involves the repetition and the own annihilation of the work carried out, sounds like some sort of “torture” but consists in the empirical test of the philosophical concept of Absurd as described by Albert Camus in Le mythe de Sisyphe. The philosophical theme that has been interpreted by Joseph Beuys as a metaphor of the artist’s condition. In Le mythe de Sisyphe Camus asks us to believe that Sisyphus is happy in his absurd condition, I will now be able to say if this is true…