Monday, November 9, 2009


During my recent trip to Paris, I went to Centre Pompidou to see the retrospective about Pierre Soulages, opened till March 8th 2010. The paintings were representing a period from 1946 till 2009.

This is an exhibition not to miss if visiting Paris.
(photographs were not allowed, the photograph on the left was made at the FIAC).

Going through the rooms, one can appreciate the artist's different periods. His uniqueness stays as a lasting impression.

Pierre Soulages is known to use the whole range of the color black and I never thought so much could be told with one color and it could become so many colors. (as opposed to Yves Klein who created one color, the "International Klein Blue").

The succession of paintings help us follow the path of the artist.
The first pieces are like an alphabet. He is experimenting. The paintings are flat, strokes of brushes. Then he develops volumes, depth. They become a whole language and send us messages.

Soulages works on the color black till it becomes alive, threatening at times and creates mystery. When using other colors, it is only to underline the color black and make it blacker.

On some of the later paintings, the surface of the canvass is covered with a thick coat of paint which is then sculptured with some tool, most likely a knife. The lines are simple, but the black becomes the light it reflects.

The space is well used and even with the crowd going by, one can sit in the middle of the room and enjoy this very special moment when the viewer can feel totally immersed in the work.

One room is mysterious, like a place where a special event is taking place: the spectator is in the dark and the black painting is shining, light in the dark. This is when we understand the term "outre-noir" (beyond black) created by Soulages.

In the last rooms, black panels are hanging from ceiling to floor and I do not appreciate this period as much: the black is dull, the panels flat...too japanese.

The exhibition is well researched, showing the different periods of the painter. It is on the top floor of the Centre Pompidou, and the view is breathtaking, even when it rains.

This work is emotionally, intellectually, philosophically enlightening. There is before and after this exhibition.

A lot has been written about Soulages and his art, but I will quote him:
"C'est ce que je fais qui m'apprend ce que je cherche." ( "It is what I do which teaches me what I am looking for.")

"The reality of a work is the three way relationship it establishes between the thing that it is, the painter who made it and the viewer who sees it."

I felt privileged to be the viewer in this three way relationship.

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