Charles-Henri Monvert — Sous les soleils
Sous les soleils
Past: January 26 → March 10, 2012
Charles-Henri Monvert was born in 1948, in the very middle of the last century, just when the United States was producing those mythical and “triumphant” figures called Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. A few years, too, after the death of Mondrian, whose canvases still have a real influence on his praxis, as do those of Martin Barré. Where this latter is concerned, Monvert retains the presence of pencil left visible beside or beneath colour, the paint, and the task of applying oil in successive layers. In his works, each deposit of paint is deployed not only in the plane of the canvas, in two dimensions, but also depth-wise, by way of buryings and overlays. And just like Martin Barré, the question that needs answering with Monvert is never dictated by the “image”, but invariably by the picture. A picture has to be made, i.e. given the means to exist independently of the painter, and all the forces present — stretcher, canvas and what covers it — have to be led towards their definitive autonomy. As he himself puts it:
“…the painter is less important than the picture.”
And we can thus understand why Monvert rejects the brush stroke, the overly revealing trace of its creator, and any form of signature that might render any kind of too-human gesture material. For Charles-Henri Monvert—and he is not alone—believes in a certain “aura” of the picture, which prompts him to push quite far what is required, and the time needed, to determine what is a good picture, and a bad one.
In the exhibition on view at the Galerie Emmanuel Hervé, we find works dating from 2005/2006, where the only colour used is yellow, declined in different shades, or as we should rather put it here, a yellow declined in the difference of all its vibrations . Lemon, canary, sulfur, tennis-ball… it matters little what name we give them. The boundary between the motifs and the white of the ground creates an effect that literally irradiates, to the point of causing a sort of sparkling of the retina when you try to “read” the picture’s arrangement. This immediate and local sensation makes the whole composition vibrate—with an underlying structure which determines the distribution of the motifs on the canvas. This structure is itself usually the result of earlier pictures and the series thus follow one another a bit like transplantings or cuttings, to wax botanical. Each work becomes the terminal branch, completed, of a possibility produced by the primary structure which, for its part, goes on evolving. We should not see herein any kind of linearity, but, on the contrary, a manner of organic, not to say almost anarchic development: at times the use of the curve or the rounded form disappears altogether, in favour of angles and lines, at others it comes back to the fore, to the point of this series of pictures made up solely of round shapes (Les figures , 1995) and “patatoids” (Le jour , 2006), a canvas that is included in the show. This latter picture might even call to mind certain “patterns” in Australian aboriginal art: saturated occupation of the space by the motifs, absence of any centre, meandering distribution of forms which seem to slip beneath one another without ever covering each other up. It is almost a dance that we witness, with that highly refined sense of the economy of means which clearly hallmarks Monvert’s work. As he himself explains,
“What interests me most is the construction of the picture with a minimum of visible means.”
But a maximum of effect, that is for sure: while the past few years have been marked by an unbridled return to a figuration requiring a whole lot of sorting, the almost ascetic oeuvre of Charles-Henri Monvert demonstrates that abstraction still has plenty of things to show us.
Opening Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 6 PM