Michel Parmentier — 17 juillet 1989 — 20 février 1990


Drawing, painting

Michel Parmentier
17 juillet 1989 — 20 février 1990

Past: June 3 → July 16, 2016

Not scandalous, but impertinent

Michel Parmentier is well known for using the pliage (folding) method — which he borrowed from Simon Hantaï — in December 196511 as a way of breaking with the modernist monochrome. To do this, he systematically painted canvases white and then folded them, covering the result in paint that was blue (1966), then gray (1967), and then red (1968) in accordance with the all-over principle. After which the canvases were unfolded and presented, alternating 38 cm horizontal bands of colour with white bands of the same width. He worked with a different colour each year to keep any symbolic value from attaching to the colour.
After a hiatus between 1968 and 1983 when he stopped painting, he resumed his activity on the same principles, now with black, which he maintained for a little under two years. This exception to his old rule of an annual colour marked the completion of his cycle of works on canvas.
22 avril 1986 is the title of his first work on paper. This new support came in rolls, which Parmentier cut into strips of equal length and width and then he pre-folded and kept in unused state. The assemblage of these strips varied from one work to another, with variations inside the horizontal strips covered with matter and not just uniformly painted and coloured but partially covered in the first works with lines in graphite, deliberately allowing a glimpse of the quasi-silence in the mesh of regularly spaced drawn and placed marks.
For example, 17 juillet 1989 , with its powder of graphite rubbed on paper , introduces the tension between the spread, rubbed material and the support. This inscription/erasure duality is also at work in similar pieces, albeit with slight differences.
After an exploratory period going through the possibilities of foregrounding the folds — the mechanics that produce them — Parmentier suspended the principle of the all-over, replacing the complete covering of the visible surface with just a horizontal underlining, underlining the folds in a rough fashion, only in those specific spots, repeating this motif four times and once the work had been unfolded, marking them eight times (2 août 1989 and 18 décembre 1989).
Horizontally divided by the operation of unfolding — by the flattening of a difference — these horizontal markings brought to the surface, through the bands, untouched surfaces from the depths where they had been confined. Hidden from the gaze, enclosed, consigned to the darkness of the general apparatus, they now reappear, gaping.
With 12 octobre 1989 Parmentier reprised the principle applied to 17 juillet 1989, except that for the first time he introduced tracing paper as the intermediary/mediator between the wall on which the work is fixed, now visible through the new support, and the “rubbed charcoal.” The translucency of the tracing paper is countered by the spread of the “rubbed charcoal” which veils its transparency, while the “drawn white pastel” of 20 février 1990 literally reproduces in the thickness of the support the texture of the wall. This same “white pastel,” when “rubbed” on paper (10 décembre 1989), reverses the contrast that disjoins the blank horizontal bands from those that are not.

G. M., Brussels, 14 May 2016

1 Décembre 1965 [- Dec. 1965], 1965, paint on free canvas, 4 painted horizontal bands, alternating medium blue Lefranc lacquer and white lacquer 44 cm wide (2+2) and, at the top, 1 white partial band of 17.5 cm, and, at the bottom, 1 blue partial band of 17.5 cm, 234.5 × 211 cm, Villeneuve-d’Ascq, LaM Lille Métropole Musée d’Art Moderne, d’Art Contemporain et d’Art Brut, inv. 2007.1.27, state acquisition 1968, attribution to Lille Métropole Communauté Urbaine in 2008, AMP inv.: MP651200

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The artist

  • Michel Parmentier