March 07 - July 25, 2020
Towards an order of things
Franck Chalendard painter
If to paint is to work in simplicity, to return forever to archaic forms, raw colours and raw materials, then Franck Chalendard is a painter. And a great one at that. His pictures – since this is the word that has for long been reserved for these supports packed with pigments – betray the sovereignty of a work that consists at times of juxtaposing coloured panels of wood and medium (Ichromes), as does a stained-glass or mosaic artist in Chartres or Ravenna, and at times of creating skeins of paint (Madras) where orthonormal and interlacing lines coexist, as in the work of the upholsterer or the weaver in Morocco or India.
Franck Chalendard’s works are not figurative, they are depictive: they depict painting, revealing its bare elementary nature, its pure lineaments, without embellishments or affectations. One can see something there, obviously: one can try to spot phantoms or phantasms there, like in the smudges of Henri Michaux or Rorschach tests. One can always try to guess “the figure in the carpet," as Henry James put it. But it would be futile. I mean that it wouldn’t make sense, or that it would add a surfeit of meaning, supernumerary. Deferred words, deferred sentences after the vision, after the punch of a painting which, similar to the New Novel or to Supports/Surfaces, affirms only one thing: its indissoluble materiality, that which allows, without any heroism, an access to the order of things.
Hence his use of hypnotic matrices, iterative patterns, Christmas tinsel, coloured squares, canvases and decals, shapes and materials that crown the very quality of painting, which is to be just paint. Has Chalendard read Alain Robbe-Grillet? Does he remember the words of Maurice Denis, who in 1890, at the age twenty, wrote a programmatic sentence: "Remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a female nude or some sort of anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order”? I want to believe it.
It’s not easy to call a spade a spade, to say things as they are, as they are made, as they come. It’s not simple not to depict, but simply to present. To reveal nothing, but simply to show. Now, Franck Chalendard assembles colours. That is his job. He works. He works without a direct aim, knowing that everything is there, under his hands, before our eyes. he is like the farmer who, refusing the spirit of seriousness, relies on the wisdom of the earth and the sky, this “glow after ploughing”, to quote Charles Juliet, when the visible has been roughened, squared, and only stars and wheat remain, when reality provides the painter and everything lies beneath his feet, when he has only to pick up the extent of simplicity.
It is not easy to ‘do simple’, to do right, because we always come after, we always paint after painting, after the negative hands of the Magdalenian culture and after the monotypes of Edgar Degas, after these patterns of so little, superimposed in a cave or in solitary retreat. It is not easy to discover this: every work is a test of recidivism.
This organic, almost shamanic simplicity reminds me of the works of Joseph Beuys, their unreasonable desire to explore elementary forms and, better, the elements – air, fire, water and earth. This exploration can take various forms: the celebration of chaos (Goya), the advent of order (Cézanne) or the epiphany of mystery (Giacometti). Franck Chalendard knows this, he who paints conflagrations, chequerboards and riddles. He knows it, he who feverishly tries to delve into the physical and metaphysical thickness of the world. An almost cosmic thickness, when the secret deepens, when the real is dotted with a thousand lights and a thousand stars, when men look like insects and stars like fireflies, when the measure of man is very little in the face of the planisphere and the planetarium, of the earth and the sky.
The painted circles, or more precisely the balls of paint conceived by Chalendard, resemble, through the wake of their flow, balloons and shooting comets and, even more, the seminal forms of any conception, be it artistic or uterine. Singularly, silently, the dripping of the incontinent painting reveals to me that the artist arranged the work vertically, a reverse gestural concession to Jackson Pollock’s dripping, and which dominates the canvas, placed flat. Franck Chalendard is standing. He stands up to face the disaster, to brave the visible, to stand up to it, to be at its height, to challenge it (I am out in mind of Pierre Bonnard’s self-portrait as a boxer), to face the canvas, the panel, the wall, to make “pantomimes” or “paint with the pickaxe”. He has to exhaust himself in trials and exhaust the world, this infinite reservoir which is the very realm of the possible. He has to make do with the means at hand – industrial paints and poor supports, chips and waste, odds and ends. Whatever, provided that the colours are in “a certain assembled order”, as in Gunther Förg or Howard Hodgkin, as in the jazz whose impromptu flourishes and improvisations and chromatic combinations would make Henri Matisse dream.
You have to try – to draw a line, to lay down a colour, to survey the world. Often, as Lacan says, “it misses”. It misses and then, one day, it works. With its motionless light and its bays looking out on foliage, with its canvases placed on the ground like skins in the tanners' souk in Marrakech, Chalendard’s studio makes clear the fervour of the trial, the ardor of the attempt, the obsession with the trade. Because it takes insane stubbornness to put your work back on the easel again and again, to (make yourself) believe that every work is the first and the last, to continue to observe the stringy splendour of the bristles of the brush in a morning orange, to approach, even, the serpentine almost ogival delicacy of a curve and a counter-curve, to support the binding of a pigment, the floating of a body, the beauty of a line. You just have to be a painter. To be a painter and nothing less.
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