Max Charvolen

A different space

September 12 - October 19, 2019

Saint-Etienne




Artist : Max Charvolen


 Ceysson & Bénétière gallery is pleased to announce the upcoming show of Max Charvolen

No posturing, but painting!

Max Charvolen has a dual background in art and architecture. During much of his life he taught at the Marseille-Luminy School of Art, first in the environment and design department, then in the art department. This is where I was lucky enough to meet him.
Charvolen was from Cannes (he still lives there) and from the outset he was active in the art scene in Nice where, with Louis Chacallis, he founded Group 70 and frequented Dolla, Alocco, Maccaferri, Isnard, Miguel, the art critic Raphael Monticelli, and others.
In Marseilles, Charvolen worked alongside Claude Viallat, Toni Grand, Christian Jaccard, and Kim Soun Gui, but he kept apart from Supports-Surfaces.
He did not come from the same region (the Protestant Gard!), nor from the same practice. He came from volume and space, they came from open air and from…surface. They were Protestant and silent. He was silent and Marxist.
When we first met, I had a hard time making sense of his cut, stitched fabrics colored on one side and the other, then spread out, but I could see that there was an interaction between outside and inside and the deployment of space. Color was used only to mark the material. There was much precision and little sensuality.

Over the years, Max Charvolen’s work has evolved, slowly, obstinately deepening. He has also became more sensual and more pictorial.

The principle is simple. What follows is far less.

Charvolen chooses - or is given - a house, a place, a fragment of a building, a facade, in short a building with more or less complicated volumes. There are passages, corridors, thresholds, stairs, lanes, nooks, ceilings, beams and balconies. After having studied the place and chosen the size of the work, he carefully glues canvas on these volumes, applying color so as to differentiate their different parts and uses (going up, passing by, staying, looking, storing, etc.), their orientation (right-left, up-down, cardinal points, etc.). He makes a sort of architectural plan, but with canvas in hand.

All this requires several visits, time, comings and goings. If the place is still used or visited, this adds traces of other people, as well as marks from the outside, dirt, or the tribulations of removing the canvas when the process comes to an end - when Charvolen decides to make it a “Painting” as it passes from three to two dimensions.

I will not begin to describe what is even more complicated than one can imagine: removing the canvas, flattening it, recording the elements, marking them to show them in the space of a gallery, an art center or a museum, where still different dimensions must be taken into account, walls, lighting, the movement of the public and who knows what else. Pictures of Charvolen’s storage space in his studio speak volumes, showing all the pieces of canvas folded on themselves with string and labels hanging from them to identify each one.

You could ask: “Is that all it is?” Only a flattening of the "molding" of a volume in three dimensions, with its hinges?
Yes, that’s all it is ...

Except that Charvolen deploys his ingenuity to:
1) not make use of any image, even an involuntary one,
2) not produce anything arbitrary and gratuitous; the logic of space alone imposes itself,
3) express nothing - other than the enchantment of increasingly Matisse-like color which, however, as a matter of principle, remains detached due to the neutrality of his approach and the abstraction of forms,
4) do nothing "personal" or expressive,
5) invoke no trace or anything immemorial - note: this has nothing to do with “cave painting”!,
6) produce disarticulated forms, and an articulated pictorial set.

You could add: “What an ascetic program!”
Again, I would say yes.
Except that with Charvolen asceticism is not just an act. It is the principle at the heart of the process. Many artists practice asceticism and seek detachment but they get caught up in their idea of purity, so it becomes affected posturing, which is uncomfortable because it involves too much of themselves.

In art, it is extraordinarily difficult to produce objects as radiant and free of artifice as those of Max Charvolen: they acquire what I can only call "presence".

Yves Michaud
June 9, 2019 



Visitor Information

Ceysson & Bénétière
8 rue des Creuses 42000 Saint-Etienne

Gallery hours:
Wednesday - Saturday
2pm - 6pm
T: + 33 4 77 33 28 93