Claire Chesnier

Rayer le jour, le soir étain

October 26 - December 02, 2023

Claire Chesnier

Rayer le jour, le soir étain

October 26 - December 02, 2023


« Surrounded by obscurity,

we'll see in the dark

looking through 

someone else's fingers. »

Vacant Landscapes

Almost everything has been said about the intimate yet delicate relationship between landscape and abstraction, this fragile oscillation between residual resemblance and autonomous forms. Art history has witnessed Turner's semi-transparent curtains, those screens or veils interposed between the representation of nature and the viewer's gaze. These atmospheric effects, rendered with contrasting color spots and discontinuous lines, are like "meteorological abstractions," and enable direct work on chromatic effects at a time that had not yet permitted the disposal of the subject matter.

In line with this “tradition”, Monet's Water Lilies are paintings without focal point, without borders or frames, inspired nonetheless by the garden of Giverny. Poorly received at first, it took the post-war American painters - which is far from a coincidence - to find a strong tribute to the all-over aspect found in Monet’s last series.

A noteworthy exception is Claudel's intuition, who described Monet's cycle as a form of poetic abstraction as early as 1927: "Monet ended up addressing the most docile and the most penetrable element itself, water, all together transparency, iridescence, and mirror... (he is) the indirect painter of what is not seen." Curiously, we find in this beautiful definition two characteristic traits of Claire Chesnier's painting: the importance of water, which plays a role in the composition of her works made with ink on paper, and the fascination, even the losing battle, for what can be called the invisible. 

In reality, in front of this painting where color emancipates itself from the subject matter, one mainly thinks of Rothko. Chesnier openly admits her admiration for this pioneer of abstract expressionism. Rothko, whose colors, usually applied in transparent glazes, give rise to rectangular configurations symmetrically superimposed on an almost monochromatic background.

Just like him, in the works of the French artist, the color areas with blurred contours are like chromatic stretches of boundless radiant luminosity. Here, no details are subordinate to a whole but a swathe of paint, a coloring matter invading the surface. Boundless landscapes that resist the possibility of being traversed by a gaze, fields expanding infinitely and remaining inaccessible to the viewer. Each work addresses, in its own way, the problems of forms and colors, the relationship between opacity and transparency, between what veiled and unveiled, between saturated tones or velvety materials. There is no indication on the creation of the painting, no traces of a brush, no gestural touch signaling the process.

There is an astonishing contrast between this wide array of nuances sliding upon each other and the precision with which they are executed. This meticulous, perfectly controlled painting invites the viewer’s gaze to "decipher" the chromatic variations but keeps it at a distance. Unlike Rothko, who claimed to create a place where viewers are invited to enter, Chesnier's work, full of restraint, preserves itself, so to speak.  

In this palette of colors, a line seems to separate the top - always brighter - and the bottom, always darker - perhaps sky and earth. However, this imaginary line, which some call the horizon, moves as one approaches it. The viewer gets lost in this space that eludes fixed references, in this field of uncertainty where the authoritarian gaze gives way to the hesitant eye.

André Breton wrote in 1941 about Yves Tanguy: "The appearance of Tanguy in the Neptunian light of clairvoyance gradually tightens the thread of the horizon that had broken. But with him, it is a new horizon, the one on which the landscape, no longer physical but mental, will establish itself." Is it this mental landscape that Claire Chesnier aims for?"

Itzhak Goldberg


Artist : Claire Chesnier

Visitor Information

Ceysson & Bénétière
21 rue Longue
69001 Lyon

Gallery hours:
Tuesday - Saturday
11am - 6pm
T: +33 4 27 02 55 20