A place. And its spirit – a fitting subtitle, perhaps, for this exhibition of contemporary creative work from the Languedoc region.
The exhibition includes recent work by Claude Viallat, faithful to the spirit of his earliest experiments in form of “palette”: infinite combinations, from his continuous experimentation with bold colour, to his use of everyday materials as supports – tarpaulin, umbrella fabric, tent canvas, sheeting. Another pioneer of the Supports-Surfaces group, André-Pierre Arnal, explores matter and its handling, through arrachement ("snatching" or "tearing"), revealing a flamboyant world of fusion, and chance. Daniel Dezeuze, a leading member of the same group, uses off-beat, quirky found objects assembled with an eclectic range of media: wood, leather, gauze, metal, rope… Famous for his 1970s works based on assemblages of cut and gouged wood, Toni Grand explores the infinite potential of contemporary sculpture: living things (here, a fish) seem trapped by the matter that envelopes and caresses them (laminates and polyester resin). Works by Jean Azémard (the founder of the ABC Production group in 1968) feature diffuse, scattered forms – dismembered, eroded jetsam from the immutable quarry of Time, suddenly made malleable (cast concrete, cardboard, lead) and animated by an astonishingly vital, organising energy. Alain Clément's work is clearly influenced by American Abstract Expressionism: his canvases are the product of an artist completely immersed in the act of painting, as if guided by a sense of exasperated fury, vented upon the inert, unresponsive picture surface. Vincent Bioulès, who collaborated with the Supports-Surfaces group for a time, continues to eschew abstraction in favour an exploration of reality and figuration, the effort to apprehend the motif. The temptation to naturalism in his work is invariably accompanied by an instinctive need to stylise, to reach beyond the diffuse, confused world of sensation, to select and create a sense of order. Phillipe Pradalié, whose early work embraced Pop Art in the 1960s, presents a selection of figurative works (1984-94), intimately connected with the geography of the Languedoc region: his unerring renditions of the landscape's colour and immensity are strongly remiscent of the great, Montpellier-born early Impressionist Bazille. Dominique Gutherz takes us into the closed, silent universe of the painter's studio, and yet her works could hardly be less naturalistic, intimist or atmospheric, seeking as they do to render the bare, absolute essentials, taking a unique approach to the model as their pretext and starting-point (the "Catherines" series).
Piet Miget's work seems animated by a similar desire to go straight to the essential heart of things. Miget settled in Port-la-Nouvelle in 1951, where he has engaged in a daily dialogue with the earth, sky and sea. The resulting canvases, like works by Rothko, seek to liberate the viewer from non-essential excesses of emotion and spirituality.
All of the artists in this exhibition work with passion and independence of spirit, building on the heritage of the modern movements of the 20th century, while at the same remaining true to the spirit of their home region of Languedoc – a place that has attracted so many artistic talents, since classical times.