|Gérard Traquandi, Untitled, 2018|
Entering the Galerie Laurent Godin in the 13th arrondissment is like stepping into a Chelsea gallery in the early 1990s. It is an expansive warehouse space with original floors and structural details. Currently on exhibition, the recent paintings of Gérard Traquandi, works that are both sensuous and surprising, both bring the large white walls alive, and are made even more gorgeous by the atypical for Paris warehouse space.
Traquandi’s process is unusual and not immediately obvious to the naked eye. He lays the canvas on the floor and paints an often garishly colored, but diluted oil background before a second canvas painted in a different color is laid on top of the first. The impression of the paint on the second canvas is then left on the first creating abstract unpredictable waves, lines, tears and traces on the background. Even when the colors are not compatible the dialogue between them creates something special. The colors and contours of the resultant images vibrate, glisten and radiate with the changing light that results from our slightest movement around the space. But the works are not always soothing and synchronous. Some of them create a sense of agitation as the surface traces of the second painting are truncated, short and constantly changing direction. At times, the colors are dark and dense soliciting a melancholic reflection, at others they are bright and filled with air and light, and carefree.
|Fra Angelico, Annunciation, |
St Mark's, Florence
Tranquandi talks of being inspired by Fra Angelico, and though the connection can take time to discover, the green of a work that reminds of the sea, and the wind moving across a cloudy sky is almost identical to the figure foregrounded in the Lamentation over the Dead Christ. And the dusty, sometimes shimmering orange robe of the Virgin in Fra Angelico’s Annunciation scene in one of the cells at the St Mark’s convent in Florence is virtually identical to the surface of one small Tranquandi work. While the colors and their layered application could easily remind of unevenly laid concrete, they also visually resemble the layers of color in the fresco technique. Tranquandi’s ability to take otherwise luminous colors and make them textured and soft, even though he can never be fully in control of their appearance on the canvas, at first seems unique. And then, it’s astounding to go back and recognize the same effect was achieved by Fra Angelico.
In the catalogs available to read at the exhibition, there is much discussion of Tranquandi’s conversation between painting and nature. Yes, if we stand long enough in front of the paintings we will discover the sea, a forest, a landscape and water running down an invisible window. However, to my eyes, the most obvious thing in the world that these paintings relate to is concrete. The connection and struggle between concrete and abstract painting covers these canvases. And as if to reinforce my vision of the connection between the walls of the built environment and the labored application of paint in layers on a canvas, we start to see the resonance between Tranquandi’s paintings and the rough uneven surface of the gallery floor. But there is also tension: the transience and the ephemerality of the vibrant energetic painted surfaces are in direct contrast to the solidity and permanence of the ground that we walk on. Then again, as Tranquandi shows us, the floor is as transient as the art is permanent. And so, these very accessible works encourage us to be reminded that abstract art is not removed from the world, but is always interacting with it, enabling us to see from new, different and deeper perspectives.