Napes in situ

Christian de laubadere 

Opening Reception: March 15th, 2018, 18:00

Exhibition Dates: March 15th - March 25th, 2018

With an ample yet rapid and brief gesture, a hair curls and unfurls on the canvas. With the stroke of a brush, this raw mass comes to life, through the complexity of the tool's roughness and with the assurance of its execution. At first hanging from a few points of reference, it seems to take its entire life and meaning in a freedom which knows no limit, other than that commanded by the painter's hand. Taken up by the whorls of black smoke, it becomes clearer later, once the speed and urgency of the accomplishment of the hand has been satisfied. A calligraphic gesture, provoking a coming together of eras, geographies and cultures.

Then comes the neck, tender and delicate and yet it supports all the intimidating grace of the hair. Drawn, caressed by a pencil, the hand, it shivers, shimmers almost. The shoulders are subsequently dressed with embroidery, fabrics and pearls, the only touches of color given by the artist. Stretched between the striking preciosities and arabesques of the hairstyle, there is this graceful nape of a neck, a source of inspiration and unfinished desire, that makes the heart beat in Christian de Laubadère's work. It has been almost a whole life, tireless, spent in contemplation of the female neck. Two hundred, perhaps three hundred times, the artist has imagined them, seen them, devoured them, blurred them, fixed them. Looking for the perfect curve? A lot of people have made this remark. But when he is asked the question, it makes him laugh. "Perfection? There is an aesthetic in everything, specific to nature. I'm trying to find a harmony of my own".

A black canvas, his white page. When faced with a work, he finds himself "alone in the world, alone with [himself]". From there on, he begins his own quest: putting into tension all that he plans for his work and what will eventually remain of it. To succeed in calming the boiling magma, to find a balance, which soothes. When he looks at the first necks that he made years before, a strange feeling comes over him. They are "raw and sincere. Clumsy". Today, he concentrates more on the subtleties of symmetry, to obtain an almost flawless refinement and balance: identical forms and motifs resonate with each other in the canvas, a mirror that did not exist in his previous images of napes. This has lead him to doubt the very meaning of evolution ...

When he begins a work, Christian de Laubadère does not hesitate: he knows that he will finish it. But the precise vision of what it will be is without any time limit. Thus, the artist is not afraid of incompleteness... since it does not really exist. The work can be taken up again later, another vision will clarify the original one. Rather than giving dramatic importance to each painting, the sacrosanct uniqueness of the work of art, Christian de Laubadère prefers to concentrate on his personal rhythm and mood. He performs several works at the same time, and this allows him to go from one work to another, with the same gesture and with the same humility. What is important is the gesture, its intensity, which he must perform with the meticulousness necessary to maintain his canvas, while keeping also his vision in his line of sight. Christian de Laubadère does not work from a model or use images to make these necks, but rather in moments of life that he catches, without anybody's knowledge. It doesn't matter if we respect anatomical proportions and realities, because that is not his intention. And that's what makes his paintings so touching and unique, rendering them wonderfully reminiscent of what they evoke: a hidden part of the being - a woman cannot see the nape of her neck directly - and its timeless - she doesn't know the stigmas of passing time, forgotten in the carelessness and fragility of childhood. It plunges us immediately into the artist's sensitivity but also into our own. And it is probably for these reasons that Christian de Laubadère paints napes over and over again: they are a long braid between memory, fantasy and reality. An everyday poetry that repeats itself, without ever resembling itself, since the many variations that transform it are imperceptible yet numerous.

Christian de Laubadère loves extreme vitality. If a tiny shiver can cause a tremor in the being, a flower or a pine branch can be an infinite source of inspiration and research. Nature is inevitably present in his work, traversed by a sacred dimension: beautiful and mysterious. Because he knows how to bring it closer to us, to put it in light... to reveal the imperceptible - of a perfume, of a pearl, of a blossoming, of a swaying branch or the way a head is held.

By playing with materials, he explores what can, as closely as possible, embody his visions: which gives rise to a varied and complete work. And which has no united meaning other than the man who unites it, and that is what he wants. Christian de Laubadère does not hold himself back. Above all, he always goes forward, never wondering what is expected of him. Thus, he also carries out "Plans", an imaginary cartography inspired by great engravers and architects such as Androuet du Cerceau or Vauban, also at the intersection of worlds and eras. He likes views of the sky, labyrinths and meticulous attention to detail. By including these in his work, he gives them a new existence: rather than encircling them, he multiplies the perspectives of the place he has chosen to represent, and those of the mind.

To the sound of a harpsichord or a never-ending Gregorian chant, his gaze lost in the canvas, blurring every motif, every drawing, every piece of porcelain or wire, we enter a territory animated, certainly by the vision of the artist... but also by our own sensations.

An encounter with sensitive flowers of skin.

Caroline Boudehen
Translated by Macdara Smith