Friday, December 16, 2011

Quiet Days at La Tourette

What seems to be at issue in the meeting between Alan Charlton and Le Corbusier within the Cistercian monastic context of La Tourette is a latent or denied religious tendency or affinity within the work of the painter and architect.

Certainly, there is a shared austerity, a denial of any frivolity of ornament, a gravitas that accumulates from a poverty of intention. Both Charlton and the Cistercians practice obedience to a rule.

The issue is most clearly raised in a group of shaped canvases that have a removal from each corner. At La Tourette, they inevitably read as crosses. In a small chapel, a vertical and a horizontal painting, on opposite walls, may be brought together mentally to form another cross.

But vertical and horizontal are two spatial co-ordinates. In another setting, they might read as portrait and landscape. Subtraction is as permissible as addition, within the logic of Charlton’s work.

This setting up of its own premise, and following through of its possibilities, is surely a definitive mark of the secular. Before any contextualization, the paintings demand to be read in their own terms. Any compatibility with monasticism will have to be at another level than the iconographic.

What their too brief installation in Le Corbusier’s monastery reveals is a pervasive desire in Alan Charlton’s paintings: they are receptive to light; they reach up, stretch out, cherish their own surfaces. They propose and maintain one colour at a time.

Although the formal and conceptual element in Charlton’s work is strong, these paintings are paintings.

Alan Charlton's work was shown at La Tourette
from September to November 2011.

See "La Tourette/Modulations" published by
Bernard Chauveau, Paris, 2011.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Portrait Of Roman Opalka

In a well-known tale by Oscar Wilde, a playboy and aesthete, 
Dorian Gray, stays forever young and handsome. Meanwhile, 
a portrait of Gray, hidden from public view, changes over time, 
depicting the slow corruption of the dandy’s soul.

Wilde’s story works by reversing a basic assumption of 
the spiritual life, that while the body is subject to decay, 
the spirit should remain pure and unchanging, outside 
the ravages of time.

The same stakes may be raised by the self-portrait 
photographs Roman Opalka took throughout his great 
project, as accompaniments to the ‘detail’ paintings. 
While the artist is seen to age, the work progresses patiently, 
apart from personal vicissitude, in an uncorrupted realm 
of numbers. 

We are given no indication, in either the paintings or 
the photographs, of the artist’s state of mind or spirit. 
But this silence resounds ! It is towards, but also against, 
mortality that the artist progresses. In carrying out his 
self-appointed task, he becomes Roman Opalka, 
the artist we recognise as the author of 1-∞, 
the keeper of his promise, one indifferent to events.    

The photographs recognise change but are a record 
of constancy.