Martial Raysse The Ascesis of Painting
A year before the solo show to be organized at François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi space in Venice during the 2015 Biennale, this spring the Pompidou Center is putting on a major retrospective of the work of Martial Raysse (May 14–September 22, 2014) curated by Catherine Grenier. The artist’s first Parisian show since the Jeu de Paume did him the honors back in 1993, it is another opportunity to appreciate the variety of his art, in which painting occupies a central position. In this interview, Raysse discusses the new directions in his work, which seems to have gained considerably in freedom over the last ten years.
What work that you have seen over the last few months has made the biggest impression on you? If I had to choose only one, it would be the portrait of a priest by Giovanni Battista Moroni (1520–1578), at the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo. The psychology is very moving, and it is admirably painted.
DRAWING AND COLOR
Do you think of yourself more as a colorist or more a draftsman? I am above all a draftsman because I have a very particular idea of painting. My feeling is that if the form is right, the color will be a natural fit. Do you still prepare your own pigments? For many years I worked with acrylic binders and pigments, but for a while now I have been worrying about how they will shape up over the hundred years to come. So I use oils. And for my big paintings, given their size, it’s easier to use paint in tubes. How do your images come to you? Images are like the lines of a poem: they come down from the heavens. A poetic emotion suggests a line. The work of the poet lies, precisely, in knitting together these lines that arise from parallel but diverse emotions. Painting is a bit like that, too: you have an image in your mind, of a group of people personifying a story. Then other characters come in and the image lives its own life. For Ici Plage I drew the figures in advance. I no longer wait to see what happens in the painting itself. And what about Heureux rivage (2007), for example? That painting corresponds to a very precise vision that I had. I was at Formentera, being pursued by these cranks, whom I managed to escape. I had to get a boat to leave on, and in the end I found myself at the top of a little hill. There was a finca there, right in the sunlight. There was a young man lying under an arbor in the blue half-light, very handsome. He was almost the same color as Krishna. I thought
« Sur l’air du roi Renaud portant ses tripes dans ses mains ». 2013. Papier mâché. 185 x 70 x 55 cm (Coll. Martial Raysse ; Court. gal. kamel mennour ; Photo © Centre Pompidou /Ph. Migeat). “To the Tune of King Renaud Holding His Guts in His Hands”