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Pierre Soulages Centenary: Beyond the Black

The painter and sculptor Pierre Soulages is one of France’s most important artists, with an impressive career spanning over seven decades. He is known as a master of post-war abstraction, leader of Tachisme and “the painter of black,” owing to the hue’s unique properties as both a colour and a non-colour, and ability to represent the natural, opposing forces of order and disorder. Soulages has said, “My instrument is not black but the light reflected from the black.” Since 1979, the artist has been concerned exclusively with a series of mainly monochrome paintings he as defined as Outrenoirs (translated “beyond black”), known for their effect of bottomless depth created by the interplay of texture and light. Soulages applies various layers of paint, then manipulates the tarry surface into furrows and planes through the use of self-made tools, including brushes, rollers and spatulas, and objects such as spoons and bits of rubber. In recent years he has shifted his focus on the interplay between regions of glossy and matte, exploring the densities and hardness of pigments within the spectrum of black.

The painter and sculptor Pierre Soulages is one of France’s most important artists, with an impressive career spanning over seven decades. He is known as a master of post-war abstraction, leader of Tachisme and “”the painter of black.”” Soulages was born in Rodez, France in 1919 and began to paint while a teenager. At the age of eighteen he travelled to Paris to familiarize himself with the art scene and found inspiration in Picasso and Cezanne. During the years of World War II he frequented the École des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, although not formally enrolled as a student. In 1946 he moved to Courbevoie, outside Paris, where he set up a studio and began producing abstract works characterised by heavy black brush strokes. From the beginning, he entitled his works simply Peinture, together with the dimensions and the exact dating of the respective work. He befriended other artists—including Hans Hartung, Francis Picabia, and Fernand Léger—and had his first exhibition at the Salon des Surindépendants in 1947. Just one year later, the work of the young artist was discovered in Germany. Participation in the 1948 seminal group exhibition Französische abstrakte Malerei was Soulages’ first exhibition abroad, travelling to seven cities throughout Germany. In the same year, James Johnson Sweeney, former curator of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and later director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, became aware of the artist. The international recognition accorded to Soulages during this creative period is further reflected in his three appearances at Documenta: I (1955), II (1959) and III (1964).

Since 1979, the artist has been concerned exclusively with a series of paintings he as defined as Outrenoirs (“”beyond black””), known for their effect of bottomless depth created by the interplay of texture and light. Soulages applies various layers of paint, then manipulates the tarry surface into furrows and planes through the use of self-made tools, including brushes, rollers and spatulas, and objects such as spoons and bits of rubber. Recently he has shifted his focus onto the interplay between regions of glossy and matte, exploring the densities and hardness of pigments within the spectrum of black.

Soulages was elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1979. The Japan Art Association awarded him the Praemium Imperiale award in 1992. In 2015 he received La Légion d’honneur. In addition to these awards, in 2001 he became the first living artist honoured with an exhibit at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Another highlight of Soulages’ extensive exhibition history was the retrospective held by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 2009 held in honour of the artist’s 90th birthday. Today, his works are featured in the collections of more than 300 international museums, including the MoMA in New York, the Tate in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In 2014, the Musée Soulages opened in his hometown of Rodez. The artist currently lives and works in Paris and Sète, France.

Presented by
Date:
20 May - 29 Jun 2019
Venue:
Alisan Fine Arts
Address:
21/F Lyndhurst Tower, 1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong
Tickets:
Free Admission
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