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Jean Le Gac, painting to read

John Le Gac “French painter, born in 1936” we read most often about him. This is deciding too quickly the major question posed by his work: to be or not to be a painter in the usual sense of the word? His works are rather about painting” than “painting” strictly speaking. They are no longer to be defined as « of » photography, although many photographic images enter into the composition of most of his works. Neither like “of” literature, although many texts occupy a no less considerable place in it.

And this from the beginning: at the end of the 1960s, Le Gac began to combine typed pages and black and white or color photos: The notebooks (1968-1971), The adventure novel (1972) or The story (1972). These devices suppose to read, to look and to establish relations between readable and visible, relations which are left to the appreciation and the imagination of each one.

Read also: At the Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival, painted ceramics and pagan deities invade the estate

A few years later, Le Gac added drawings and pastels to them, which he did not push beyond sketches or fragments. The confrontation of these three modes of expression is organized around a most often deliberately anecdotal subject – An anecdote is the title of one of his works from 1974 – in which slip allusions to the life of the artist, his youth or his readings and reflections on what it is to write, photograph or paint. Since then, he has not stopped and this can be seen from the first rooms of his exhibition at the Chaumont-sur-Loire estate (Loir-et-Cher). One would expect a retrospective, instead the timeline is upside down.

“I update and I reactivate”

He explains it in his apartment-workshop-library-cabinet of curiosities in Paris, near the Père-Lachaise cemetery. “No, it’s not the chronology that decided the order of the works, it’s the dimensions of the rooms. Anyway, this timeline idea doesn’t make sense to me. The works may have been made at one time and be updated ten years later or even more. It’s an idea I’ve had for a long time: the work is the totality and everything communicates, a work from 1973 and a recent one. I can mix and even get a new work. I update and I reactivate. »

This conception is as obvious in his house as in Chaumont-sur-Loire: everything communicates in his apartment. To a collection of works where the original editions of Raymond Roussel stand side by side with comic book albums from the 1940s and 1950s, sculptures from Africa, a photograph of Salvador Dali and some elements of his own work. « I will have few to show you, most are in Chaumont » he apologizes, while many works, which we will not see, are placed on the ground, turned against the wall, no doubt waiting to enter new compositions in progress. “It is true that I have a great taste for this kind of operation, which produces new works. I have become, so to speak, the impresario of my work. »

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