Olivier Masmonteil - Paysage

Opening with the support of Fondation d'entreprise Ricard.

Olivier Masmonteil is a professional painter, scrupulous, conscientious and meticulous.

For the last 25 years, he has sought to explore the different steps of the history of painting and its classical themes. Nevertheless, the approach is far more complex than it seems, as when he's samples? this history, it is the question of painting as well as that of the status of its author that appears. Indeed, from the first use of Courbet to that of motifs from the 1930s, it is not only the history of painted that is disrupted, but also the social one of the author. The intellectual artist described by Leonardo da Vinci became a genius artist with Baudelaire, then a working one with the avant-gardes. This sedimentation explored by Olivier Masmonteil is also a one of styles and subjects, as well as different moments of a society where the artist has seen his/her professional status deeply evolve.  In this way, and including his own way of working, Olivier Masmonteil uses anachronisms, structuring a workshop that is more a ?home? than a high-tech business well versed in the use of social networks. The workshop becomes an efficient modern system, where each of its participants brings a different position, like a co-working space. "I have realised that working with an artist's logic is not concentrating on something that belongs to the person creating it, but being capable to meddle with another person's thoughts"1. This manner can be found in the layers of the artworks where each plan has a different execution coordinated by Olivier Masmonteil. These compilations, as compositions, combine different eras, from the more ancient, academic, to the more present, integrating a geography of today's painting.

For this first exhibition, we decided to proceed step by step. Using landscape as one would use a base, the idea is to take things from the beginning.

It is actually thanks to this exercise, and namely the one creating the skies and clouds, that novices used to gain access to a master's workshop. The inform cloud motif that is barely reproachable in its exactness is no longer the true object of painting. The idea was to concentrate on technical learning: the visual links between light on dark, transparencies, opacities, full on thin, blurring, complementary colours. The sky and its clouds were therefore the subjects of a teaching on light and the practice of a profession. Once these elements had been mastered, the subject and its composition became available and the apprentice changed position in the workshop to access the execution of other elements.

With Olivier Masmonteil, this landscape that was once seen as an accessory of composition and learning, is to be considered as a central exercise, and the idea in principle, with series and permanent to-and-fros between several ?moments of painting?, is to exhaust the subject. This subject is explored in two ways with Olivier Masmonteil: one is horizontal and the different lines of horizon and at the forefront seem to flee to overlap on the side of the canvas, as if we were facing an element of sequence, taken from a travelling that would scan a landscape to describe it as a place of action. And in another way, some vertical paintings appear to be an immobile image. Here the construction is more complex and of course contained in the canvas that becomes a window in this way.

In both cases, it shows a physical relationship to nature and an environment that Olivier Masmonteil knows. These landscapes are mostly written or described: they can be moments of landscapes seen when travelling, or parts that are fantasised when they are taken from other artists's artworks. For Paul Signac, in his text on the Impressionists that will be used by the Fauve artists, "the practice of art is a knowledge used at the service of a sensation". In this way, the idea isn't to copy these landscapes, but to make them a real jubilatory pretext for painting, in a subjective transformation of nature that gives rise to different forms of overlapping, collages, samples, ?the careful exploration of a world of feelings using different visual angles?2. In the space of this painting, Olivier Masmonteil opens a technically mastered space but also an intimate emotional space. A landscape to be lived is not just an object, but also a possibility of positioning oneself. In this sense, the philosophical question of the horizon, since the work of Leon Battista Alberti (1404 - 1472) where the viewer is defined as the singular point of this horizon, brings to mind an imaginary world, an abstraction, or even for some artists an interior cartography.

In this way, using different landscape samples, Olivier Masmonteil doubly accepts the legacy of painting. Browsing with ease in these histories, he grasps them to link them together in the space of the painting. And at the same time, the real pleasure of painting enables him to subtly continue this intimate exploration. Therefore, between accepted tradition and contemporary practice, Olivier Masmonteil plays with the constant movement of the cursor of desire.


1-     Mathieu Mercier, interview by Marie Maertens in "Meeting, Olivier Masmonteil and Mathieu Mercier", Olivier Masmonteil, Cercle d?Art, 2018

2-     Dr Susann Buhl, in "Olivier Masmonteil, The Wrong Line", Spinneri Archiv Massiv, 2006


The Cercle d'art editions published in November 2018 its first monograph with the texts by Marie Maertens and Patrick Wald Lasowski, as well as an interview with Mathieu Mercier