Olivier Masmonteil - Le voile effacé

The faded veil

Olivier Masmonteil’s previous exhibition presented an almost cinematographic approach to landscape. A landscape where the horizon flees and where the foreground -inspired by American abstraction- becomes a barrier.

There is no possible escape in a vertical landscape because in this case horizons are fragmented. That which is remote is remembered: it is a matter of summoning landscapes’ memories, using the codes of recollection: faded, barely sketched images, with very little depth like an 'Okusaï print (Olivier Masmonteil often refers to him). It is at the same time the memory of a flat image, but also the memory of a painting. These vertical landscapes can be also approached in two steps. A barely visible sepia background, a line drawing like the origin of a painting and, here and there, “touches” of a foreground that reenacts the memory. The gesture is quite primitive. There are traces, almost parietal marks. Color is the drive that makes the foreground clearly present. As if it were a matter of confronting a timeless image at a moment when the gesture brings back the memory, like a flash.

And once again, Olivier Masmonteil makes connections: a reference to eastern iconography as the fantasy of fulfillment, related to the instinctual movements found in abstract expressionists. It is a matter of taking responsibility for fading memories and reveal souvenirs. A real subject for painting: the difference between the intention to represent something and the primitive gesture that is painting.

In these vertical landscapes there is a singular series, that of trees. These small sizes are treated as portraits where a figure is inserted in the landscape: that of a broken, isolated tree, a central character in these somber, crepuscular skies. Gigantic and ancient white pine trees, New Zealand’s living heritage. The landscapes that have deformed them cast a dramatic, romantic light upon their gnarled boles. This series of small identical sizes contrasts with the previous one. They give the impression to be a series of portraits of tragic and grand elderly people.

Thomas Bernard