From April 14 to June 30, the Galerie Maeght invites you to discover a group of works by the artist Jean Paul Riopelle. Around sixty drawings, collages, pastels, gouaches, charcoals, and engravings created between 1965 and 1978 demonstrate the Canadian artist’s versatility and ability to reinvent his artistic approach. These works, selected by Isabelle Maeght, highlight a lesser-known side of the artist.
An œuvre enamored with freedom.
Jean Paul Riopelle explored both abstract and figurative art with the same intense vitality. Celebrated in the 1950s for his masterful « mosaics » painted with a palette knife in such a way to evoke atmospheric landscapes, Riopelle diversified his form of expression in the 1960s. Using techniques and materials more and more varied, he soon proved his talent with ink, watercolors, pastels, lithographs, engravings, and collages. On the subject of engraving, Riopelle wrote: « the technique allows you to bounce back, to go further. » Riopelle enjoyed close friendship with the Maeghts, and he wrote: « Thanks to Adrien Maeght and his studio, I was able to experiment with different techniques – engraving, lithography, and later ceramic and enameled lava– to which I was closed off to before. » Riopelle and Maeght had become friends in 1947, when Aimé Maeght featured Riopelle’s work in the Surrealist exhibition presented by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp. In 1966, Riopelle rejoined Galerie Maeght, where his work was frequently exhibited. Upon each exhibition, he created original lithographs for the Derrière le Miroir collection.
The richness of Riopelle’s work reflects his experimentation with different techniques.
His collages are a great example of this experimentation. He mixed, folded, ripped, and cut lithographs, then he assembled, pasted, and fastened them on the canvas. His touch is precise, lively, and full of spontaneity and spirit. Chaos becomes orderly, radiant, and relaxed. Riopelle accentuates the cuts and breaks in the surface rather than camouflaging them or hiding them. Felt-tip pens and garish spray-paint mix together and interact: gold and silver crisscross with white and blue responds. The cuts and breaks reveal the light and the mysteries that the artist attempted to transcribe. The great artist also revisited animals – geese, owls, lobsters, monkeys, elephants, and fleas – in order to rediscover the influence of Native American and Inuit masks and pop culture.
The richness of nature brought a degree of effervescence to his work.
A great lover of nature and an impassioned hunter, Riopelle was attuned to the organic world and its palpitations. His vocabulary of forms suggests snowy expanses, forests, snarled branches, unexpected black and white landscapes, waterfalls, and morning mists. His work on paper is crossed with serpentine lines that also evoke natural forms. His series of drawings Le Roi de Thulé shows how a pattern enters his pictorial vocabulary. Splashes, heavy black outlines, and pastel lines support the image and evoke the roots and bark of an old, cut tree.