The kernel of Emmanuel Barcilon’s practice is concerned with an exploration of the possibilities of painting. Since his inaugural exhibition ‘Penetrating Stillness’, his approach has become far more single-minded. Previously the artist’s works could be divided into two distinct categories: The first being a continual exploration of painting, whilst the other was literally a visual diary recounting his concerns, obsessions and curiosity. Barcilon would integrate, partially buried within the layers of paint, drawings, photographs, text and graphic reproductions taken from a wide variety of sources. However, he has now eschewed this very autobiographical approach to concentrate on a spiritual investigation into colour, memory and the transformative effect of paint.
Emmanuel Barcilon can take almost a year to complete a painting as colour is poured over a wooden support then sanded and reworked many times over; each fresh coat never completely eliminating the previous one. It is only when the painting is finally finished that he applies the varnish. This gives a sense of memory to the work, which in some instances is immediately visible, whilst in others, is almost imperceptible to the naked eye. The paintings’ unfathomable depth feels very much like when one stares into the sea and the life, which appeared previously to be just below the surface reveals itself to be far deeper. Although, he is decidedly a ‘painter’, the memory of the different colours, which the work has undergone, are visible on the side. Barcilon is not interested in the build up of material, maintaining a resolutely flat surface, but more the illusion of flatness, which, on closer inspection, reveals the opposite. Yet strangely, the concern to keep the frontal surface of the painting completely flat is belied by the heavy layers of colour on the sides of the panel, which ultimately, from certain angles, make his work akin to a sculptural relief.
Emmanuel Barcilon has forged his own path, uninterested in any of the painterly fashions currently in vogue. Having begun to work as a painter in a moment, artistically speaking, when the contemporary art world was obsessed with minimalism and then above all ‘concept’, he has always stressed the need for the emotional impact of art. His sense of space and structure as well as his bravery with colour, gives the works their originality; the paintings manage to be visually rich and spiritual at the same time. Finally as attention returns to the grand lines of art history –painting, drawing and sculpture, Barcilon’s artistic obsessions have become suddenly topical.