Critics’ Picks

Pierre Seinturier, The promise they’ve made, 2020, oil on canvas, 57 1/2 x 35''.

Pierre Seinturier, The promise they’ve made, 2020, oil on canvas, 57 1/2 x 35''.


Pierre Seinturier

Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois
36 / 33 rue de Seine
March 5–April 8, 2021

Working with thinned oils, Pierre Seinturier paints moody scenes whose semitransparent muted greens, browns, and blues recall Charles Burchfield’s watercolors. But whereas Burchfield’s American landscapes are mostly devoid of people, Seinturier’s Americana-infused settings typically feature at least one figure who is simultaneously mundane and suspicious. Across the sixteen paintings on view (all 2021), this sense of ambiguity is enhanced by low light (Seinturier has a penchant for dawn, dusk, and shadows cast by tree canopies), voyeuristic perspectives, and zinger titles that yield more questions than answers.

In He was a good friend of mine, a shirtless figure in a woodland clearing raises an ax rather ominously over a felled tree. The aerial vantage point, framed by dark trees and vines in the foreground, lends the painting a cinematic quality, evoking the moment when the camera pulls back to expose some important contextual element that brings deeper meaning to the story. In Seinturier’s paintings, however, the big reveal never arrives.

Filmic allusions appear elsewhere, as in the Western-inspired Doing life without parole, which depicts a gunfight along a riverbank in a sun-dappled valley, and The promise they’ve made, in which a distant campfire is glimpsed from behind a desert cactus. Other paintings, meanwhile, have a distinctly Lynchian vibe. Would-be idyllic settings—a red-roofed farmhouse in a green pasture (She sends her regards and Down in the valley), a stately home with a manicured garden (I am here and he is gone and Same hassle every night)—are fraught visions of the American Dream, in which something amiss gives us pause. Is the little house on the prairie in foreclosure? Is the mansion being robbed? Did the hero just get shot? We can never know the full story, but “happily ever after” seems out of the question.

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