Noisy-le-Sec, France

Samuel Richardot

La Galerie, Centre d'art contemporain

For his first solo exhibition at a public institution, French painter Samuel Richardot continued the exploration of his chosen medium and its methods and forms. He employs a range of mark-making strategies—meticulously stenciling shapes with the help of paper cutouts, allowing paint to drip or bleed, or confronting the canvas with turpentine or flame. Often, Richardot references a sound, smell, or tactile impression in the shapes that he gathers in his paintings, thus proposing a synesthetic relationship between image and experience. Here he also exposed the process-oriented nature of his art alongside his “finished” works—blending the studio space with that of the gallery. And for the first time, this show witnessed the introduction of a sculptural dimension into Richardot’s practice.

A large wooden platform, slightly raised, provided support for an array of paper cuttings and found objects. This sculptural piece is clearly linked to the realization of Richardot’s paintings—some of the paper molds, used as stencils in his works on canvas, reveal traces of paint—and many of its other elements, such as old shoe soles, a piece of fabric, and an ink-jet print of a photographic image under glass, also carry the connotations of their former contexts. The work can be imagined as a two-dimensional picture plane; viewed from above, the seemingly random yet carefully positioned accumulation of shapes and colors against a flat background echoes the composition of Richardot’s large-scale canvases. But the work truly exists in three dimensions, and through this physical expansion Richardot constructs a site that both recalls and reimagines the active composition of his paintings, not just their final form.

The installation of surrounding works, five large-scale and seven small canvases, punctuated the gallery walls in the same deliberate way that the colorful forms in Richardot’s paintings interrupt their flat white backgrounds. The larger works share a repertoire of precisely traced shapes, splashes of pigment, and swirls of blended paint. Consistently realized in horizontal format, they stage a dance of forms across wide expanses of white gesso. More pronounced experimentation takes place on the smaller canvases (also of uniform size), and the works reflect a heightened attention to material and surface. For example, Richardot has washed four of the seven small canvases with expanses of muted color—muddy green, amber, pale pink, or black. The grain of the canvas remains visible in each work, emphasized by the thin application of sprayed, brushed, or diluted pigment.

The lack of titles emphasizes Richardot’s formal approach, negating literal symbolism while allowing for multiple readings. Although his work is not figurative, he does attempt to give form to fleeting actions and sensations. Likewise, his work cannot truly be called abstract, as many of the elements in his paintings reference familiar images and objects: lingerie, a water spigot, microscopic organisms, ice cream cones. Despite their consistent evolution, Richardot’s works on canvas remain within the traditional definition of painting. Outside the linear progression proclaimed by Clement Greenberg, and indifferent to Allan Kaprow’s argument that Jackson Pollock’s frenetic gestures signaled a move away from the canvas, Richardot is more appropriately aligned with the European avant-garde of the early twentieth century—Joan Miró’s potent visual language, or Wassily Kandinsky’s attempts at synesthesia. Even in his new sculptural work, Richardot is not trying to destroy painting, or even necessarily to transform the genre; rather, he is seeking a more profound experience of pigment, composition, and form.

Lillian Davies