Brescia

Nathalie Du Pasquier, BRR 10, 2016, oil on canvas, acrylic on wall, 93 3/4 × 39 3/8".

Nathalie Du Pasquier, BRR 10, 2016, oil on canvas, acrylic on wall, 93 3/4 × 39 3/8".

Nathalie Du Pasquier

Nathalie Du Pasquier, BRR 10, 2016, oil on canvas, acrylic on wall, 93 3/4 × 39 3/8".

There is no doubt that the expressive freedom of painting extends far beyond the techniques with which it has historically been associated. Yet oil painting—a relatively traditional method—continues to define the medium. This fundamental continuity lies at the heart of Nathalie Du Pasquier’s fascination with painting, and is the reason she continues to breathe fresh life into the finite space of the two-dimensional painted image. The two works that opened the show contained both paintings and three-dimensional wooden elements—a plinth and a shelf—that seemed to evoke Renaissance-era frame-making, which at the time was as relevant as the painting itself. The gallery’s main room held a series of painted pictorial compositions that expanded beyond the perimeters of their canvases to become wall paintings, invading the space. Forms and volumes that might be described as abstract (even if they express meanings far from objective) established a dialogue with the splendid friezes that decorate the spaces of this Brescian gallery, housed in a lavish eighteenth-century palazzo. As is typical of the artist’s practice, the relationship between the works and their context established by the careful installation proves to be as important as the composition of the individual paintings themselves.

Du Pasquier—born in Bordeaux, France, in 1957 and a resident of Milan since 1979—was one of the founders in 1980 of the Memphis Group, the Milanese architecture and design collective renowned for dissolving disciplinary boundaries. (She was also its youngest member.) For Memphis, Du Pasquier focused on the production of what she termed “decorated surfaces”: carpets, furniture, fabrics, and objects. Since 1987, however, painting has been her principal concern, and this period has also seen her first retrospective exhibitions. A recent survey at the Kunsthalle Wien in 2016, wonderfully curated by Luca Lo Pinto, covered virtually all of the artist’s work. In her early paintings, Du Pasquier focused on the assembly of quotidian objects, creating veritable stagings that she immortalized in architectonic still lifes. Her renderings of these configurations became increasingly abstract, although she never lost sight of the original object and indeed emphasized its permanence. Gradually, this object has become increasingly cerebral, its staging now reduced to a secondary issue. As a result, her paintings closely address concepts of arrangement, state, time, and framing, and contain a precision reminiscent of an architectural set. What matters for the artist is time—the time she spends looking and the ways in which time transforms what she is looking at. She often uses whatever she finds in her studio, sometimes bringing or making things specifically to paint.

The artist finds a possible geometry in the epiphanies of everyday life, and she moves and removes objects until the composition becomes acceptable. She is not interested in explicating the narrative dimensions that inevitably develop within pictorial groupings, nor is she interested in stylizing the objects themselves—though she does not seem afraid that her work will end up being decorative. Although she is never unaware of what she paints, what matters to her most is painting, and doing it well—that’s it. Du Pasquier knows she is capturing a realm of perception beyond vision.

Marco Tagliafierro

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.