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Breaths at Georges Nadra

by Guy SIOU-DURAND, sociologist, art critic and independent curator


Changing landscapes

Some dune landscapes in the desert are constantly changing under the incessant blowing of high winds. This is perhaps the mythical origin of gestures and textures, of the piction in spaces and materials, in colors and lights in Georges Nadra.


The craze of painting to do

And here it is a question of the views of the Other which complete the picture. Does this statement, decisive for the history of contemporary art, from Marcel Duchamp at his famous American conference (Houston, 1954) haunt the painter, all painters?


Or is it, on the contrary, an existential attitude, placing the egotism of the artist in a situation of resistance against the one-dimensionality of current societies as Nicolas Bourriaud states when writing "the history of pictorial modernity is that of the individualization of all principles, of the accommodation of all values to personal dimensions, of the transformation of all the great collective stories into singular mythologies” (Nicolas Bourriaud, Formes de vie, L’art moderne et l self-invention (Denoël, 1999, p. 180)


American vertigo

The painter's recent stays in Quebec (Baie-Saint-Paul in 1997 at the Espace/Mémoire painting symposium, Montreal in 1998 at the Han Art Contemporain Gallery and Quebec in 1999, Trier at the Visual Arts Gallery of Laval University) are , seems to me to be premonitory of a new production at the junction of his intimate delusions and the contribution of viewers.


This North American passage inoculates the dizziness of wide open spaces and movements into his painting. Until now recognized for its intriguing materiality, what Muriel Carbonnet called "the power of order of forces when they marry matter" (Georges Nadra exhibition A certain idea of matter, Champfleuri, Champagne en Mont d'Or, November 1998), Georges Nadra's painting flirts with waves and space.


Under the effect, one might think, of a northern squall, Nadra’s paintings “settle” in space. Their materiality is lightened in favor of pictorial strategies which reach out to the people present. The exhibition surrounds them with suspended paintings as was the case at Baie Saint-Paul, or which transform into sound waves as in Quebec.


Captured between the breeze and the hurricane, these extremes between caress and violence, his material-paintings not only brush against the surfaces of the earth from which they extract imaginations, but they also make the epidermis of humans shiver.


The viewer, so dear to Duchamp and his epigones of dematerialized art (land art, body art, happening and in situ), then enters the painting. Georges Nadra himself makes it his living space. Unlike Yves Klein who orchestrated the performative theatricality of his monochromes, he becomes the body in movement in “polyptic” structures (Le Bateau Lavoir, Polyptiques exhibition at the Chapelle du Carmel, Chalon-sur-Saône, May 1999). Then the famous grids which, contrary to rationalist logic, underlie, pierce and disorganize his painted material, become gestural sites.


Stay in painting

The convivial mysteries of the African continents - I think of the Bateau Lavoir workshop where Picasso painted the Demoiselles d'Avignon imbued with the taboo energy of the masks of the first "magicians of the Earth", and the North American thrills of the self-invention – I imagine in addition the North America of a Riopelle haunted by luminous game, merging poetically. Europe and America, installation and performance now dramatize the opaque breaths of Georges Nadra's paintings. He wrote to me: “I almost want to live in it, I did it for a few moments…it allowed me to convey its vital space to the work and to better trace it. My painting is essentially linked to the skin. Skin/Earth. Earth/Skin”.


Painting of signs

Georges Nadra lives and invites us to experience the whirlwind and dizziness of works which increasingly become pictorial “architextures”. This shows that Roland Barthes' reflections on the unknown zone linking piction and scription, linking the appeal of the senses to the sense of art, find here material for intense scrutiny.


Guy Sioui Durand, sociologist of art, Quebec, July 1999




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