In shivaist philosophy, a dance is the original cause of the creation of the world. Shiva, seized by a sudden frenzy of life, is believed to have started dancing, thus giving birth to the Universe, continents, rivers, mountains and humankind. This laysa or “cosmic and divine dance”, represented by the famous Nataraja statues, generates the perpetual destruction and rebirth of the world (1).
This legend, by bestowing on the act of dancing and, specifically, bodily gestures, the ability to create things, leads to a poetry-filled cloud of questions around the body’s involvement in artistic creation. The human body is just as much at the root of creation as the spirit.
Unlike writing, painting makes a distinction between pattern and meaning. The physical content (i.e., the pattern one plots on the canvas) is distinct from the mental content (what the artwork tells us). For the painter, only a dissociation (or even a divorce) between these two content types (physical content and mental content) allows one to put the former at the service of the latter.
Taking possession of space to express oneself may well be natural, but creating an artwork can hardly be reduced to the action of filling. Attempting to fill the entire space amounts to regarding it as a uniform commodity that one is required to consume, rather than as a place dedicated to nurturing our art, one itself also made up of deficiencies.
On the day I first visited Vitry-sur-Seine, I had been allured by the high ceilings and abundance of light—which even a pretty thick coat of dust couldn’t dim—in the former industrial warehouse I had turned into my workshop. The advertisement described a spacious expanse, but on arrival my impression was rather of a large, empty rectangle. Empty, not just of furniture, but of meaning. Rather like a canvas intended to be minimalist yet ultimately coming across as unfinished, this space was devoid of atmosphere—it conjured up nothing at all: thoughts, neither of a workplace, nor of a private place nor, even, of a vacant place. This workshop, being empty of substance, could only gain content through the act of painting.
Various articles published in 2015 (1) shed light on a recent trend in American cinema: the dominant colours in a growing number of scenes are blue and orange. One does not notice this until one has been warned, but it becomes obvious once one is made aware of the fact (which is now the case). While little known, this phenomenon has been robustly demonstrated, especially by the figure below by Helmund Helmer, which represents the destiny associated with each colour in Hollywood films for 2013.
Figuration necessarily means something, since it figurates. Shapes and contours are viewed through the prism of what they represent—providing a predefined understanding and interpretation framework. Abstract art, without a framework for insight, risks being meaningless, without nothing to say beyond an artwork’s pre-existing void. An abstract artist confronted by this risk will wonder how to make an abstract form offef a narrative of equal intensity-but of a different nature-to what the figurative form expresses by its representation. Establishing an abstract narrative seems as difficult as it is paramount to give abstraction its eloquence and its status as a work of art. In this article, I offer three possible answers—on which I also base what is do in my workshop.