A pictorial approach to the concerto

The culmination of a piano concerto is not the soloist’s final note, but rather the initial one, when he or she enters the stage: by surprise with Chopin, with great fanfare with Tchaikovsky and Grieg, elegance with Mozart, always too early with Bach. There is something in this initial part of the piece that goes beyond what follows: the piano establishes its presence—this undefinable presence allegedly mastered by Nureev, when he entered the stage, without a gesture, with the audience holding its breath.

The concerto is not a dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra, as is sometimes said, but rather the expression of a voice within its environment. The soloist’s score is set apart from others, indeed from many others, which make up a surrounding environment. Their presence earns them a central place in the orchestral macrocosm. The artistic statement then mainly relates to the interaction between this central figure and its environment, called the orchestra in music and ‘the background’ in music.

In a concerto, wether musical or pictural, spontaneity is concentrated within the central figure, which is a direct emanation of the artist’s virtuosity. The background, on the other hand, makes no individual distinctions. The instruments are no more prominent than n the multiple colors and motifs. It is a global presence, a symbiosis, the amniotic bath that characterizes any tingling feeling. One works at it at a slow pace, without any hint of drama. The artist expresses him or herself only indirectly, via the processes he or she sets up: a compositional theme, subsequently declined, or by using some of the paint’s properties, gradually revealed by initiating movement extremely gradually.

Francis Bacon: a man stands right in the middle of the frame, a solitary figure, the only presence standing out from the picture’s background. This systematic positioning of the central figure makes Bacon’s work the first-ever convincing painted representation of human consciousness. The folds of the ‘meat’ match those of the mind, an accurate mirror of the soul—naturally tormented in Dorian Gray fashion.

The concerto, as a method for constructing an artwork, i.e. the expression of a single voice within a multitude, is similar to Bacon’s representation of man, as the only conscious being in the mist of the surrounding polyhedron, lavatories or round chambers. As an abstract painter, I believe I can construct an artwork in the same way, displaying a central emanation, isolated from the painter’s interior life. This pictorial invention has yet to be realised. I am working at it, by constructing a dialogue between a figure and a background. In my case, this figure (an expression taken from Deleuze, adopted as the title of one my series) is the expression of a movement, aimed at becoming the mirror of my interior world and of its relationship with the world outside. My work on the figure involves impulsing a single gesture, with the background requiring the slow addition of multiple coats of paint, gradually spread and stretched out on the canvas until they coalesce.

I seek to paint concertos.

Representing the interaction between figure and background involves showing man, interacting with his environment. Painting one’s good or bad conscience. How do we conceive this relationship with the environment? Is it symbiotic, or conflictual? Bacon’s ‘meat’ has changed sides: it is no longer the figure that is tormented, but the environment that is skinned alive.

Bacon has opened a door on a representation of consciousness, yet in this day and age one needs rather to respond to a wake-up call, and to helplessness about the current state of the environment. Bacon’s work fits in well with progress made by the humanities in the previous century. His abstract counterpart, which has yet to emerge, could well underpin the increasing prominence of environmental science in the years to come.

This art would, indeed, be fitting abstraction for the twenty-first century.