In an interview by Dominique Païni from 1981, Jean Degottex talks about the influence that Ozu’s cinema has had on his work, an influence both conceptual, through their affinities with zen culture, and gestural, through the action of erasing. “Obliteration, effacement… we erase to reveal what is dramatically hidden by a supposed certainty. How do we stimulate the observation of a material, the canvas, if it’s not by exposing it?”
Through the exploration of the interaction between planning and accident, the works of Jean Degottex, Liz Deschenes, and Ryuji Tanaka reveal the properties of their artistic medium in a continuous set of operations that engage with their immediate environment. Contemplative yet markedly analytical, the works witness the historical shift that gave rise to process-oriented practices, making them a contingent effect of its material and physical situation.
Highly influenced by Japanese art and Zen philosophy, Degottex experimented various techniques, progressively going, from gesture to sign to writing to the line. Gradually leaving the brush behind, the right line became central in the structure of his late paintings, either parallel, diagonal, or crossed. He adopted craft techniques, such as the use of pins, screwdrivers, sand, as well as different types of glue, embracing accidents and mistakes as part of the process. In his Lignes-report from 1997 (in English transfer, or delay)a visible main fold crosses the plane horizontally. A screwdriver was used to draw parallel lines while the canvas was still wet, leaving the uneven lines visible when unfolded. Degottex traces on the back of the canvas what he intends to be revealed on the front: reliefs, stratification or the infiltration of black paint on the opposite side. A central rectangular section was covered expansively with glue, which repelled the paint, varying the intensity and texture of the black. In his Report-noirfrom 1977, the division of the plane is re-stitched and seen from its reverse side. In his Traces Grilles Collor II from 1984, diagonal lines carefully drawn with nails subtly retract from the canvas after being marked with glue. Degottex’s works are based on the succession and recurrence of phenomena, in a continuous process in which the traces remain visible: nothing before, nothing after, everything in the making, as he often stated.
Bypassing the norms of American and European painting, Ruyi Tanaka built a singular body of work that puts the material and the transcendental into tension. The artist formed part of two avant-garde groups that are synonymous with post-war Japanese art: the Pan-real Art Association and Gutai Art Association. Working on wooden panels, Tanaka went through a period of intense productivity at the beginning of the 1960s. In Untitled, 1962, he presents the aesthetic that had become central to his practice, where applications of light pigment sit at the nucleus of darkly painted planes. The artist is known for adding non-painterly materials, like pebbles, ground glass and glue to his pigment. The color has been mixed with excessive medium and left to drip, allowing an undetermined, active effect to invade the painting. Thus Tanaka reinterpreted Western abstraction, a sign of control, with the acceptance of natural materials and their behavior as they are. After a long period of combining different hues of black, in the 80s and 90s the artist introduced a luminous and ethereal quality through the use of color. San ’78, 1978 is thinly coated with natural mineral pigments other elements are added to achieve transparency, in an attempt to capture, as he stated, the “soft and hard aspects within nature”.
Installation view: Ryuji Tanaka and Liz Deschenes
18 October – 24 November 2018
Campoli Presti, Paris