November 30, 2011

Joe Fyfe's studio visit with Bernard Piffaretti, circa 2003

I have a writing deadline this week so posting will be scant, but I came across an interesting 2003 Bomb Magazine interview between Joe Fyfe and French painter Bernard Piffaretti that I had to share. Here's an excerpt.


  Bernard Piffaretti, Untitled, 2001, acrylic on canvas , 59×39 3/8." Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read

When: Nov. 24, 2003
Where: In the studio, 11 rue Bichat, Paris


Joe Fyfe I have observed that in French painting the plane is where a transition takes place, where the tableau is porous and the viewer’s point of entry is broken up.
Bernard Piffaretti French painting has always had a relation to simplicity; it is about fact, not effect. This is not because of nationality, but part of the traditional attitude is about continuity. Matisse’s Red Studio is simple—it’s an attitude, what Eric de Chassey called a “decorative violence.”

Bernard Piffaretti paintings at galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris. Installation view, 2011.

JF In the Matisse/Picasso exhibition [on view in Paris at the time], I was surprised to see that expressionism in Picasso’s hands felt like a cabinet drama, while Matisse’s breaking of the larger, decorative language of painting and his awareness of the breadth of light and color on a surface seemed very modern. Speaking of languages, I am wondering about the title of your 2000 exhibition at the Cartier Foundation, Va-et-vient (Come and Go). I am told this is French sexual slang, which led me to think that your work examined the mechanistic aspect of making a painting, as if the act of painting drew from a set of responses, like sex does to a certain extent.
BP Va-et-vient refers to a short play of the same name by Samuel Beckett. Three people in similar dress share a bench. One leaves and another arrives; the permutations and combinations continue for a prescribed period. This pertains to my work inasmuch as the difference between the painting and the viewer is that the painting always has an active attitude, it is always unfinished: a quality of the practice of painting itself. This daily attitude is banal; it’s the opposite of contemplation. The critical moment in making my paintings is the first mark down the middle, which declares, THE SURFACE IS HERE. It is produced very calmly, but it is violent and immediately negates the authority of the tableau, making all the aesthetic decisions unimportant by becoming a simple fact that the first situation will be redone. The quality of subjectivity breaks down. Redoing is a negation of series, of origin. This central mark refers to the emblematic situation of Matisse when he said, “It’s not a woman; it’s a painting.” The image an artist paints begins to have the attitude of image painting; it’s not just the expression of the artist. My definition of the tableau goes back to the origin of the word, tabula, table in Latin. You move things around on a table arbitrarily, without necessity. The stuff is just there, ready to be acted on.

Installation shot at Piffaretti's 2002 exhibition at Cheim & Read.

JF Your paintings remind me of two pages of an open book, like Jasper Johns’s 1976 painting End Paper. The repeated image literalizes the painting. Another instance is Johns’s painting Fool’s House [1962], which has BROOM written on it and a broom attached. In many of your paintings, the patterns seem to nod toward the harlequin, an early modernist theme. This clownlike element is in some Beckett characters, too.
BP Yes, the paintings are lyrical, comic and human....

Read more in Bomb Magazine.

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