zondag 4 april 2010

Claire Basler

Claire Basler's artistic career started in the 1970s on a path radically different from the trends then praised by the critics. It is now quite difficult to imagine the courage and the character needed to choose figurative art, especially an art representing flowers, at a time where conceptual art was dominant.

Claire Basler found herself isolated in the art circles, she was marginalized but never wavered, never succumbed to the trends. Encouraged by an ever-growing enthusiastic public she resisted and continued to follow the themes dear to her within the constraints of figurative painting. Over a span of nearly thirty years she imposed herself as a master painter of nature. Long stems bent by the wind, impetuous trees, heavy skies and stormy backgrounds became her signature.
At a moment when society was rejecting the very principle of continuity in the history of art, Claire Basler's career is characteristic of those who tried to keep a dialogue with the past. Young artists looking to learn traditional techniques had no other choice but to go it alone.

Claire Basler did not learn her craft at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where she was a student, but at the Louvre, by spending hours observing the classic masterpieces of the museum's collections. She developed her artistic personality by coming into contact with the European painting, particularly the French 18th century, which stays to this day an ultimate reference as well as a strong source of inspiration for the painter.
It is in the 18th century that she found the themes that were close to her heart, the subtle colors and light that touched her, but in reality, her true inspiration comes from the direct contact with nature: the strength of a tree, the softness of a flower, the vaulted space of a forest, the shocking openness of a meadow or a field. In her Montreuil garden, she witnesses nature's fight for life, against the wind, the rain and the sun.

This is what Claire Basler portrays in her paintings: the strength and frailty of a flower, the reassuring nature of a tree, the metamorphosis of a simple poppy. Whilst the world is in frantic motion around a nature that appears static, Claire Basler reverses order, stops and watches it move. Time suspended, she becomes the tree and observes. Whatever she perceives is translated in her paintings: wind, noise, violence or sweetness of plant life. She who perceives the secret life of flowers, the emotional nuances of nature, is bound to show all its facets.
Consequently, Claire Basler fragments her work.She isolates her subjects and draws our attention on their secret conversations, their thirst, their age or their joy and grace. Fragmentation then becomes an integral part of Basler's work. Fragmentation puts her painting in the framework of a decorative art tradition that she thoroughly vindicates. Sets of panels, squares, lines, double-faced screens are tools that allow the discovery of various combinations, the renewal of one's look upon the art.
Horizontal or vertical formats are architectural windows in the wall opening onto a sky, a meadow or a garden…. It is either an exuberant sight filling the canvas, or a void, a breath. Screens, voids, representation of nature, fragmentation… All these elements undoubtedly remind us of Asian artistic traditions. Is there anything more oriental than a horizontal branch blossoming pale flowers? One immediately thinks "cherry tree", "China" or "Japan" but Claire Basler's light blue skies pay tribute to the Parisian Basin and her flowered branch is actually that of a Normandy apple tree.
She claims the influence of the French 18th century, but really was there a century closer to Asia than this one, fond of Chinese furniture, exotic fantasies, imaginary plants? It is, after all, that century under strong Asian influence which freed the artists from the constraints of realism and opened the way to the stylization of the subjects in a new decorative quest… With Claire Basler, the unconscious parallel with Asia goes even further. Watching the artist at work suffices to be convinced: her magic lies in her gesture. The gesture is free, technical, it is a vital breath. It builds invisible bridges between the painter and the Far East. The gesture reflects years of hard work, the very Asian exercise of repetition. It throws the art out of its material dimension and brings the breath of nature onto the canvas. The gesture animates the painting.
Traditional Chinese painting immediately comes to mind as well as Tao philosophy which promotes contemplation as the unique way to attain perfect hand-mind union. And the voids too. The "voids" in Claire Basler's paintings are Chan's painting's own. In both cases, the voids are a presence. They open spiritual space and inspire meditation. They enhance contrasts and convey tension to the paintings. They are aerial and ascetic. The voids are beautiful. Although she appears to have unconsciously matured under the influence of Chinese masters, the art of the sedentary painter from Montreuil definitely has the relief and touch of French traditional painting. That is what makes her unique.

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