The entire forest is contained in each leaf such that you should absolutely not draw slavishly, as it would at the same time, be another way to eclipse the forest, to loose touch.
Jean-Paul Riopelle met success in 1953 when the famous gallerist Pierre Loeb acquired a large part of his recent production, convinced that he had finally uncovered the secret of painting, transforming color into “sky, rock, ground, blood, air, foliage, and crystals” like an alchemist. Consecration came a year later, when making Forestine, an outstanding masterpiece on which Riopelle accumulated layers of material until they trembled: the artist took part in the Venice Biennale and exhibited at the great Pierre Matisse in New York.
This is where Forestine was showcased for the very first time. With its hypnotic plays of light and majestic impastos, this cathedral artwork stands out from the rest of Riopelle’s production as one of his greatest confrontations with medium and color at its purest. In this grandiose painting exuding an incredible energy, as the expression of an outstanding vitality, this master of post-war abstraction has staged a telluric battle which dramatic proportion is reinforced by the panoramic point of view offered to the viewer.
In addition to its monumental dimensions and the all-over composition in which perspective and composition vanish in favor of a luxurious mental landscape, translation on canvas of a sensitive world which wet undergrowth we can almost smell, Forestine also strikes for its experimental aspect. In his paintings of the first half of the 50s, Riopelle had explored the formal and expressive possibilities opened by the original use of masonry trowel. It made the genius of he who reconciled two art forms that, until then, had coexisted without ever meeting, so close and yet so distant: painting and sculpture. As Jean Fournier eloquently put it: “up until that point, there were paintings on one hand and sculptures on the other.” With Riopelle, the second and the third art became “inseparable”, with “sculpture bursting out of the frames, and willy-nilly”, canvases merging into sculptures to “become the work of Riopelle”.
More radical than it seems, the gesture of the “superior trapper” -as the surrealists called him back then- followed in the footsteps of the avant-gardes of the second half of the 20th century, and in those of the abstract expressionists in particular. For Riopelle, like for some of his American contemporaries, painting should no longer try to represent a precise location but translate the sensation we feel in contact with nature, its unique reference. Devoured by a multitude of stains that saturates the canvas surface to capture the endless profusion of the world, Forestine is a painting in which we can only get lost. It is particularly emblematic of the dreamed rather experienced space Riopelle invites viewers to discover.
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