The artist developed this semi-figurative, semi-abstract body of work beginning in 1962. This twelve-year series of paintings and sculptures featuring curved, biomorphic cellular forms involved shapes in blue and red paintings, and a decidedly unconventional treatment of the traditional subject of landscape. The present work is a superior example from the mature stages of Hourloupe. Between April and August of 1974, Dubuffet made preparatory drawings in black felt-tip pen, which his assistants projected and enlarged onto dramatically scaled canvases. This technique, also used by Warhol for large-scale paintings, represented a significant change in the artist's working method.
In Paysage avec personnage, Dubuffet has unleashed a fantastically energetic style marked by intricate patterns that teeter between abstraction and figuration. Flattened human figures appear to float on a dense background of alternating irregular fields of pristine white and striated lines that threaten to take over the canvas, but are reined in at the last moment by Dubuffet's masterful control. Dubuffet further develops several of the artistic strategies used by Picasso and Braque in their Analytical Cubist masterpieces. Figures are visible from multiple viewpoints simultaneously, accentuating the shifting quality of the painting. The palette of has also been restricted to mostly black, white, red and blue, a signature characteristic of the Hourloupe series in order to disarm the historical values of color.
While the shapes on the canvas are representational and referrential, their details remain deliberately elusive. The figures exist free of any specific location in time or space: they could be anyone in any type of landscape, and yet they bear little resemblance to anything we are familiar within our world. All sense of depth has been erased, as well as any sense of hierarchy of form within the image. In this way, Dubuffet claimed to have abolished traditional classifications of human, figure, cloud, ground, landscape, or anything else.
As one of the artist’s later works, this painting serves almost as a culmination of Dubuffet's aim to create art that somehow embodies nature, rather than just represents it. Through the unrestrained and adventurous interaction with his materials, the picture buzzes with life and movement – simultaneously strange and familiar. The boisterous figures create a series of stirring vignettes. The subject follows Dubuffet's previous preoccupation with the human body to explore the ambiguous relationship between the earth and its occupants.
Underpinned by a critical intellectual rigor, the Hourloupe series is a product of Dubuffet's philosophical investigations into the possibility of representing utopic worlds and absolute truths through painting, and his radical conclusion that these things existed outside of the normal categories of western humanist thought. In approaching his work in this way, Dubuffet sought to articulate a sense of the continuity binding all living matter that he felt had long been undermined by the oppressive influence of European culture and history. As part of a generation of post-World War II artists, Dubuffet understood the unfixed nature of reality, and the always present possibility that everything can change in an instant. Through his experimentations with form, color, and perception, Dubuffet challenged the traditional values that we assume to exist in the world around us.
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