Beyond its undeniable plastic beauty, Pot à raies also reveals Nicolas de Staël's artistic practice. The gestures which are both rigorous and unbridled convey all the ambiguity of his unique stance which made him an artist beyond category, who brought a new sense to modernity and took the risk of opening up new, unexplored paths. In contemplating this painting, the spectator can only question the nature of what he is looking at. Is it a relatively traditional still-life, illustrating a vase placed on a wild rose tablecloth, contrasted against a scarlet red wall? Or an abstract composition of almost geometrical construction? Is the artist sublimating the real or is he painting an incandescent world which only he can perceive.
Nicolas de Staël's work is located on the convergence between dream and reality. He may well have hammered home "always, there is always a subject", he took the opposite path to the one taken by Mondrian and Kandinsky a few decades earlier. As Jean-Louis Prat explains in his introduction in the catalogue of the artist's retrospective exhibition at the Fondation Gianadda in 2010, his work tirelessly tackles "the problem that haunted creators of the 20th century between the painting of subject and that of ideas." Always refusing an association with the School of Paris and other abstract painters of his time, Staël played with codes and moved towards the sublime, creating a canvas "fragile like love" according to the expression of the art critic Stuart Preston who studied the works from these years and refused in turn a figurative interpretation.
"All my life, I had a need to think painting, to paint in order to liberate myself from all the impressions, all the feelings, and all the anxieties of which the only solution I know is painting."
Nicolas de Staël, Paris, March 1953 (before his trip to Syracuse and Agrigento in Sicily)
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