When I visited her studio for the first time, I was mesmerized by one pastel out of a series of landscapes of Israel. It depicted a bare sand embankment, traversing the entire width of the image and blocking out the horizon. Almost abstract, unadorned, it was like an ocean wave the moment before it breaks and dissolves into foam and spray. Implacable, ruthless, it seemed to be advancing towards me as though menacing our human insignificance, emanating a fateful air of solitude and charged with the elemental impenetrability of nature. I was left dumbfounded, as one might be before a Cezanne watercolor, when suddenly one is overtaken by the conviction that embedded here is some immutable if impalpable truth, obtained by the artist by dint of rigorous concentration: the mark of a great painter. I could not escape this pastel; its image, powerful to the point of anguish, pursued me for a long while after I had taken my leave.
the virgin, vivacious, beautiful present day²
And his rotting flesh
Trembles the mystery of a lemon gone to mould
Stop thinking and doing.
Tremble you too.
When Gwenda Jay and Peter Gombrich came to Paris last year, to visit Claude Bauret Allard's studio, they were so taken with her architectural paintings that they asked her if she would do a series on Chicago for an exhibition at Gwenda's gallery. The proposal inspired her, and she has spent the better part of the last year on these new paintings.
"Chicago is a luminous city," Bauret Allard says, "where nature interacts with architecture and modernity."
In Bauret Allard's pastels, there is a quality of a world suffused with light and yet obscured in layers of dense mystery: trees concealed by fog become buildings that, in turn, become sky - no discontinuity but transformation. At the waterfront, on a foggy morning, the waves of the lake retract into birds, buildings meld into sky or reflect in water and then, suddenly, the eye catches a reddish, brittle coating - the presence of rows of rusted oil drums - and it is as if the rust invades her paintings.
In this series of Chicago pastels, Bauret Allard explores the dichotomy between " the modernist city" , symbolized by architectural skyscrapers, and, as she sees it, "the rusty city" - that is a realm where imagination and realism intersect. "There is a paroxysm to Chicago's architecture that fascinates me, especially at night when the sky becomes red and whole areas totally disappear in the smoke of the city. My pastels are constructed from drawings, photos or memory - phosphene remembrance - but all of them reflect an affective relationship. I like to explore the same metaphors repeatedly, from different angles and at different hours".
At the dawn of the XXI st century, "humanizing the city" ,the locus of desire(s), is a must. Bauret Allard's variations enchant because we feel the magic and excitement of her vision as she takes us along on these dazzling explorations of downtown Chicago - and thus enables us to visualize "the emotional city".
Amateurs of fine quality pastels should not miss works by this young woman.
Empty, silent, motionless landscapes are pieces of nature which perhaps express more feeling than dream, from which any anecdote is excluded in the subtile vibration of a light, sign of a strange presence.
However, Claude Bauret Allard masters them with quite a strong hand, a rare quality among today’s « paysagistes » who are often too rapidly elated by a fashion that favors them once again.
Claude Bauret Allard paints from nature.
Or draws, rather: her landscapes are so distilled that they imply substantial preparation. In other words- and this is indeed the case- they entail a considerable quantity of preliminary sketches and the taking of notes.
All that is picturesque and superfluous is then pared away, resulting in a world of forms, of "atmospheres": trees drowned in mist, the grey light of early twilight contrasting with the metallic gleam reflected by the waters of a river, the last resistance of the darkness against dawn's assault.
The public is not indulged by these paintings, monochromatic as they are but for glints, in the grey shadows, of night-blue, russet and faded green.
The mountain crests silhouetted like a flock of sheep against the evening sky instill a sense of insidious enchantment.
In the work, the eye finds vertically and focus as on a delineated space, creating a sense of elevation which is entrapped or interrupted in its course.
Not only obvious at the fist glance, the shapes appear progressively as if the painting is composing itself, instantly, before the viewer.
Here, nothing is fixed, nothing is definitive, as light behind moving clouds.
It's a silent space: mysterious an inhabited.
The painter invites us on a journey, a journey in a landscape unknown before, a journey to oneself, with shadows and bright spots.
The “Chinese Interiors” series is inspired by Robert van der Hilst’s photographs.
I was completely drawn in by some of the images in his book, but only understood through delving deeper into my own work that we share both his vision of old cracked mouldy walls and dented objects, and mine regarding rusty containers and mould.
From this encounter about time-induced metamorphoses, I looked back at the image to consider different forms – reducing it to its geometry, a hyper-realistic detail, a remanence leaving room for just the vibration of colour, sometimes a monochrome, then a free lyrical movement, drawn from something in the photo (a pipe, electric cables…) and finally by the technique of crumpled paper, an almost kinetic view of the initial image.
I brought together these different elements to make them echo with each other, breaking the barriers between figurative and abstract art, giving a synthetic, analytical and pictorial vision to the photographic image.