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Loïc le Groumellec


"Les Reposoirs de la procession"
9. März - 11. Mai 2019

The Galerie Karsten Greve is very pleased to present the new exhibit by French painter Loïc Le Groumellec. The artist, whom the gallery has represented since 1989, is presenting about forty previously un-seen works from his series Écritures, which he has been working on since 2015. For the occasion, the gallery is delighted to be publishing its third catalogue about the artist. Throughout the gallery's rooms, oil paintings and gouache works on paper converse with the Chapelles/Reposoirs, wooden constructions that house his works as one might shelter a sacred body: thus creating a mise-en-scene suffused with sensations of a mysterious esoteric presence.  

Born in Brittany in 1957, Loïc Le Groumellec graduates in 1980 from the École de Beaux-Arts in Rennes. Right from the beginning, his artistic endeavours move away from figurative work: a very popular trend at the time with the young French artists of his generation who were seduced by minor subcultures like comics – as is the case for Robert Combas, amongst others – as well as by potential hybrids of pop iconography and an expressionistic style of painting – as is the case with Jean-Michel Albérola. Le Groumellec, on the other hand, has chosen to reduce his patterns and palette to a minimum, thus reaching back to the very root of pictorial creativity. He became aware of Neolithic archaeological sites in Brittany, and has remained fascinated with the formal simplicity of how they are built and the enigma surrounding their purpose. Most especially with regards to the rows of menhirs on the Carnac site, as well as the indecipherable incisions on the Gavrinis Island cairn, in the Golf of the Morbihan, both of which have become primary sources for his imagination. In 1983, the CAPC - Museum of contemporary art in Bordeaux would buy two paintings from him that are considered the starting point and sum-total of all his future endeavours: one painting from Mégalithes series, and a second one from the Écritures series that he has been re-working regularly from only 2015 onward. For the past thirty years, the Mégalithes have been part of almost everything the artist has produced. These paintings, done in lacquer, are populated with black, basic, silent shapes, spread across an opalescent background that seems to have snared them into place. Any mere hint of tri-dimensionality has been exiled and the onlooker is thus faced with stoic enigmatic shapes, standing mute before him/her. 

For Le Groumellec the megaliths are more than a direct source of inspiration, they are what the bottle was to Giorgio Morandi: a pretext plucked from the real world, able to delve into the ultimate meaning of painting. The persistent presence of these patterns is therefore explained both in the Italian master’s works, and in those by the French artist. By doing and re-doing the same painting - never resulting in the same one twice - all sorts of possibilities and infinitesimal variations are duly probed to attain the very essence of shape. The quest for sensible minimalism, wherein the unexpected foibles of manual work are embraced, and where repetition is never blindly systematic, brings Le Groumellec's work, and its repetitive brush markings, closer to that of Niele Toroni, an artist to whom he often alludes. The trace, as a concept, reappears in the Écritures series: enigmatic concentric arches emerge on a brown background that vibrates with luminosity thanks to the layers of diluted paint applied to the canvas. These signs, always originating from Brittany’s imaginary, echo the wall engravings on the megalithic funeral chamber at Gavrinis, the purpose of which archaeologists have not yet deciphered: decorative or linguistic? For us therefore, they remain un-codified writings, a pure form void of meaning. This is how Le Groumellec's body of work carries along the relationship between creation and absence. The imaginary it refers to is comprised of enigmas and emptiness. The menhir is a primitive construction whose purpose we do not understand, and the signs engraved on Breton cairns are traces of a language that has lost its code, any communicative power having been waived. 

A great mystery, therefore, animates Loïc Le Groumellec’s work. The incomprehensible presence of these massive figures in the series of the Mégalithes, as well as the hypnotic energy of the new ones in Écritures, endows them both with great spirituality that recurs even more tangibly in the Chapelles/Reposoirs works dispersed throughout the gallery rooms. Like ephemeral aedicule, built in general by rural people to shelter statues of the saints at each stage of the Troménie of Saint Ronan (one of the oldest religious processions in France that takes place annually in Locronan, Brittany), these wooden structures frame and protect the Écritures. His keen attention to aspects of folklore, and his efforts to revitalise both their abstract and ideal value, bring Le Groumellec’s approach closer to that of Constantin Brancusi who also used symbols borrowed from Romanian folklore in his artistic process; Brancusi stands amongst Le Groumellec’s major references. He turns back therefore to the archetypical concave shape of the cave or the hut. Generally associated with the desire to protect something precious, it hails back to a notion of sacredness and spirituality that many cultures all over the world share as well. In Le Groumellec’s work, the chapelle/reposoir do not only make the painting sacred as an object itself, but the act of painting also becomes a symbol of artistic creation. These receptacles, and their reference to pilgrimage, become metaphors of the path the artist follows as he searches for the ultimate essence of his art.  
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