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  • Guillaume Lebelle

Born in 1972, Guillaume Lebelle is a French artist living in Paris. He received his degree from the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1998. Beginning in 2000, he was represented by the Galerie Jean Fournier in Paris, in the company of artists including Joan Mitchell, James Bishop, Sam Francis, and Shirley Jaffe. He is now represented by two Paris galleries: Galerie Christophe Gaillard and the Galerie Hus. His work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions throughout Europe.

For Guillaume Lebelle, painting is a way of amplifying sensations as well as a natural exercise to coordinate different experiences, temporalities, and harmonic systems. Each picture is like a sounding board that allows encounters between sonorities that weren’t supposed to meet, like the unpredictable structure of some Haydn sonatas or like those in an improvised jazz session. In his words, “this is the paradox of the concert: at certain moments, when the musicians respond to each other and symbiosis is achieved, there is a kind of magic trick, a kind of exchange that happens. You look at one musician but hear the sound of another. The saxophone might play the percussion, the piano the violin, etc. A strange experience of birth at once coherent and uncontrolled. In the picture: while painting, you feel a sensation, and then the moment you feel it, you see another wave of it on the canvas; the sensation you have felt enters the painting and advances within it. What you hear within yourself is there—perfectly—upon the canvas, yet it is wholly other, a sound that has no connection with its origin even while it inextricably proceeds from it.”

Gilles Deleuze’s text “Boulez, Proust and Time: Occupying without Counting” illustrates the principle of correlation, the particular unity in the type of figures encountered in Lebelle’s painting: “The manner in which noises and sounds detach themselves from the characters, places and names to which they are first attached in order to form autonomous ‘motifs’ that ceaselessly transform themselves in time, diminishing or augmenting, adding or subtracting, varying their speed and their slowness. . . . The autonomous life of the . . . motif, as it passes through variable speeds, moves through free accidentals, enters into a continuous variation.”

At first glance there is no figure. Except for the rare, identifiable hints, the other motifs taken separately are signs or gestures of free painting. Nothing seems to designate these gestures as figural. But then the two or three hints perceived earlier begin to extend the axis of spatial distribution. These form the starting point of a curious continuity that brings out incrementally the features of a figure. And a kind of figuration emerges— through induction between heterogeneous elements: lines both lively and slow, sinking curves, accentuated or wandering scratches. Gestures and signs refine themselves or blur their edges at different heights. Some of these aspire to figures they can find and hold, others are in retreat, and their emergence is no more than a fragment. The viewer’s gaze must come to terms with these different heights, playing with correspondences and responses. [End Page 150]

The paintings form not series, but families—or even continents—of paintings. Large format, small format, rough surfaces thick with paint, painting on bare canvas, on news-print, etc. All of these families are cared for together and worked upon in sequence, without a strategy. Why a sequence? A family creates itself and follows its own time, unpredictably. The path of each one comes within living time, with its pauses and returns. A once-abandoned gesture may find an echo upon another continent, while it prepares its sudden revival within its own family. Bit by bit, this game of echoes weaves a kind of legibility.

Lebelle applies different speeds of movement to canvases that he works on, unframed so they can be rotated, without privileging top or bottom, left or right. In the process, he does not seek to erase stains, drips, the anger and confusion of a doubt, a tremor. Painting and drawing merge; there is no definitive resolution, for painting knows no resolution: it takes its place as a surface marked by states that...