Landscape & Literature - Abstract art on wood
Each artwork of « Landscape & Literature » is an assembly of painted wood pieces, made to illustrate a scene or a description from french novels. By using geometrical shapes with colors and/or graphic patterns, I tried to evoke the peculiarity of deep literary moments, of scenes that made my itinerary as a reader. Therefore I have worked on my abstract vision of the beach on which Meursault killed the Arabic man in The Stranger by Albert Camus, of the fascinating fresh blood stain in the snow in Un Roi Sans Divertissement by Jean Giono, and finally on the almost supernatural seabed described by Jules Verne in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
The Stranger, by Albert Camus
There was the same red glare as far as eye could reach, and small waves were lapping the hot sand in little, flurried gasps. As I slowly walked toward the boulders at the end of the beach I could feel my temples swelling under the impact of the light. It pressed itself on me, trying to check my progress. And each time I felt a hot blast strike my forehead, I gritted my teeth, I clenched my fists in my trouser pockets and keyed up every nerve to fend off the sun and the dark befuddlement it was pouring into me. Whenever a blade of vivid light shot upward from a bit of shell or broken glass lying on the sand, my jaws set hard. I wasn’t going to be beaten, and I walked steadily on.
The small black hump of rock came into view far down the beach. It was rimmed by a dazzling sheen of light and feathery spray, but I was thinking of the cold, clear stream behind it, and longing to hear again the tinkle of running water. Anything to be rid of the glare, the sight of women in tears, the strain and effort and to retrieve the pool of shadow by the rock and its cool silence. But when I came nearer I saw that Raymond’s Arab had returned.
He was by himself this time, lying on his back, his hands behind his head, his face shaded by the rock while the sun beat on the rest of his body. One could see his dungarees steaming in the heat. I was rather taken aback; my impression had been that the incident was closed, and I hadn’t given a thought to it on my way here.
On seeing me, the Arab raised himself a little, and his hand went to his pocket. Naturally, I gripped Raymond’s revolver in the pocket of my coat. Then the Arab let himself sink back again, but without taking his hand from his pocket. I was some distance off, at least ten yards, and most of the time I saw him as a blurred dark form wobbling in the heat haze. Sometimes, however, I had glimpses of his eyes glowing between the half-closed lids. The sound of the waves was even lazier, feebler, than at noon. But the light hadn’t changed; it was pounding as fiercely as ever on the long stretch of sand that ended at the rock. For two hours the sun seemed to have made no progress; becalmed in a sea of molten steel. Far out on the horizon a steamer was passing; I could just make out from the corner of an eye the small black moving patch, while I kept my gaze fixed on the Arab. It struck me that all I had to do was to turn, walk away, and think no more about it. But the whole beach, pulsing with heat, was pressing on my back. I took some steps toward the stream. The Arab didn’t move. After all, there was still some distance between us. Perhaps because of the shadow on his face, he seemed to be grinning at me. I waited. The heat was beginning to scorch my cheeks; beads of sweat were gathering in my eyebrows. It was just the same sort of heat as at my mother’s funeral, and I had the same disagreeable sensations especially in my forehead, where all the veins seemed to be bursting through the skin. I couldn’t stand it any longer, and took another step forward. I knew it was a fool thing to do; I wouldn’t get out of the sun by moving on a yard or so. But I took that step, just one step, forward. And then the Arab drew his knife and held it up toward me, athwart the sunlight. A shaft of light shot upward from the steel, and I felt as if a long, thin blade transfixed my forehead. At the same moment all the sweat that had accumulated in my eyebrows splashed down on my eyelids, covering them with a warm film of moisture. Beneath a veil of brine and tears my eyes were blinded; I was conscious only of the cymbals of the sun clashing on my skull, and, less distinctly, of the keen blade of light flashing up from the knife, scarring my eyelashes, and gouging into my eyeballs. Then everything began to reel before my eyes, a fiery gust came from the sea, while the sky cracked in two, from end to end, and a great sheet of flame poured down through the rift. Every nerve in my body was a steel spring, and my grip closed on the revolver. The trigger gave, and the smooth underbelly of the butt jogged my palm. And so, with that crisp, whipcrack sound, it all began. I shook off my sweat and the clinging veil of light. I knew I’d shattered the balance of the day, the spacious calm of this beach on which I had been happy. But I fired four shots more into the inert body, on which they left no visible trace. And each successive shot was another loud, fateful rap on the door of my undoing.
In « The Beach »from The Stranger, I focused on the oppressive light and heat of the seaside, on which, despite the apparent calm, a drama will take place…
Sharped shapes prefigure the final violent scene, and are also simplified, as through Meursault’s eyes, blinded by the heat and sweat. Patterns drawn on wood shapes illustrate the extreme solar radiation on one hand ; and on the other hand, the imperfect paint flows and stains (like blood) translate the disaster of the murder, the destruction of the « balance of the day ».
Un Roi Sans Divertissement, by Jean Giono
The Snow, inspired by the novel "Un Roi Sans Divertissement" (a king without distraction) by Jean Giono
(...) the blood, the blood on the snow, so clear, red and white, it was so beautiful.
This composition is inspired by the fascination of the characters for fresh blood stains on snow in the novel Un Roi Sans Divertissement (a king without distraction) by Jean Giono. It is the most minimalist one in this serie.
Several « layers of snow » are superimposed. Very light colours, creating a very low contrast with the white of the snow, are used on the two biggest ones. Green lines echo the « path » or « pursuits » of the characters, in the village and through mountains (tracking of the murderer), or through the forest (wolf hunt). This interlacing is also present with blue lines, but with a symmetrical effect, as a wink to the snowflake's architecture. The red blood stains appears then in a very violent and incongruous way in this winter harmony.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
For two whole hours an aquatic army escorted the Nautilus. During their games, their bounds, while rivalling each other in beauty, brightness, and velocity, I distinguished the green labre; the banded mullet, marked by a double line of black; the round-tailed goby, of a white colour, with violet spots on the back; the Japanese scombrus, a beautiful mackerel of these seas, with a blue body and silvery head; the brilliant azurors, whose name alone defies description; some banded spares, with variegated fins of blue and yellow; the woodcocks of the seas, some specimens of which attain a yard in length; Japanese salamanders, spider lampreys, serpents six feet long, with eyes small and lively, and a huge mouth bristling with teeth; with many other species.
Our imagination was kept at its height, interjections followed quickly on each other. Ned named the fish, and Conseil classed them. I was in ecstasies with the vivacity of their movements and the beauty of their forms. Never had it been given to me to surprise these animals, alive and at liberty, in their natural element.
Even though all these shapes seems to be very different from each other, they represent my interpretation of the seabed described by Professor Aronnax, the narrator in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. In this artwork, every cutting wood has its individuality : its own colours and graphism, like every marine species has its own physical and genetic characteristics. But the evident complementarity of shapes and the black on each of them translate a notion of unity : this is a unique vision, which lasts only a moment (a few hours) in an environment (the ocean). Shapes coexist as sea creatures in a shared ecosystem. Then, the (almost) rectangular frame which includes the shapes assembly, evokes the submarine window through which the characters look outside. And if some pieces exceed this frame, it is for showing that magic goes on beyond this little opening, in the seabed vastness.