2007 - Jacques Julliard (journalist, essayist)

"Sky and earth"

Guy-Rachel Grataloup is a painter of the Middle Ages, whose entire work is similar to the search for the alchemist. An alchemist who would have succeeded in breaking the secret of the matter.

Acrylic paint spread on the canvas mixes with metal and sand to give gold. That's why this one is triumphant ...

See this Spirit of the air, in my eyes one of the most accomplished works of this exhibition. On the lower right of the canvas, the earth with its lumpy mass and the indentations of the shore is only a starting point. The essential is happening elsewhere, in the depth of the ether. A woman who is the woman, that is to say, our mother at all with her unfolded hair and the undulations of her body, like the little Eve of the portal of Autun, is figured in the ascension, sucked by the lightning divine. It is she who reaches out, as in a creation of the world, but it is the lightning that commands and decides. But Eve and lightning are of the same matter, which is gold.

The dream of ascension is not gratuitous; it is reality itself or rather surreality.

Anyone who looks at Grataloup's painting for the first time can not fail to be struck by the separation of worlds. Again, as with medieval painters, the sky and the earth are superimposed. No transition zone. The separation is often underlined by a hard line. Sometimes, both worlds are locked in different frames. The confrontation of this world with others is the secret leitmotiv of the work.

I can not refrain, every time I think of him, from mentioning this word of Claudel, who says everything in his own way: "Nature is not an illusion, but an allusion. All that exists is symbol, all that happens is parable. (Journal, September 3, 1942)

It is therefore vain to ask if Grataloup is figurative or non-figurative. He is a symbolist! He is a Symbolist painter just as there are Symbolist writers. The elements - he says the elementals - are there in the naked state, like air, earth, water and fire. It is the struggle of the elements, their permanent confrontation that makes the order of the world. There are even in him elements other than the fundamentals, in the first place the vegetable, represented by the tree. There is therefore in him a "spirit of the tree" as there is a spirit of water, or fire. Guy-Rachel showed me, in his property of Chevreuse, the real tree, cut in goblet, which gave birth to this magnificent series, which marks his work and which is a celebration of the tree. She is represented here by the fire apple tree and the spirit of the tree. I was, I admit, surprised and disappointed by the model. A puny shrub, the weakest of nature. But I want to add immediately: a shrub thinking.

In the work of Grataloup, dressed in an emerald green from nowhere, of mordore, red and purple, the small suburban apple tree becomes a torch, or better still, a chalice. He is no longer hidden in the line of his fellows; it bursts like an epiphany, and on its incandescent summit are the tears of the shore and the tongues of fire of Pentecost. Only when we see Eve hovering over him through the air do we suddenly remember that it's an apple tree ...

Because beyond the confrontation of the elements, the great affair of Grataloup, it is the confrontation of the man and the universe. Man is in the cosmos as a foreign body; but without this intruder, no cosmos! No one to admire him, no one to make him exist. It is perhaps he who is the antimatter of which Michel Tournier spoke in a penetrating commentary on Grataloup's work. Before even knowing that he had made a series devoted to the fall of Icarus, the evidence of the connection with the famous painting of Breughel had imposed itself on me. The plowman is there, in the center of the canvas, driving his plow. It is somehow integrated with nature, which it is transforming.

But the intruder man, the revolutionary man, is hard to spot in a corner of the picture, it is Icarus, the bird man whose wings have melted, and who is drowning in the indifference of nature and husbandman. Because he violated the laws of nature. Such, however, is the vocation of man.

Nothing like it in truth in Grataloup's paintings. As small as man is, he is nevertheless central. We only see him, unlike Icarus. It is the different detail, by which everything is changed. Whether in a state of levitation or falling, as in the Death of Adam, it is his relationship to the cosmos that interests us. This man is most often a woman, because it is through her that man comes into contact with the universe.

All the great poets knew this, and especially the romantics, like Lamartine and Vigny. As a reader of the Bible, which irrigates and inspires all his work, Grataloup thinks that it is not good for man to be alone on earth. That's why he gives her a companion. Better than that: he makes a single body, a single flesh, as in this extraordinary double character that appears in many paintings: fabulous creature with four arms and four legs: it is not the animal with two backs of Rabelais, c The opposite is true: it is the two-faced angel.

It pleases me finally to greet a place that saw us both Guy-Rachel and me, a few years away: it is Nantua, this somewhat secret Jura town, which remained for us a microcosm where the Nature presents its elementary elements in its raw state: the mountain, a dark and domineering mass, which is sometimes threatening, sometimes protective; the lake, which is its natural antithesis and mirror. That is why, in the work of a painter installed in the transcendental, Nantua can be luminous or lunar, when the man, like the string of a bow, closes the crescent of the moon. In short, as Guy-Rachel says, chromatic Nantua. This is to suggest that this city, in the different seasons, but also in the various periods of its existence, is both a range and a palette.

It is thanks to the painter that this alchemy takes place: the irisation of reality.

Jacques Julliard