2016 - Luis Porquet (journalist, art critic)


2016 - Lydia Harambourg (La Gazette de Drouot)

Grataloup  Une remontée aux origines

Pour Grataloup, l'acte pictural est proche du sacré. Il tente de conjurer, d'apprivoiser l'énergie primitive par les formes et la couleur. Il interroge les matières du cosmos, la terre, la pierre, le métal, le bois, le sable dans lesquels souffle l'esprit. Dans ce dialogue constant qu'il entretient avec la nature, il fait appel à la mémoire. Si son univers est nourri de visions, de souvenirs, d'une nostalgie édénique comme l'héritage des temps adamiques et d'un paradis perdu, ses mystères sont d'un ordre symbolique.

Pour une interrogation mystique, il recourt à une alchimie des matières au service d'une thématique cosmique, reflet de la matrice originelle. Il tente de dérober au minéral et au végétal leur complexe et mystérieuse texture en multipliant les frottages, incorporant des découpages qu'il mêle à des fragments de feuilles de métal et d'or collées, à des pochoirs associés à l'acrylique et au pastel à l'huile. L'artiste revendique l'héritage médiéval du travail artisanal. Il en maîtrise les techniques, de la miniature à la ciselure, en préparant son support recouvert de couches successives de peinture, polies, reprises jusqu'à la simulation d'une peau quasi charnelle. Organique, sa peinture est un champ labouré, écume, strates rocheuses ou plaines alluviales. La surface picturale est alternativement microcosme et macrocosme du sol terrestre comme du firmament, animée de légers reliefs irréguliers en réponse aux forces occultes des matières exploitées. Leur épaisseur a une dimension symbolique.

Aspiration vers l'infini

La splendeur des noirs, des ors et des bleus céruléens, des rouges de cadmium, des verts et des jaunes, dispense une saveur sensuelle. Dans ses ensembles somptueux, la couleur pure flamboie. Dans l'articulation des plans et des ouvertures spatiales, elle intervient comme élément dispensateur d'une perspective suggérée. L'illimité aspire notre regard jusqu'à rendre imperceptible l'illusoire figuration qui, dans un simulacre d'abstraction, rend visible cet entre-deux impalpable. Entre le vide et la matière, la lumière rayonne.

Ses transmutations sont de l'ordre du sacré, comme le sont la nature et l'homme. Parvenu à l'équilibre entre le visible et l'invisible, entre la substance et le vide, l'esprit émerge. La matière s'accorde au rêve de l'esprit. L'homme et l'univers sont réconciliés dans un infini poétique et spirituel.

Paris 2003 - 2009 - 2016 - Lydia Harambourg


2009 - Lydia Harambourg (La Gazette de Drouot)

La Gazette de l'Hôtel Drouot - 10 avril 2009 - N° 14

Grataloup "Mystères"

Les Mystères de Guy-Rachel Grataloup sont pluriels. D'ordre symboliste, ils recourent à une alchimie des matières mises au service d'une thématique cosmique. Si notre approche est facilitée par la simplification de la lecture, elle se double d'une analyse qui ne cherche pas moins à comprendre le sens qu'à interpréter ces scènes ésotériques. 

Car l'univers de Grataloup est nourri de visions objectives, de souvenirs (Je me souviens de Giverny), d'une nostalgie édénique, et celle du rêve d'un paradis perdu. Ses séries nous valent des ensembles somptueux, où le sable, l'acrylique, le métal, or ou argent, s'allient en faisant flamboyer la couleur, détentrice d'une beauté intemporelle. Les mondes de Grataloup sont ceux de l'infini. Voûte céleste, océan, continents sont délimités par des lignes infranchissables qui libèrent des espaces dans lesquels l'homme, et la femme, réduits à de petits personnages, sont de purs "esprits". Grataloup revendique l'héritage médiéval du travail artisanal. Il en maîtrise les techniques, de la miniature à la ciselure, en préparant son support, en appliquant les couches successives de peintures, polies, reprises jusqu'à la saisie charnelle qui submerge toute la surface animée de rides, de boursouflures, de légers reliefs irréguliers, réponses aux forces occultes des matières. Ces transmutations sont de l'ordre du sacré, comme le sont la nature et l'homme. Parvenu à l'équilibre entre le visible et l'invisible, entre la substance et le vide, l'esprit émerge. L'homme et l'univers sont réconciliés dans un infini, poétique et spirituel.

Lydia Harambourg


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


2007 - Vincent Ravalec (writer)

The materialization of the prisoner's syndrome on canvases of different sizes of which some are covered with sand of stars may produce retinal distorsions

At the beginning, there were only a few sparse pieces. The room is large, white and the light enters through a triangular opening with its apex pointing downward. The floor is tiled and a crystal ball has been placed beside a collection of objects – the Joshua Tree, Saint-Exupéry’s plane – held in a metal mesh. There are also some paintings of different sizes leaning against a wall.

In another room are books, some of which seem to hold secrets only of interest to few people. Maybe they are too complicated or just too simple and in any case, certainly outside the grasp of many people, and the man who lives here, a prisoner awaiting his release sometimes regrets that this is so.

He himself knows not why he is there nor when his imprisonment will end. He knows only that in order to evade the traps of a long expanse of time that is not his own, he must solve a puzzle of which the elements are around him and which mix what we commonly call space, memory, shapes and origins.

He has a certain number of elements at his disposal that are like pieces of a puzzle that he must forge as he goes along. For this, he has an impeccable technique and pieces of history that he must intermingle. Mixed among memories reminiscent of a strange descent of asteroids in orbit around forgotten stars and the light of this past time they show up everywhere at the edge of the pictures he is painting calling on the elementary spirits that populate our planet and guiding them to the celestial vault, lifting our gaze toward a complexity of the world permanently placed before us but of which we have forgotten the keys.

Each work is therefore a door to the understanding of existence and its possibilities. If it flirts openly with myth, it is not like a fixed representation offering outlines already acquired in the course of the painting but more like a boat making its way to barely discernible shores. They mix with a conception of the classical world ways of seeing and becoming where inconceivable abysses interweave.

The prisoner is awaiting the judges’ favourable verdict. He knows the paintings must be seen and that they take on their dimensions in their physical materialisation. He has patiently marked out some fields of force and mixed them with sand fallen from the sky. Paradoxically, the result is immaterial.

He draws the gaze deep into a hypnotic circumference that goes beyond the horizon and leads the eye into the interior of the natural layers of the world’s memory, of vanished systems or the magnetism making up for the still primitive emergence of material form.

If all goes well, it’s what the visitors should notice without necessarily expressing it.

What, by contrast, they will not know, is that, in fact, by his paintings, the prisoner has tried, using materials from the shore, to make a raft enabling him to leave this dimension.

Obviously formulated in this way, there is reason to smile.

Leaving with Eve


For the stars

With the paintings

It’s inconceivable.

Yes, if one still thinks the Earth is flat and the Sun revolves around us.

But if you take a good look at the paintings of Guy-Rachel Grataloup, they will tell a completely different story.

A place where world geometry is not fixed.

And, indeed, even if it is difficult to comprehend, this is perhaps why there are paintings.

Vincent Ravalec


2003 - Béatrice Comte (journalist)

Grataloup - Un spiritualiste de notre temps

Issu d'une famille de séminaristes amoureux et de bandits décapités, Guy-Rachel Grataloup est un peintre ésotérique et mystique. Son spiritualisme bat dans un coeur de mathématicien, son goût du spectre coloré le renvoie à Goethe autant qu'à Kandinsky. Sa manière géométrique s'enrichit d'un goût pour les pigments purs et les métaux, et ne lui interdit pas un sens très actuel de l'installation. Il a obtenu un prix de Rome, fréquenté la Casa Vélasquez, acompagné Support-Surface comme BMPT (Buren, Mosset, Parmentier, Toroni). Mais, échappant aux normes et aux écoles, il a découvert sa voie propre : il se définit comme un nouveau symboliste (et nourrit d'ailleurs une profonde passion envers Puvis de Chavanne).

L'art de Grataloup sonne particulièrement juste dans les édifices religieux. Il fait actuellement, à Lyon, rayonner au-delà d'elle-même la chapelle de la Trinité en ses atours baroques. Une installation d'une impressionnante richesse y coupe le souffle : murs intérieurs contant l'aventure incomprise de Bernadette de Lourdes ; longue cimaise montée au milieu de l'église, comme un mur supplémentaire le long duquel la Genèse se déploie recto verso en fresque ; chemin de croix en quinze stations installé au déambulatoire de l'étage ; tout cela se clôt sur une haute Tente du Prophète en drap d'or, couverte de passages de l'"Exode", nantie d'une échelle dressée vers l'inconnu, et qui se détache sur une paroi recouverte de triangulations initiatiques.

Chacun des élements de cet ensemble outrepasse le cadre dans lequel il paraît s'inscrire. Ainsi de la série évoquant l'apparition de la Vierge à Bernadette Soubirous dans la grotte de Massabielle (1848) : au delà de l'anecdote touchante, il est en fait question de ces sublimes épouvantes pascaliennes qui parfois nous saisissent. Toutes les toiles monumentales illustrant l'illumination sont structurées à l'identique, en bandes horizontales parallèles aux couleurs éclatantes. L'éther s'élève au-dessus d'un aluminium central et miroitant, sous lequel la grotte décline d'oeuvre en oeuvre divers moments du mystère, dont ls avatars ne sont clairement perceptibles qu'à un esprit prévenu. Mais la variation sur une structure intangible évoque chez tous une phrase musicale, discrètement descriptive, du caractère changeant de l'émotion. La promenade devant ces panneaux tout à la fois abstraits et récitatifs devient inconsciemment pèlerinage...

De même la suite de douze travaux qui, dans les trois couleurs primaires, illustrent la Genèse, a certes un thème biblique. Cependant, devant ces hommes luttant à mort pour une femme offerte, ou face à un prisme céleste qui domine sous lui la Terre, qui ne songerait à l'universel ?

Béatrice Comte - Critique d'Art - Article paru dans le Figaro magazine - 31 octobre 2003


2003 - Lydia Harambourg (La Gazette de Drouot)

Guy-Rachel Grataloup et les forces occultes

Deux lieux pour une oeuvre qui entretient avec l'espace des tensions dont elle est le réceptacle magique. Chez cet artiste, l'acte pictural est proche du sacré. Il tente de conjurer, d'apprivoiser les forces occultes. Ses matières sont celles du cosmos, la terre, le métal, la pierre, le bois, le sable dans lesquels souffle l'esprit. A aucun moment, il n'abandonne le rapport à la nature, comme à la figure. 

L'oeuvre de Grataloup requiert l'espace. Sa précédente exposition à la Salpétrière l'avait démontrée. Aujourd'hui, sa nouvelle occupation à la chapelle de la Trinité prolonge cette adhérence spirituelle. S'y déploient de grandes peintures dont le triptyque La Danse. Impressionnante composition où l'abstraction toute restrictive n'est qu'apparente. Nous sommes face à une matière riche, sensuellement travaillée dans la couleur. Le peintre agit en fonction de ce qu'il voit et donc avec des matières qu'il voit, tangibles. Son double rapport à la réalité et à l'esprit qui habite toutes choses requiert sa concentration sur l'infiniment petit. Travail d'enlumineur et de bâtisseur d'un monde à la fois métaphysique et d'une proximité surprenante. Monde palpable où le sable, la plus petite particule visible à l'oeil nu est posé, méticuleusement jusqu'à recouvrir la surface. Un travail avec des petits points qui lui fait retrouver la figure. Il dessine à l'acrylique sur la pellicule avec la pointe d'un crayon, incorpore parfois des fragments de photos. Une figure. L'inconnu est complice de la science. 

Avec la superbe série dédiée à Massabielle, nous sommes happés par un souffle mystique qui balaye les toiles. Depuis la Genèse, nous parcourons ainsi les étapes d'une lente initiation jusqu'à la monumentale "Tente d'or du prophète" et son échelle symbolique enracinée dans le sable dont le rapport à la sculpture est d'une parfaite clarté

D'autres oeuvres plus petites sont présentées à la galerie "Le Soleil sur la Place". Disparition ou encore Soleil noir présentent une couche picturale comme toujours chez Grataloup qui souligne ce rapport à la main, au métier. La feuille d'or se mêle aux pigments dans des couches superposées jusqu'à l'obtention d'un éclat intemporel qui tisse des liens étroites avec les icônes. Le temps, son écoulement et sa suspension Les Feuilles

Chez Grataloup, le travail est toujours en accord avec la pensée comme dans Les Tombeaux. Une oeuvre guère éloignée des peintures byzantines, du treccento. Nous sommes dans une peinture qui rend visible cet entre-deux impalpable, entre du vide et de la matière, l'esprit émerge.

Lydia Harambourg


2002 - Lydia Harambourg (La Gazette de Drouot)

Lydia Harambourg - Gazette de Drouot - 5 avril 2002

L'oeuvre si personnelle de Grataloup atypique en ce qu'elle n'entre dans aucune catégorie esthétique bien définie, trouve dans la chapelle Saint-Louis sa résonance profonde. Des correspondances spatiales singulières sont ainsi mises à jour dans un ensemble d'une soixantaine de toiles récentes de grand format, qu'accompagnent plusieurs installations, dont le retentissement sur notre réceptivité visuelle et expressive nous poursuit longtemps. Les affinités entre ce lieu et l'univers plastique de Grataloup sont en effet manifestes. Le classicisme puissant de Libéral Bruant renvoie à l'infini qui se dégage de la peinture de Grataloup, la plénitude spirituelle de l'édifice à sa quête métaphysique, la pérennité de la pierre au caractère intemporel de sa création.

Une remontée aux origines

Grataloup est du côté jouissif de l'acte de peindre. Dans le dialogue constant qu'il entretien avec la nature, il fait appel en permanence à la mémoire. Il n'a rien à faire d'une mode essoufflée et trompeuse. Son engagement rejoint celui du premier homme qui transgressa le présent en dessinant sur la paroi de la caverne la première image. Le ravissement de la matière est dans ce geste conjuratoire qui a osé revendiquer son identité. L'artiste n'a pas oublié le temps sacré où Orphée avec sa lyre entraînait les arbres et les bêtes à sa suite. Ses vastes tableaux racontent une histoire où l'homme ne cesse d'être présent. Elle évoque avec pudeur des abysses où sont tapies des choses cachées.

Le monde cosmique de Grataloup est le reflet de la matrice originelle. L'artiste tente de dérober au minéral et au végétal leur complexe et mystérieuse texture en multipliant les frottages et les formes découpées et reportées, les fragments de feuilles de métal et d'or, les pochoirs mêlés au travail des acryliques et des pastels à l'huile. Dans une alchimie, la matière s'accorde au rêve de l'esprit. Cette peinture organique féconde est tour à tour un champ labouré, de l'écume, des strates rocheuses ou des plaines alluviales. L'épaisseur de la matière a une dimension symbolique. La surface picturale se fait alternativement microcosme et macrocosme du sol terrestre comme du firmament. Les territoires morcelés de l'Hommage à David Caspar Friedrich de 1998 ont cédé devant l'immensité virginale d'Eden de 2001.

Aspiration vers l'infini

La splendeur des noirs, des ors et des bleus céruléens réjouit l’œil. La couleur est indissociable de la saveur quasi physiologique qui imprègne cette peinture. Dans l'articulation des plans et des ouvertures spatiales, elle intervient comme élément dispensateur d'une perspective qui n'est que suggérée parce qu'elle est intériorisée. L'illimité aspire notre regard jusqu'à rendre imperceptible l'illusoire figuration pour laisser émerger un simulacre d'abstraction. La présence humaine ravie par le divin est rendue avec un intensité contenue dans la suite de "Massabielle" et l'évocation de Bernadette Soubirou, tentatives de visualisation de la lumière surnaturelle dans un espace intérieur.

La mise en scène de l'oeuvre de Guy-Rachel Grataloup, notamment de quelques pièces monumentales, est parfaitement réussie. La tente du Prophète de 2001, haute de 3 m, entièrement recouverte de petites feuilles d'or représentant une surface de 16 m2, scelle la dualité de l'ombre et de la lumière, du dedans et du dehors, de la nuit et du jour, du mystère et de la révélation. Ici, le silence est plus fort que l'agitation comme en témoigne le hiératisme de l'arbre dans Matrice-arbre de 1998-2001.

Texte écrit par Lydia Harambourg dans la Gazette de Droutot du 5 avril 2002 à l'occasion de l'exposition Chapelle Saint-Louis de la Salpétrière, 47 boulevard de l'Hôpital, Paris 13 et de la sortie de la monographie Grataloup aux éditions Enrico Navarra


2002 - Paul Lombard (French lawyer and writer)

Are we entitled to write about painting ? Few authors have risen to the challenge of completing the brush-stroke with the written word, since the brush-stroke can do without the embellishment of words.

Baudelaire and Apollinaire are almost alone in this respect : they knew how to lend a painting the sanction of their words, the dream-like weight of their sensibility.

The Cubists would not have become what they are if it had not been for the author of the Flâneur des deux rives. They would not have succeeded in taking the word apart, in scaling the backbone of a reconstituted universe.

Grataloup, a painter of anti-matter or of a matter which has been tamed, does not need to cosseted in well-intentioned prefaces, including ones that seek to vindicate the deliberate semi-obscurity in which he has carried out his artistic project. This project is one of the most original in recent years, and one which leaves no room for complacency.

Is Grataloup the Sandman a scluptor who paints, or a painter who sclupts ? This matters little : he is the artist and craftsman of a kind of geometry in which rigour meets reverie.

Anyone who has not seen Grataloup's workshop can have only faint idea of this artist's solitude : a form of solitude transcended by obstinate severity and lyricism.

Grataloup is not concerned wich schools, with movements, or even with movement. He shows us the absoluteness of a desert-a desert, however, from which life is never absent. Meeting him has helped me to take in the full extent-should such a realization still be necessary-of how obsolete the disctinction is between figuration and abstraction.

Grataloup is not an abstract artist because man is never absent from his work : yet, this does not make his work figurative. His sketchy, broken human figures are there to confess to their powerlessness to change around the course of the absolute. At the same time, they testify to the superiority of live matter over ash. They disturb.

To disturb : such is the artist's main calling, his curse and his blessing. Against the current din of false prophecy, Grataloup excels at being discretely provocative.

It is difficult to classify Grataloup or find artists to compare him with. Besides, why should he be compared to anyone ? Comparison diminishes the stature of the creator ; originality magnifies it. Grataloup casts us over the froth or red and blue waves, plunges us into the deepths of green and black  crevices, leads us astray through the strange lianas of unsettling forests. He fills his world with all colours of the rainbow, he caresses that world and pierces it with lines that come from infinity.

Grataloup may not be the first artist to introduce foreign objects into his compositions, but he excels in using mirrors to obtain reflections and sparkling effects from their shattered slivers.

He would be pointless to place some of Grataloup's paintings above others. His work forms an indivisible whole in which works executed in large format, at which he excels, complement each other to produce a totality that is constantly under renewal. His painting forces us to return to matter which it attempts to master, flying in the face of reason.

Matter in all its opaqueness, bloated with the sap of life, is subjected to a humble but obstinate process that leads to beauty, a vast domain where silence reigns.

Paul Lombard


2002 - Jean-Louis Pradel (art historian and art critic)

Grataloup's radiant palimpsest

Grataloup is an artist who sides resolutely with pleasure, and who has not gone through the mandatory stage of paying one's respects to art's dissection theatre. He does not analyse painting into nuts and bolts in order to reveal its mechanism. Nor has he turned it into a field of application for elementary Maoist dialectics, of the kind that raged among his friends from Supports/Surfaces wmhen the order of the day was to recite torrents of binary oppositions in the effort to separate signifier from signified as form from content. Instead, Grataloup threw himself heart and soul into painting, striving to deposit on painting the mark of a privileged relationship between nature, memory and perception.

Grataloup spent May 1968 in the aristocratic shade of the Villa Medicis, having recently been awarded the Prix de Rome. There he carried out his first frottages on the old stones of Ostia Antica, in the company of Anne and Patrick Poirier, who used his grain and volumes when they embossed their first prints. These practices flouted the nihilism ambient at the time, and its tabula rasa paintings that sought relevance in the avant-garde strategy of the first three decades of the twentieth century, a century that was to be reinvented from scratch shortly threafter. Instead, Grataloup's meticulous, painstaking taste from imprints strove to retain something of the memory of places and objects. 

Such works are like exercices in revelation, their light and form springing from the very density of the graphite-powder, a material which naturally fastens and concentrates on the least irregularity. They are rudimentary reconciliations with randomness and obscurity that the artist is duty-bound to convey with lucidity . It is to them  that Grataloup is answerable when, sketch book in hand, he sets out to explore the open daylight in the vastness of nature.

From his first frottages, which are infinitesimally attentive to traits barely visible to the naked eye, to the drawing up of the first calpel-engraved maxtrixes within the details of enlarged drawings (then relayed photographically onto paper or cardboard wich are, in turn, treated with frottage or stencil), the artiste summons at once the alchemy of perception and the complexity of the world, allowing an awareness of matter to be formed.

For thirty years, Grataloup has been exploring the roads that lead to the summit of his art. This require spirit, breadth of vision and a solid obtinacy to disregard the beaten track and ignore the pre-conceived avenues promulgated annually by current trends and fashions. This lofty neglect, in which a certain arrogance competes with an inordinate taste for substance, has resulted in a great pictural oeuvre inhabited by majestic storms in which the artist stuns us with his ability to converse on intimate terms with subjects that are immense and boundless.

Ever since his first personal exhibition in Paris in 1973, Grataloup's art has summoned the live forces of colour and of nature. At a time when modern art had begun to yield to contemporary art-an easy, sometimes accommodating prey for business methods that are happy to reduce it to a branch of the entertainment industry- Grataloup raised the tone of the debate by creating forms that could plausibly act as props for living and for dreaming. 

The course thus carved out by Grataloup goes against the grain, disturbing many of the norms set up by the legitimating authorities for contemporary art to comply with. Those authorities indefatigably narrow the field of conemporary art down to an academicist respect for know-how that pledges its allegiance to the technologies of exchange and communciation, in complianc ewith the all-powerful catechism of merchandisation. At the same time, the religion of art for art prospers with its chapels, its cathedrals, its high masses and its petty casuistic accommodations that so delight its clergy, whose power to judge is rivalled only by its power to manage and strengthen its own prerogatives. 

Far from the stale hallways of his confined artworld, Grataloup stands out in the open, braving the elements and the harsh pleasures of staying upright with his feet solidly on the ground and his head in the stars, in defiance of the downward levelling movement and its idle flatness, which becomes fatal once it succumbs to the black hole of the all-powerful present.

The sacred time when animals conversed with all that animates the earth is never forgotten by Grataloup. The metamorphoses in his paintings are played off against the memory of a primitive union between words and things, establishing a locus that combines a form of representation devoid of history with a music of silence that can stand up to the world's excess of reality. Yet, Grataloup must also be in possession of some kind of high-precision tuning fork and measuring device, without which he could not have met the impossible challenge presented by the sound and fury of the world.

He has succeeded in occupying a point that is halfway between the void and the echo, between two kinds of reality : the reality of the painting and that of the world which is "its own cause" and which ceaselessly repeats the question "Why is there something rather than nothing" ?

Grataloup has situated himself at equal distances from tow forms of prejudice : that of the conventional theme (still life or landscape) and that of the grammatical analysis by a painting of its constituents. No dissection theatre here, as we said ; instead, a territory defined by the pradoxical scarring on the painting's surface of an artistic code whose mould is deliberately taken in situ from the mountainside, from praires and from waving cornfields. Just what it takes to switch on the colour on the painting's surface.

The domain that Grataloup incarnates and reveals to us has little to do with the conventions of landscape painting : it dismisses mimetic naturalism without conforming with abstraction. However, abstraction has no trouble re-emerging in his work when it is required as a mater of internal necessity. So much so that this artist knows his Kandinsky by heart : "Colour is the key ; the eye is the hammer than strikes it ; the soul, an instrument with a thousand strings. As for the artist, he is the and which, with the help of a given key, obtains the right vibration in the soul.

 "In his 1993 monograph on Grataloup, Jean-Louis Ferrier is right ot situate the artist with respect to a line, traced in concerning the Spiritual in art, which goes from Goethe's theory of colour to Rudolf Steiner's theosophy. There is present here a "spiritual turn" that is too often neglected by the "progressive" Vulgate in favour of the formalistic, rectilinear traits of an aspeticized art, smooth as the décor of a deserted theatre from which all ambiguity and doubt, all the flesh and impetus that underlie appearance in art and give depth to visual creations, have been expelled.

The singular place that Grataloup has carved out for himself on the allegedly "open" scene of contemporary art stems from his sovereign ability to resolve the most intractable conflicts. To the conflicting winds that blow in the vicinity of other artists of his generation -Pierre Buraglio, Joel Kermarrec, Jacques Poli, François Rouan or Claude Viallar, with whom he has rubbed shoulders since his apprenticeship in the atelier Chastel at Beaux-Arts in Paris- Grataloup opposes the kind of tranquility found at the eye of a cyclone. From that vantage point, he is in the process of constructing an astonishing pictorial edifice.

Because of his ability to hail the renewals of figuration and of abstraction as the most relevant contributions of hard-nosed materialistec experimentation in art, and as a conceptual thinning-down of that tradition, the painter's extensive workshop has bugun to look like a caravanserai on tis way up an impossibly demanding route. The visual effectiveness of Pop Art, the extraordinary intake of air that comes xith Land Art and Earth Art, the host of achievements due to Action painting, Colour Field, All-over painting or Minimal art, are all present in Grataloup's workshop.

There is there, however, none of the disparity of a Spanish inn : the only such establishment that Grataloup recognizes is the prestigious Casa Velasquez, where he made friends with Millares, Serrano and Villabla in the mid-sixties. 

The workshop at once strikes one as the laboratory of an alchemist's great plan, one that picks up where Rimbaud's rebellious utopia in "Alchimie du Verbe" left off. His early workshop was a cramped place, granted in 1967 by the Cité des ARts, where he could share his fervour with Serge Gainsbourg, Robert Malaval and Vladimir Vélickovic. It was a kinf of devil's cauldron in which the precious magic potions for the prospective creations were concocted. The Rome period was decisive. A central part of the Grand Tour, it provided an unprecedented spectacle of fusion : from classical antiquity to Bernini and on to Fellini, where the decorative becomes a device in the service of the total work of art, majestic and desperate, as such invigorating Baroque storms always are, turning death itself into a mere metaphore, and the sea into the Navevas's plastic sheeting". 

On returning to Paris, Grataloup moved to a bigger workshop in the vincinity of the Observatory, under the shadow of the dome of the Val de Grâce-a programmatic map in which the cosmos brought together one of the classical period's most accomplished orchestras of mystical expresssion. Grataloup's associations multiplied and were punctuated by exceptional encounters, such as the meetings with Francis Bacon and Michel Leiris. His workshop became a locus for the knowledge accumulated under the auspices of the good fortune that smiles on life's chosen people. 

Today, at Chevreuse near Port Royal logic was forged, Grataloup's symbolic, functional, warmly convivial residence, designed and constructed with the architect Denis Sloan, is a brilliant expression of the kind of coherence that a process of constant revisions and improvement can achieve. Rainbows and aurora borealis meet naturally here, as do the extravagant interlacings of a lifetime of frienshisps, in which so many initiatory journeys intersected, allying method with desire, oneness with profusion. 

The work as well as the place itself, here and now, testify to the richness and generosity of the pictorial phenomenon created by Grataloup, who is a Promethean and Apollonian catalyst for such diverse experiences. His painting is like a fire that burns and consumes the wildest and most secret energies, once again enchanting our perception of the world. His pictorial landscape is diametrically opposed to those that result from the tactical allegiances and ephemeral effects of  fashion. It incites us tirelessly to set out in all directions at once, producting magnificient, supernaturel effects through its familiarity with immanence and transcendence. The viewer is subjugated by this aesthetic achievement, byt the ways it incarnates a sharp awareness of the unknown and creates a vision of searing passageways that span across great distances, towards what is boudnless in thought.

Sunlight and night suffuse this work. The eclipse of the sun, which crossed France at noon in the summer of 1999, is also present. Mountains, deserts and oceans, the inventions of boudnless space, are omnipresent. So are the enigmas of minerals, of plants and of those meteorological marvels that confirm the thoughts of Bachelard : "Forms reach a state of completness. Materials never do. Matter is the schema of indefinite dreams".

There are explicit autobiographical references : the fatal fall into a crevice of the Bosons Glacier in 1998 ; a recent reference to healing at the grotto of Massabielle  where pilgrims follow in the tracks of Bernadette, who drank muddy water and ate bitter grass there, wild watercress since driven away by the crowds of pilgrims. 

There is also proud and daring tributes to the masters, in a future perfect mode that seals the act of painting and its prospective melancholy : the impressionists'shattering irruption  onto the scene with fragments from the sun's discontinuity : Caspar David Friedrich, mounted on the promontory of dreams, reconciling unbridled romanticisim with the most sagacious symbolism. There is a tribute to Leonardo : his paradise of vegetal decoration, designed for the Sala delle Asse at the Sforza Castle in Milan, is found among the skyscrapers of La Defense in Paris vie centuries later, in 1989, whre it decorates a 30-metre-hig ventilation shaft with the intertwining foliage of three trees. 

Much of the disturbance and fascination generated by Grataloup's work comes from the kind of candour displayed in this work : without using any chiaroscuro or visual depth, he simply inserts a rod of silver, gilded or painted metal, like a precious vector that has all the clarity of a ray of sunshine diffracted by imaginary stained glass. The rod is a charged sign of the struggle made manifest by the tower of La Défense, that gigantic anti-sculpture swept by the three primary colours, the painter's raw materials : red, yellow and blue. Those colours form the base and the summit of the struggle led for the last thirty years by this forgotten soldier of a war allegedly over since 1969, when, in Bern, Harald Szeemann turned the page and refused to exhibit but simply deposited-beacause the time had come "When attitudes become form". Yet, if, institutionally, painting had become a closed case, today that defintion of painting is being challenged by events. The minor revolutions and epic annual reports of art continually pushed painting to the background for more than thirty years, but today, this disrepute is beginning to fade on all sides. Before the acceleration of means of communication, production and promotion, at a time when the territory of art is in full expansion, the need is being felt to re-establish ties with the temporality inherent to painting, with its impertinent way of being out of line with time. 

Against the generalized zapping, painting's freezing of the frame seems more indispensable than ever ; indeed, it has become urgent. At a time described by Habermas as being "crazed with massacres and stunned by inventions", the factulty that painting possesses for inhabiting space and time is beginning to revive.

Grataloup's painting, like the "comfortable armchair" that Henri Matisse liked to offer his viewers, is the surest way to undo the confinement of consciousness by money, the merchandisation of the body, the fact that violence and exclusion have become unremarkable events, the generalization of pornography and voyeurism by the media. There is a correspondance between the masterful way in which this artist's work copes with tumult and the stubborn way in which ravages are sustained by Afghanistan, where the ancient route of lapis lazuli for the Mary's cape used to pass, extending to the Far East along the Silk Route of that same cape's silk. In one of those mysteries by which the world's culture finds its foundation in an extraordinary fusion of time and space, the alliance of Scythian, Indian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese art joined to the quintessence of Hellenistic art brought tot those regions by Alexander, conferred a face, a body and a smile on the Buddha.

Grataloup's art gathers together and crystallizes disparate nuggets and framents in defiance of all accepted hierarchies (I remember the artist's pleasure in recalling the evenings he spent in the company of an American recruit calle Elvis Presley during his military service in Berlin), constitues a salutary focus of energy where pleasure never ceases to be a deepening of thought. Impressionism inaugurated an area of ruptures, throwing the subject and object of painting into question with its chaos of brush-strokes and with the emergence of the reserve technique. This opened an incurable wound in the continuum of the canvas but also in the history of art, where a dizzying correspondance was established between the painted and the non-painted, comparable to that which exists between the said and the unsaid in oral poetics. 

With the help of post-modernity, this era is being followed by one in which art is reconciled with itself ; and Grataloup's painting gives us the measure of this era. His work gives vision a vantage point, like those "great speechless landscapes that will spread far and wide" and which, nonetheless, speak of what is to come, conjugating freedom of space with a premonition of temporal destiny. They take the eye from what Julien Gracq has called the "inertia of the landscape mineralized by noon" to those oracular transprencies of morning and evening, when the time has come to set up one's tent, and the contemplation of a vast expanse sharpens that blessed gift of clairvoyance designating the recovered eternity of an Orient suddenly so close that, under our very eyes, it converses with the infinite".

Jean-Louis Pradel


1998 - Michel Tournier (from Goncourt Académie) (writer)

Grataloup' Secret : The Antimatter

( Extracted foreword - Monograph 1998 - Publishing(Editions) Ramsay)

" It is the word material which occurs at first when we go through Guy - Rachel Grataloup's work. Which material ? All kinds of materials, wood, stone, metal, but also hair, the grass and light of course. He could not be question for him to transport a shape into diverse materials, as certain works can be so conceived, in marble, ebony or in photography. The works of Grataloup are absolutely “intransposable, " intranssubstantielle " to speak like the theologians.

Yet nobody is further away than him from the "materialism" of a Dubuffet, Fautrier, Tapies or Burri who fetishize the homogeneous substance in which they knead their works. Certainly matter is there, but it is possessed, mastered, denied in a certain sense.

What is matter? It is a homogenous space full and therefore substantially unintelligible. An empty space calls for geometric or living forms on which the mind can be exercised. Filled with a dough each part of which is interchangeable with all others, it discourages any constructive action.

This means that Grataloup's material hides a secret. First, he sows small keys lost in her like needles in a haystack. It is thus Icarus fallen into the wheat, hunters almost invisible in the middle of the healers, a little green man in a volcanic landscape, the original human couple drowned in the clear paradise, an acrobat plunging naked in glaucous thicknesses. These imponderable creatures are so many worms in the fruit of substance. They warn us that there is an eel under rock.

Soon figures of another size take possession of the field. A golden ladder stands on a copper background, Sebastian draws his bow, the tent of the prophet carved in a sacred parchment stands in the desert, a ghost-stained thinker attends the awakening of the mineral.

… The lesson is obvious: matter is vanquished. Better: there is no matter, there is only an infinitely thin fabric of forms. Yet we remain far from abstraction, it would rather concretion that we should speak. Because this chromatic thickness, what is it? It is the subtle worm of a large tree, the inexhaustible vegetable wealth of a turf, the iridescent shades of a rainbow, the plumage of an invisible peacock, the granulation of a thundered mineral.

Grataloup is beyond form and matter. He draws his work from anti-matter.

Michel Tournier from Goncourt Academy - March 4th 1998


1998 - Jean-Philippe Domecq (novelist and essayist)

The Miles Fusions of Grataloup

We certainly discern signs and marked in the universe of this painter; his titles are often made the echo which suggest some occult fable, primed for whom knows. Its whole work could certainly have for sign of entry this entitled picture “the Tree to messages”. But this picture itself by its composition and its chromatic game is auto-ironic enough so that we feel invited to take literally none of the signs and the symbols which weaved the painter, even when he likes their intimate meaning, universally intimate.

Then, I prefer to redo the road of this world by holding me in what is said to me about it by the strict means of the painting : I prefer that my words re-made the road of a language
without words which so carries us beyond what we try to say about it.

I begin with the picture entitled In reality everything is grey. What already makes a second picture a second sign, so to say, on this territory the measurement of which I undertake. Left, the journey! It is the light allied to the material …

" In reality everything is grey " … Let us go, Grataloup, Grataloup in the name of amused fable, let us go … You know well that not, you know well that yes, you know well that, yes, the reality is grey as long as the artist did not give us forms to distinguish it - to distinguish it, to discern it in its components of light only the refraction of which takes out of the grey the various states, the brightness of the material and then, these shape once data to our eye to see finally what we have under eyes but what or we would not see, then " in reality everything " is not "grey" any more of the whole. And thus, yes Grataloup, this title also made roguish echo in the picture. Picture which, as an umbrella seen of down, opens the sky map at which aims the shooter at the bow face of the painter in the arrowed eye. The eye of the painter arrows well and truly our glance and so reveals us what, without the dotted line of its glance- feature and without the veins of his displayed colors, we would not see within what we got used to naming, of a strangely imaginary singular, " the reality ". And it is good because it is necessary, to see, to raise the veil of the common illusion, because the veins of his colors leave to six cardinal points; six, and not four, in this particular world where my journey began. And why does private individual why need that the painting offers us a particular world? Exactly louse to see all the realities which there is in "the " reality.

And what shows us this painter, if we consider at it good? What does he show us, from period to other one of this work which, since the time deploys the leaflet of its map on the main territories and the events which can arrive at an eye in a human life?

Jean-Philippe Domecq


1989 - Claude Bouyeure (art historian and art critic)

GRATALOUP "AUTOUR DE LA TERRE ERRANTE..."

"O lointain rêve de jeunesse / là-bas giît ma terre natale /

Le vieux château n'est plus que cendres / tous les arbres sont abattus /

Terrible comme la tempête / fonce sur nous l'armée sauvage

Hélas - ce paradis n'est plus !"

Novalis (Henrich von Ofterdingen)

"Mais puisque tout se laissera nommer lumière et nuit, ces deux noms répondant aux portées respectives qui en situent, ici ou ailleurs, les domaines, tout est plein à la fois de lumière et de nuit sans lumière, l'une et l'autre à égalité, si rien à aucune des deux ne prend isolément la part".

Parmenide (Le Poème)

Avatars de la lumière I

La ligne droite est l'ennemie. Elle enserre ce qui se veut sans limite. Grataloup la corrompt. Réduit les certitudes de l'horizon. L'expose à la poussée de la lumière et de la couleur. L'emmène, ainsi, à s'ouvrir sur les jeux clandestins de la nuit et du clair-obscur.

Ce n'est pas assez. Confronté aux immatérielles inscriptions du fond le contour abdique de sa rigueur. Les amarres se brisent. la figure se met à flotter, à bouger entre la toile et le regard. La volatilisation souhaitée du paysage s'accomplit par une sorte de vibration qui meut toute la surface. Cette agitation ne sort pas de l'immanence. L'un des modes favoris de Grataloup est le tourbillon, le labyrinthe, l'entrelac de traits et de retraits.

La fugivité et la plénitude, le brisement et l'étendue. La vérité que Grataloup nous fait voir, sans ménagement, n'est pas facile à admettre : rupture et harmonie sont, ici, solidaires. Le regard est entraîné par les fragments d'un monde -des îles- qui échappe avec une rapidité qui empêche de le saisir. Un monde qui ne se laisse ni capter, ni fixer. Une force est au-delà qui entraîne un déchaînement mystérieux. On pense à l'attirance fatale, magique de l'enfer égyptien tel qu'il est représenté sur un papyrus du musée de Turin. La figure plonge vers l'abîme, envoûtée par son sort. Mais à l'instant où l'on pense qu'elle va disparaître, quelque chose rayonne, éclate, est sauvé. On voudrait se dire que c'et pour toujours. Que la figure échappe à l'attraction fatale. Que désormais elle gravite loin de la perdition. Mais elle ne nous permet pas de nous complaire en cette clarté d'espoir. Sa circulation la ramène toujours sur les bords du gouffre. Mais jamais elle ne plonge. Comme le fruit entraîne la branche vers le sol mais sans la briser.

Avatars de la lumière III

Lumières brèves. Sang inépuisable. Tels sont les pôles de cette peinture. Peinture aruspice.

Pour pénétrer dans l'univers de ce peintre, il faut savoir qu'il utilise une matrice : le dessin d'un champ de blé ou d'orge. Il découpe, entaille, les contours des plantes esquissées. Ensuite, à l'aide d'un pastel, frotte la surface d'une toile appliquée sur le dessin-matrice.

L'opération donne naissance à des motifs singuliers et aléatoires, à des proliférations végétales, à un lacis de tiges, de racines, à tout un herbier de formes non arrêtées. En décalant, en multipliant l'inscription de ces figures, Grataloup tisse des trames chromatiques indicielles, des réseaux et des surimpressions de transparences qui obligent l'oeil, de plan en plan, à traverser la surface comme si la toile au lieu d'être une surface plane, était un obstacle tridimensionnel. Des passages de peinture dense, vive, appliquée avec générosité à grands ou petits coups de pinceau, créent des effets de résistance, de contraste avec la délicatesse des réseaux de fond. Ils renforcent l'impression de profondeur. Sont comme un rideau soulevé sur la circulation de la lumière et les mouvements chromatiques. Toutefois le pullulement herbeux ou les labyrinthes tracés avec le pastel attaquent cette peinture, l'absorbent. Un festin, une voration où le transitif l'emporte sur la certitude.

Par chacune de ses toiles, Grataloup témoigne de sa conviction que la peinture n'est supportable que lorsqu'elle s'abolit dans son rayonnement. Que ce qui sauve la surface couverte de pigments, c'est la profondeur découverte par le même acte. De la sorte, il choisit la voie la plus difficile. Dans le système pictural élaboré par la Renaissance, au visible se substituait progressivement l'imaginaire, comme sur une scène de théâtre le décor réel est prolongé par des fausses perspectives. Las de tant de leurres, l'art moderne a renoncé à cette formule se privant, du même coup, des avantages conférés par son ambiguïté. Plus rien, à présent ne masque ou n'atténue l'abrupte dualité de la matière et de l'esprit. Aussi la peinture, craignant de succomber au déchirement, s'ampute volontiers de l'un ou l'autre de ces termes et choisit de n'être plus qu'un symbole transparent ou une tache opaque.

Mise au tombeau

Devenue simple, elle accède aisément la réussite. Mais cette simplicité, cette réussite nous gênent parce que l'homme n'est pas simple et qu'il attend de l'art qu'il se montre fidèle à cette dualité. Et qu'il la résolve s'il le peut.

Je crois que Grataloup vit cette fidélité, lui qui cite volontier Swedenborg ou Novalis. Par là, il se rattache au dessein de médiation entre le corps et l'esprit qui définit la grande tradition. Et cela est d'autant plus singulier que la route tracée entre eux par la Renaissance est coupée.

La menace de l'écartèlement pèse, de près ou de loin sur toutes les toiles. Elles sont tendues à se rompre. Et parfois elles se rompent. L'harmonie qui naît alors au fond de leur débacle est plus grave encore. Le tableau commence paysage et finit aveu.

Claude Bouyeure - Eté 1989 - Texte préface du catalogue d'exposition - Galerie Bellecour - 14 octobre - 28 novembre 1989


1990 - Philippe Carteron

From emptiness is born the universe, from the gap springs the essential, from the rift rises life.

Grataloup creates from canvas to canvas spaces where worlds are mingling and answering eachother. The codification in the textures and colours weaves around the spectator a fine ramification between sensibility and sprirituality. The artist shows us by use of symboles (and not of symbolism) that our environment is only made of fibres, of materials and textures. Textures where arise sometimes the ultimate initiations making the contour of man spring out before our eyes. 

Between the "Falls of Icarus", the "Bories", the "Archer", Grataloup proves that everything is made of sensuality. The landscapes (with which he made an originial mould from which he creates other canvases), the self-protraits (serie whose generice title may disconcert at first sight) are used  to denounce our, or perphaps his own paradoxes. 

But here, the artist is not egotistic, he only leads us on shortcuts of initiation and revelation. Grataloup clearly maintains that he can now face the sky. Recently, during a climb in the mountains, he fell into a rift. He only had walls of snow as horizon and the blue of the sky. The artist bacame a sort of Icarus. The master met by chance this model. The gap had snatched him to the universe of the human beeings. 

But before arriving at this heavenly vis-a-vis, the artist had to suffer great hardhips. 

A childhood hidden in the lyonnais sewerage system to escape the German raids. He made his nest with obscurity and darkness of which he had to stand the whole weight. "Carrier of a burdent of which I wanted to get rid at a certain time and that nevertheless has improved and still improves my painting". "It's alvaws the night on men", he says at last by way of aphorism. 

He was also the young man lost in ideologies and questioning made him doubt painting in particular and art in general. 

Awareness, growth crisis, Grataloup comes back to this warm and lively texture which forms his work. The canvases of today are much more violent, the drawing more scathing. Long tracks split and tearup the picturial space. Long effect of texture coming out of a colour tube govern the support : angles, infinite straight lines but also curves and interlaces. Flows of colours suddenly appera and spread out. 

The painter has poured onto the canvas itself pots of colours that he will slowly and calmy work. The composition of each of these does not rely on innocence and on the hasty gesture of the creator but plays around precise constructions, amassing of plans and reliefs without rjecting a certain gesture. The colours themselves do not spread out without meaning. All that turns out to be well thought. The light and th shadow call out and sometimes penetrate each other. The yellows, blues, reds answer the greys and the blacks. 

The gold, the alchemy is not far "intervenes like a mysteious texture". It is a little out of the painter's palette. "It is the incommunicability and the divine mystery" (extract from the interview with Christian Jaccard and Claude Viallat for the exhibition in winter 1987 in Gallery Lavignes-Bastille - Paris).

Grataloup has not achieved his ends. Canvas after canvas, he guides us, step by step, to the discovery of the sovereign mysterey of which he would like to know at last the limits, the frontiers, the barriers. The artiste wants to show that thte unattainable can be reached.

Philippe Carteron


1987 - Jean-Louis Ferrier (Art critic)

Grataloup, light replete

The island, the tree and the stone hut. The island central and prominent which one reaches at the close of a sea of air voyage ; the tree, ancestral, vertical symbol which soars towards the sky, vision of life in perpetual growth ; the bories, mans'first home, inverse dry-stone, island... it seems to me that around these three archetypes culminate Grataloup's present work.

Borie Archetype 2 - 1986/1987

Archetypes, or forms which appear to evolve from the subconscious, which prevail when understanding the laws of logic, but which function in a more complexed manner, by flights of images, shown by C.G. Jung and in the same strain here, by flights of colour.

There are those artists who will, without restraint, daub, mark, scratch and paste and freely sign. Grataloup is not of these : his works are inspired from afar. From Goethe for whom "colour is the expression and pain of light", from Runge and his sphere of colour, from Shopenhauer, from Novalis... And from their core, some kind of rainbow or psychic aurora borealis of which the red is blood and fire, the green water and lightening, the purple death and sublimation ; in the antipodes of Newton's spectoral analysis which only appeals to the retinal receptor.

The Painter's Eye - 1989

Nevertheless, his painting is not less physical than metaphysical, thereby "alchemique", insomuch as like the alchemist and sage, by constant and repeated handling of matter, he attains a higher spiritual plain. For, in contrast to expressionism which arbitrarily displays tonality, Grataloup is a rigorous colourist directely in line with traditional and modern french painting.

"When I use a green, it doesn't mean grass, when I use a blue, it doesn't mean the sky" wrote Matisse.This can be construed in two ways : -That the modern artist has thereafter earned the right to transgress a given image as so he desires ; and in a more profound sense, that is not essential to see in a work where the sky is blue and the grass green, neither a sky or grass, but areas of colour.

Three Trees - Three Colours - 1989

Thus, of course, on sees Grataloup's work with a difference, which he himself views as a combination of both a visual experience and an intellectual enrichment.

In his islands, his trees and"bories" what appeals to me is the true style of painting. I would like to point out that these archetypes, rather than existing as purely phylosophical or literary, embody a pictorial tangibility which can be seen inany of his canvassess, perhaps above all in those that paraphrase Goethe, and by inversion one can say "light is the expression and joy of colour".

Rainbow Island I - 1988

Grataloup, light replete. Yes, from the eminent isle to the axial tree - the dry stone huts with their shadows mouths is decidely the omega of this exibition.

Text of the exhibition catalogue - Lavignes-Bastille Galery - July 1989

Translated from French into English by Frances Crabbe


1986 Interview with Grataloup Viallat & Jaccard

On dit souvent que la peinture est un paradis

Propos entre Grataloup, Jaccard et Viallat recueillis par Marianne Raabe en novembre 1986

Viallat : Tu prépares à la Galerie Lavignes-Bastille une exposition de tes travaux qui couvrent une dizaine d'années : peux-tu préciser, d'une manière relativemnet simple, ton parcours ?

Grataloup : Ma peinture n’a pas changé dans le sens de la pratique puisque je travaille puisque je travaille toujours à partir d’une matrice, c’est-à-dire un dessin découpé dans une toile, ensuite frotté et marouflé. A l’époque mes toiles ne comportaient que des paysages. Je travaillais la toile proprement dite, j’étudiais les monochromes ; en fait ma préoccupation était le paysage monochromatique. Puis, il y a cinq ans environ, la figure est intervenue. La figure et les plans. Une chose est certaine, ma pratique aboutit à la multiplicité des possibilités. Si le personnage intervient, c’est franchement et systématiquement comme un élément collé sur… ce qui permet son interchangeabilité par rapport à un espace/fond, un fond/espace. Je découpe, je colle par-dessus et je recolle encore par-dessus. Les possibilités sont illimitées.

Viallat : La reproductivité de la figure a donc été une nécessité pour toi ?

Grataloup : Mes paysages avaient besoin d’être cernés à l’intérieur d’une idée. Avant comme motif de départ la figuration ornementale ils pouvaient très vite dévier  et devenir décoratifs ou purement chromatiques. Il fallait récupérer l’expression de ces trois modes. Ils sont apparus avec une problématique qui reste, en définitive, toujours la même et qui celle de l’espace, mais au lieu d’être un espace chromatique pur –monochromatique-, c’est une transposition plastique, formelle, d’un espace réel qui a eu besoin d’une figure pour vivre.

Viallat : En rapport au foisonnement végétal des toiles de 76, tes personnages arrivent maintenant à donner une échelle. En fait, les thèmes ont abouti à la mise en espace de ta peinture.

Grataloup : Ma thématique est assez évolutive : elle a commencé par des couples inspirés du mode ornemental oriental. Absolument anonyme, ils étaient reportés plusieurs fois sur différentes toiles avec un rideau végétal, situant des espaces par des découpes sombres ou claires –en fait, une échelle de valeurs chromatiques- ensuite, ils sont devenus érotiques – je dirais même très vite érotiques – parce que c’était la représentation d’un couple nu dans un paysage idyllique. Ainsi, il était là, dans un monde peu compréhensible, mais avec sa vitalité triomphante. Dans d’autres toiles, la chute d’un personnage est devenue celle d’Icare ; c’était bien la chute de l’esprit dans la matière, un peu comme un paradis terrestre perdu, parce que la matière serait intervenue.

Jaccard : On dit souvent que la peinture est un paradis, surtout au XXème siècle, dans la mesure où tout est possible, mais dès que des choix sont à faire, cela devient un enfer. Or, dans ta peinture, cette notion est totalement évacuée.

Grataloup : Oui, vérité et beauté expriment le pathétisme de l’homme qui court en tous sens et qui essaie quand même de trouver quelque chose de possible, une lumière, malgré l’impossibilité des situations. Ne pensons-nous pas ainsi trouver une reconnaissance de nous-mêmes par la peinture ?

Viallat : Cette notion de lumière, dans tes récents travaux, est figurée par des rayons qui traversent la toile. D’autre part, certains sont bordés d’or et tes échelles, elles-aussi, sont dorées à la feuille. Pourquoi cette intervention de l’or et de la lumière ?

Grataloup : L’or intervient comme une matière mystérieuse. Il est un peu hors de la palette du peintre. C’est l’incommunicabilité et le mystère divin. Lorsque je représente une échelle dorée, c’est une possibilité de passer d’un monde à un autre ; quant au rayon lumineux, dans sa simplicité et sa complexité, c’est l’idée de la lumière matérielle.

Jaccard : Grataloup, nous n’avons pas évoqué ce qui constitue principalement ta peinture : cette pratique du frottage, sorte de manipulation de la toile qui sert de véhicule aux dessins labyrinthiques.

Viallat : Et qui est à la fois constante et dualité.

Grataloup : Il y a effectivement une dualité et parallèlement rien n’était possible sans cette pratique systématique du dessin lacéré, de la matrice et du frottage. Rien n’est et ne sera possible sans cet espace préalable issu de ma pratique. Je prends un morceau dans une focalisation spatiale générale, un vécu optique. Cela peut-être un champ, c’est un peu comme la mer, c’est loin, c’est grand, c’est immense ; on peut le morceler.

Viallat : C’est la création du monde.

Grataloup : Oui, c’est un morceau du monde, que je peux, grâce à la pratique du frottage multiplier comme je le désire. Je fais des toiles immenses et de petites toiles. Je prends les morceaux des morceaux et je les multiplie. J’ai fait de grandes toiles sur l’Eveil du minéral où il y avait cinq ou six fois le même morceau présenté avec des chevrons qui, optiquement, empêchaient une répétition trop évidente. Ces séries sont illimitées, elles peuvent durer éternellement… Ce qui peut changer, ce sont les éléments formels qui interviennent par-dessus.

Viallat : Parle-nous aussi du penseur

Grataloup : Le penseur, cette espèce de philosophe maculé de matière devant un éveil du minéral ? C’est notre image, notre autoportrait. De toute façon, nous ne faisons que des autoportraits.

Jaccard : Ce qui retient mon attention dans tes récentes toiles, ce sont les modalités matérielles que tu mets en œuvre et qui uniformisent ton travail. Je veux parler de cette pratique du frottage qui est forcément liée –métaphysiquement- au couple triomphant et également à la chute d’Icare.

Grataloup : Depuis très longtemps, on a voulu séparer, systématiser les genres. Or, à mon avis, tout est dans tout. Celui qui part d’une idée métaphysique n’arrivera à rien. Pour moi, le plasticien réel est celui qui part systématiquement d’une pratique. Il amène sa dimension, comme celle que je retrouve chez Claude Viallat et Christian Jaccard.

Viallat : Tu devrais remplacer le terme de plasticien par celui de peintre.

Grataloup : D’accord. Alors nous sommes tous des peintres.


1978 Michael Peppiatt

Michael Peppiatt - Paris 1978

On Grataloup exhibition 

Herodiade Gallery - Saint-Etienne

Rachel-Guy Grataloup, who had a show recently at the Galerie Marquet and will be exhibiting in the Maison de la Culture in La Seyne, near Toulon, this summer, is a linear artist of quite different preoccupations. He works in series that have their starting point in a drawing made « sur le motif », then worked up and transposed on to canvas. All the lines on this first canvas are then incised, so that the original drawing can be reproduced, in different colours and with numerous variations on to other canvases by rubbing the « matrix » with pastel. The variations are closely thought out, interlocking conceptually as well as visually. A particular feature of landscape might me taken through different seasons, for instance, at different times of the day, and so conceived that one version represents the tonal « negative » of another.

By means of this process of transformation, Grataloup attempts to convey his belief in the universality of each aspect of nature. A tree may come to look like the sun, a symbol of all energy, all growth, reaching out ; and at the same time one may be aware of inevitable dualities : an explosion of matter held immobile, a radiance that consumes, a fragility in flower on the constant rise of strenght. The artist says that one such theme would give him enough to work on for a lifetime. Since he can find all existence in the fragmentation of basalt, in the glossy surge of the sea and the sand’s sculptured skin, one realizes that for him, ideally, all themes are in any case one theme.