And what about the sea? The unpredictable sea that we wistfully mistake for calm when it is really very, very unrelenting. The sea whose rhythmic surface belies an entire unseen world, an overwhelming number of dangerous contingencies. We will never find order in the sea, only in our depiction of its surface, pointed loops that calm our fears of its disorder.
Consider the lazy curve of the young bather’s back in the hum of the midday heat. How it mirrors his own crooked nose, the smoke stacks and those pensive working men who relax in the background. A man and his dog once lounged in the foreground too, but they are gone now. They have been cut out of Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884) by Loïc Raguénès. In having done so, Raguénès has left us to wonder if the man and his dog were ever really there – or ever needed to be there. What happens to the scene’s composition, its mood, its meaning in their absence? With whom does the agency of decision lie? Seurat’s painting, of course, is hardly his own anymore. Raguénès has edited the image via an exhibition poster, reproduced a million times, thus asking the image to continue reverberating through time, mutating – its focus shifting.
Payne’s Grey masquerades at first as black, its dilutions gradually giving way to a brooding bluegrey, like the colour of the Atlantic on a cloudy day. It contains no black in its pigmentation, but is a muddle of ultramarine (or indigo) blue and sienna: vibrancy rendered mute when paired. Most crucially, it is a colour that exists for the background, originally formulated in order to better reproduce the desaturated haze of atmospheric perspective. Like Seurat’s scene, it asks us to focus not only on what is in front of us, but what may be to come, what is just out of reach of the horizon or the edges of a painting.
For his eighth exhibition and fourth solo exhibition at C L E A R I N G, Loïc Raguénès asks us to meditate on these disparate elements as they mell with the seeming simplicity of his paintings in gouache and tempera. They are methodical, rhythmic, and serene. And yet, one suspects a certain entropy about to give way to the moment in which our ease in digesting the work will falter. Raguénès’ practiced geometry and measured colours are decisions that mask slippage into an intriguing, and much murkier world.
This, perhaps is what is contained in a tulip. The product of a bulb, like an onion, whose translucent layers contain as many possibilities as the decision to offer its flower to a person you think you might love.