The exhibition Un voyage de Arnaud Rochard brings together works created at the T.A.M.A.T in Tournai, at the art centre Le Kiosque in Mayenne and at the Casa de Velazquez in Madrid.
Encountering a heritage, the Azulejos
A land of pioneer travellers, Brittany is a geographical and historical entity in its own right. With its advance on the sea, it constituted, when it was independent, a hub of economic exchange between the countries of the East and the West. Like a trade route, it formed its identity with several peoples, from the Celtic Gauls to the Romans and the Spanish.
Born of this heritage, the artist Arnaud Rochard from Guérande brings out this collective memory during his residency at Casa Velasquez, a long and precious time that favours an immersive creation, the discovery of a culture and the surpassing of oneself. The artist experiences it at its peak and traces an obvious continuation in his path that stems from several more or less long stages, made up of journeys and migrations. In the early stages of his arrival in Spain, the artist was resident in Belgium, where he drew on the iconography of Dutch and Flemish engravings. Present as references, they form an encyclopaedia of motifs that nourish the artist’s imagination as an aesthetic source.
But it is through experimentation with various traditional skills, such as the technique of printing wallpaper and the craft practice of ceramics, that the artist’s practice is constantly renewed during his travels. It is, moreover, this work of the earth that will guide him to the discovery of Azuléjos, this ancient art from Andalusia and whose object of creation is the realization of decorated earthenware tiles. A process that combines drawing, engraving and painting in a unification of mediums. This method is reminiscent of the artist’s hybrid practice, which he enhances with greater meaning in new compositions resulting from this analysis.
At the beginning of the research, the contemplation of the environment prefigures. Whether it is the landscape of the Basque Country, a territory of transition from France to Spain, or the architecture with the façade of the Palacio de Velasquez and its frieze fresco in the Retiro in Madrid, the artist scrutinises the smallest detail. Later, in the studio, he would extract a perspective, a colour, a symbol that would make up a painting. In autarky, he will then create the matrices for the printing, make himself the tools of appositions, like stamps or rollers, then make the painting happen. The gesture then becomes repetitive and the painting is exhausted by its mechanics in a ritornello. Then again the journey takes place, with the discovery of Andalusia in Seville and its Alcazar Palace. A decisive encounter with the Arab heritage that leads him to his quest for the Azulejo in its Arab-Muslim tradition, inviting the artist to move away from the figurative to create a new dimension, abstraction. As time goes by, the form takes its place on the background with force. In an almost serial relationship to the development of the image, between the weft, the canvas appears and transposes the textile painting from the horizontal to the vertical, in the same way that a carpet becomes a tapestry. The Azuléjos take part as a motif, they are juxtaposed and in the delimitation of the painting material, a demarcation line appears as a transitional stop. Finally, the choice of colours, carefully controlled by contrast and complementarity, brings out the light.
The artist’s practice is then transformed, summoning the letting go with the outcome of the residence. A phenomenon that reminds us that the true work comes about through transition and overcoming. In his works, Arnaud Rochard reveals the systemic layers of history by transporting us into the meanders of a universal culture at the crossroads of civilizations.
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