Gesture is Wedded to Emotion in Pierre Leclerc’s

Champs-Élysées, Paintings 48 x 48

Two gestural strains have long been present in French modernist art: automatic drawing, often influenced by Asian calligraphy as in the work of André Masson and Henri Michaux, and Tachisme, the European answer to Abstract Expressionists, also known as Art Informal. Both tendencies apparently assert themselves in the paintings of the contemporary artist Pierre Leclerc.
    Born in Montreal, Canada and of French extraction, Leclerc, an intuitive painter, states, “The abstract pieces that I create are an emotionally charged explosion of my inner sensitivity and empathy. I believe that sadness affects us more profoundly than happiness, and it forces us to look deeper into ourselves. I’ve been painting for 20 years and the medium of acrylic on canvas allows me to reflect on grief, human sorrow, calamity, nature, money and power –– through a kaleidoscope of colours, and without constraints. Catastrophic events and natural disasters, including the tragedy of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, evoked powerful emotions within me, and paintings became a cathartic exercise.”
    A lover of nature and animal life, the artist’s concern for our environment comes across clearly in his large canvas “Ecosystem,” in which swift vertical strokes of alizarin crimson intersected by skeins and splashes of white and green project both the energy and vulnerability of nature.
    Although he is a self-taught artist, certainly his training as an architect must inform the sense of internal order in even a composition as ostensibly spontaneous as this.
    In “Champs Éllysées,”  a much more worked up surface in a palette of deep blue, yellow, and red hues suggests a nocturnal view of one of the brightest boulevards in the “City of Light.” The composition’s vibrant color contrasts are as dramatic as those in the Italian-born U.S. Futurist painter Joseph Stella’s great canvas “Brooklyn Bridge.” Although Leclerc’s paint surface is thicker, his brushstrokes are more expressively animated in the manner of “action painting.” Technique aside, however, the inherent irony here is that, while the lights on this fabled Parisian thoroughfare are so bright as to blot out the stars, its name derives from the “Elysian Fields,” a pastoral paradise where, according to Geek mythology, happy souls dwelt after death for all eternity. 
    Yet another, even larger acrylic on canvas on a nocturnal theme by Leclerc, “Magic Night,” suggests a magnificent fireworks display, with rhythmically looping skeins, splashes, spatters of liquidly diluted white pigment transposed over a fiery orange mass set against a deep blue sky.
    Although, in common with the majority of Leclerc’s compositions, “Magic Night” is painted in acrylic on canvas, “Tsunami” obviously called out for the viscous texture of oil paint, with its fiercely forceful white frosted impasto (apparently trowled on with a palette knife) rushing over the dark shore, as in an aerial view of a tragedy in the making. The very fury of his knife-strokes appears to demonstrate the artist’s emotional response to the natural catastrophe.   
    Another work in oil, “Einstein,” although most likely created via an extemporaneous impulse, is unmistakably a portrait. Was it “discovered” by the artist in the manner of a Rorschach test, when he laid down a flurry of thick white strokes that called to mind the great scientist’s mane of unruly white hair? Or did Leclerc premeditate it in some more deliberate manner, before putting brush to canvas?
    In truth, it is finally a moot point, given the immediacy and vital life that Pierre Leclerc’s painting exudes.                                                                                                             –– Maurice Taplinger

Pierre Leclerc, Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street,
August 22 - September 11, 2014, Reception:
Thursday August 28, 6-8 pm

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