Life-Affirming Symbolism in the Art of Patrice Goubeau

Written by: Marie R. Pagano

Krysalide - Acrylic on Canvas

A fantastic vision is heightened by the liberal use of chiaroscuro to lend atmospheric drama to the acrylic paintings of Patrice Goubeau, a winner of the coveted Grand Prize award from the Salon des Artistes Francais, at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street , from February 5 through 26. (Reception: Thursday February 7, 6 to 8 PM.)

A native of France , now living and working in Canada , Goubeau employs shadows around the edges of his forms to give human figures, natural objects such as trees, and classical architecture a steely surface sheen that lends them all a similarly unearthly quality. This effect also adds to the abstract attributes of his paintings, even while his subject matter is always clearly delineated and specific. His strongly lit figurative compositions, particularly, suggest a descendant of Caravaggio, albeit with a more contemporary simplicity of form.

Elements of Surrealism also come into play, particularly in canvases such as "The Beautiful Tale," where an ancient ship sails through the portal of a magnificent baroque structure like a train emerging from a tunnel, as well as in "The Silence," where the piece de resistance is sinuous wisps of white smoke, curling like phantom serpents around the openings of the colonnade in a classical rotunda. In "The Ruins," Goubeau evokes a surreal landscape where stylized popular trees appear as sharp as a knife blade, while "Eternity" sets fragmented figures adrift in a dark, lonely cosmic expanse.

"Because all the persons I am very close to died ­­my uncle died in front of me, my best friend died in a car crash when I was 15, two of my friends I used to discuss art with died too and my father also died in my arms ­­I decided to fight for life against all these deaths around me," Goubeau says in an artist statement issued in conjunction with his exhibition. "As long as I remember, this battle always existed in my mind: it awakens all my feelings and a profound consciousness that present is already past, when something dramatic happens. In my art, I try to fight against sadness and fate."

This mystical struggle is apparent in the haunting quality of his compositions, which convey a noble effort to preserve the past in the present, not only by couching visions of antiquity in a vital contemporary style, but by rendering passing moments immutable. In Goubeau's painting "The Star," for example, a graceful female nude with a purplish cast to her skin appears beset by outer forces that take the form of golden abstract swirls. Although this image was most probably created with mythic rather than literal intent, one cannot help relating it to the recent news reports of youthful celebrities such as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan succumbing to the perils of fame and the damaging effects of impersonal mass adulation on the private human soul.

Indeed, it is precisely his visionary ability to create images which are timeless yet cast light on current events that makes Patrice Goubeau a compelling and ultimately important painter.

Image Credits: Krysalide - Acrylic on Canvas 36" x 36"

Read More Artist Reviews