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In the Studio with Lucien Gondret
For the past 30 years I have traveled to France on a regular basis as an essential part of my job as an art dealer. There have been times when it felt like I couldn’t board another plane, or that I couldn’t face another night in a hotel room. However, there is one thing that I have never grown tired of – visiting an artist’s studio. Every visit to an artist’s studio is a voyage of discovery.
The artist has added a new perspective to his work, there is a new subject matter he is experimenting with, a new combination of colors that has intrigued him, a new format size or shape has solved an ongoing problem, and I could go on and on. A true artist never stops learning and never stops challenging himself/herself.
A few weeks ago, as I have done 3 or 4 times a year for 30 years, I visited Lucien Gondret in his studio, and as is always the case, Lucien had something new to show me. A few months before he had been in New York, and was excited about a painting that captured his vision of NYC.
When I entered the studio, he was still adding some finishing touches.
This led to a discussion of what he wanted to capture that day, why he had chosen this perspective,
And how a few passerbys had helped him create the dimensional effect that would reflect how he had felt that day.
Then I did what I always do, which is to explore the studio in search of another new theme I hadn’t seen yet. I found it when I saw a series of Paris night scenes Lucien was working on.
One of Lucien’s strengths as an artist has always been his ability to create unique lighting effects. In this painting of the Grand Palais seen from the Pont Alexandre III, there is a magical mixture of light sources: the street lamps, interior light emanating from the building, a reflection of multiple lights on the river, and a suggestion of moonlight.
Finally, a visit to Lucien’s studio wouldn’t be complete without finding a very small painting, a miniature gem. that captured my mood during that day’s visit and reinforced all the reasons why our collaboration has lasted for 30 years now.
This small semi-abstract floral, just seemed to encapsulate the feeling of a warm October day, where two old friends spent an afternoon doing something they both love.
Paintings by Lucien Gondret will be exhibited at The Intercontinental Art Experience, from February 18-26 in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Lucien Gondret was born in Marines, France in 1941. His ability in art was revealed at an extremely early age. He first exhibited his works in a juried show at the age of 16. It was at this exhibit that the famous French writer Jean Cocteau saw the young artist’s work and encouraged him to make art his career. Throughout his development Gondret was heavily influenced by the Fauvists notably Valminck.
For more than 40 years, Gondret has exhibited his works throughout Europe, the United States and Japan. His works have been shown annually at the Salon des Independants and the Salon des Artistes Francais. Gondret has been a member of the prestigious Salon des Artistes since 1977.
Gondret has received many awards and is listed in the prestigious Benezit Catalog.
Hurricane Matthew left a path of destruction in its wake and the Carolinas weren’t spared. The forces of nature are absolute. These forces do not discriminate. Throughout the ages, civilizations are affected regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or social status. It is not possible to tame, stop or direct the force. All that is left is for land and people to endure. Where is the beauty in devastation? Where is the inspiration in tragedy? Where is the art in destruction? My mind impulsively leaps to Pollack, Goya, Picasso’s Guernica. It needs to backtrack.
Lucien Gondret, Artist
There is a calm before a storm. It’s super-real how quiet and still the wind is and how people just go about their day.
Thanks to modern technology we, in the Carolinas, knew Matthew was on its way. The evacuation of 2 million people along the eastern seaboard was very real. In today’s negative social climate in which the fibers of what binds Americans together is under attack, we all need to stop for a moment to appreciate those individuals who stayed behind to guard our properties; stand prepared to search, rescue, provide emergency care; and be first on hand to restore our lives by clearing our roads and giving us back the comforts of life.
There were so many that lost too much. We can just Instagram through it to the next feed. It’s only real when it happens to you.
So, where is the beauty, the inspiration, the art? I find it in the human spirit. Yes, we humans can be “characterized by kindness, mercy or compassion.” * Must we need destruction to remind us that we are all in this together?
John Gale Kenney, Artist
Immediately following the force of a hurricane, the next day is filled with sun and calm, blue skies. The sun acts as a floodlight for the destruction, but its warmth can revive us and give us what is required, endurance.
Louis Bissinger, Artist
Enjoying life is synonymous with enjoying art. The inspiration for art and for living surrounds us. I find it in the simple pleasures, the little moments we most often overlook.
I fondly remember a hot, hazy, humid summer morning sitting on the porch at Firefly with homeowners Curt Peterson and Anne Chapin. This lovely couple appreciates and values simplicity. Simplicity does not lack quality, quite to the contrary.
The garden table was covered with a bright tablecloth and crowned with a basket of fresh fruit. Anne had brought out a tray of refreshments. A glass pitcher was filled with a home brewed punch spritzer (I recall lemonade and cranberry) and garnished with sliced blood oranges. The tray was topped off with a plate of homemade cookies. Perfect!
We were in the final stages of finishing the Firefly remodeling project. Curt and Anne had chosen to live in their cottage while we worked on its transformation. My heart went out to them as we stood in what would be their kitchen following a day of demolition. Thanksgiving was around the corner. With all of that behind us, it was a treat to relax on the porch and plan the hanging of art and placement of accessories.
I always think of their home as a cottage hideaway. It sits nestled among towering trees, surrounded by 20 acres of pasture neatly divided into paddocks for Anne’s horses. The house had been added on to unsuccessfully 3 times and was an architectural hodge-podge. My assignment was to create big, gracious living on a small and simple scale. This couple is very active in the arts community and love to entertain, even host music recitals. Let’s manage that in a house with 2,000 sq.ft.
I opted for an open concept home with an abundance of French doors opening on to the surrounding wide, covered porch. Anne loved the memory of her family’s country home in Illinois. The house had a front door that no one used. Everyone came into the house through the back door, walked through the mudroom into the kitchen. So, we added on to the house a fourth time and created an enclosed back porch with a slate floor. This 10’x10’ corner room became the entry point to the home which flows into the kitchen and dining space.
The open concept floor plan that draws you to the outside fulfilled Curt and Anne’s expectations for their home. The simple home is filled with little touches and personal treasures. It is a testimony to Curt and Anne and their life together. I was delighted to be invited to the first music recital and dinner they hosted at Firefly.
I visited Michael Pearson’s show “For the Love of Watercolor”. I was drawn in by the show name. I hate watercolor. Decades ago I took a watercolor art class and did horribly. I decided the challenge of mastering this medium was something I could live without. I also gained a true appreciation for what it takes to do watercolor well. Too often I find works lacking in depth, contrast, texture and density. With this I hear the excuse, “…But it’s just watercolor”. The lack of fundamental visual elements in a work is due to the artist not the medium. Good art is good art.
Good art was evident in Pearson’s work, “Jeffrey Long Ago.” The piece loosely reminded me of a work by Lyonel Feininger, “The Glorious Victory of the Sloop “Maria”. The strong geometric shapes and line unify and draw you into this piece. Pearson’s work had a similar affect but the subject was a portrait of a man that offered contrast in fine, softer detailed lines of the face. The hue was lovely. The essence of a human being was captured brilliantly.
Another piece by Pearson stood out, “Afternoon Shadows.”
This severely cropped perspective offered an interesting view of the architecture. Don’t be fooled into thinking this was a small piece. The scale was impressive (roughly 24x18) and added to the visual experience of this work. Two aspects disturbed me: the faded balustrade in the horizon and the direction of the light source. However, these aspects did not distract from the creative, artistic execution of “Afternoon Shadows.”
When visiting a show it sometimes pays to have a general look around. You might discover more watercolor works to enjoy. “Felicity” by Atelier on Bay artist, Pam Hagan, was a delightful piece. Hagan captures the joy and innocence of this child beautifully. The soft hue, shadowing and fine detail in this work were a pleasure to behold.
In a conversation with the artist, I mentioned that portraits could present a challenge for gallerists. The figure must be appealing to clients that have no connection to the person portrayed. These two portraits by Hagan and Pearson were of a quality that anyone can enjoy.
Creature Feature on Bay
A sea turtle is swimming toward me. Its shell is a beautiful mosaic of brown, black, gold, tan rounded squares distributed evenly on the hard semi-circle of armor. Flipper legs in paddle motion propel the creature through a sea of blue, green, dark turquoise. The extended head and neck look pliable but strong, and the deep, dark eyes are curious, kind, knowing...
Paul Rossmann "Blues Brothers"
“Animals We Love” is the current Beaufort Art Association show. The sea turtle on large scale canvas is a show stopper. The artist commands the color values and detail that capture the essence of this animal in its world. The colors are both bold and harmonious. The life-like scale should shock, but instead it is serene, quiet. I am swimming with the turtle deep beneath the sea in a place absent of sound. It makes me smile.
A little gem is a pastel entry of a white egret, wings stretched out, landing in a background of dark tropical foliage. The contrast of light and dark is dramatic. But the artist compounds the dramatic. Painstaking layers of dark green values of geometric quality are used to create the background foliage. Shadows play in the foliage. The white egret in the foreground is elegantly, stylized. Light pierces through its plumage making the bird translucent, soft. The artist’s eye reminds us not to take nature’s simple moment in time for granted.
Barbara Hunt "Landing"
The show is colorful, nicely displayed and well lit. The staff are friendly, welcoming and available. The relaxed, casual atmosphere make looking at art fun. It could be fun. The art is hung randomly, disconnected. This is disturbing, annoying. A local, members-only show will feature art of a wide range in quality. Many artists aren’t. Even lack-luster art, when hung in context, can provide a pleasant viewing experience. Further, the show is compromised by including art that does not have animals as a subject matter. The purpose and intention are absent in this exhibit.
Showing works in oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastel and photography together affect the pace of this art experience in a positive way. Each medium demands different “seeing” from the viewer as we look for what moves us. The randomness, in respect to the media, adds interest and I appreciate the challenge.