Bedsheets, tablecloths, jute bags, awnings, aprons, curtains, sails, flysheets – there are few fabric types Claude Viallat has not repurposed for his painting. The 82-year-old anti-painter from Nîmes, in the south of France, frees canvas from stretcher and picture from canvas (‘all my work aims to desecrate painting’, he once said). His radical approach, combining elegance, conceptuality and humour, made him the godfather of the Supports/Surfaces group, a short-lived French avant-garde movement that formed in the late 1960s.
In this show of fourteen works from 2017 and 2018 at kajetan Berlin, the many colours, shapes and fabrics almost play down Viallat’s rigour: painting and its material base are effectively broken down into discrete parts and then re-assembled in a highly distinctive, minimalist fashion. His works are characterised by the recurring use of a single shape that seems to combine the idea of a geometric and organic form. When the paint forms crystals as it dries in fabric, and when gravity places folds into an unstretched textile, the results bear witness not only to chemistry and physics, but show how rules in art can always also be interpreted as invitations to break with them.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell
Claude Viallat, ‘Paintings’ runs at kajetan Berlin until 22 June 2019.
Main image: Claude Viallat, 2018 / 116, 2018, acrylic on fabric, 1.1 × 2.3 m. Courtesy: the artist and kajetan Berlin; photograph: Marcus Schneider