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RETURN FROM ICELAND. Materials and creations

Land of ice and fire, Icelandic land has always had a certain attraction for writers, whether it was Jules Verne who was inspired by it for Voyage au center de la terre or Pierre Loti who set the scene for Fisherman. Iceland. For their part, painters from the continent were much less numerous to visit Iceland. However ! What place wilder, more deserted, closer to the origins, than the Icelandic land?

Bernard Alligand, after having explored many other countries, be they Asian (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) or Mediterranean (Egypt and Morocco where he stayed several times as part of artist residencies), here is about fifteen years Iceland, an island state in the North Atlantic, located between Greenland and Norway, on the mid-Atlantic ridge separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, land of volcanoes, geysers, fjords and glaciers.

Since his visit to the Lascaux caves in the 1980s which was a real artistic "shock", Bernard Alligand has endeavored to fix the memory of the countries he crosses and the soils he treads. So, wherever he is, he does not fail to take, meticulously and with discernment, both on the surface and in depth, a little of this earth and the multiple materials that compose it, to reintegrate it into his works. , bringing it back to life and existing in another dimension, that of canvas or paper. Shedding light on matter, in its slightest crevices and detours, sublimating it in a way, this is the path that the artist has traced for thirty years.

His work, of an astonishing unity, has never ceased to evolve and renew itself, to deepen since the beginning of his career in the early 1980s. Neither figurative nor abstract, transcending the boundaries of creation, Bernard Alligand is in search of his own expression with the fierce desire to find a balance between shapes and textures. Employing mixed media very early on in his compositions, he draws his inspiration from the places he passes through or rather that he excavates with patience and tenacity, like an archaeologist. His "harvests", as he calls them, of minerals and plants, nourish his works, and by a strange alchemy, are reborn on the canvas in a new space, where the material is in a way transcended by the hand of the artist.

Icelandic soil has provided Bernard Alligand with many resources over the past ten years: contrasting landscapes, colorful habitat with wavy roofs, black and pearly volcanic sands, blocks of lava, sulfuric mud, pebbles, plants ... are just as many of "materials" which inspire him and which he uses both aesthetically and materially. "In the past, during my Egyptian and Moroccan times, I was more of a colorist ... in Iceland, my relationship to color has changed dramatically. I hardly ever used black before, whereas now it is so. say the only color I use with white and from time to time red ”confides Bernard Alligand, who likes to let himself be permeated by his environment. Black, white, red, are indeed the dominant colors of this volcanic country on the borders of the far North which does not allow itself to be tamed so easily. "The climate is harsh there, the fire is constantly smoldering under the ice, eruptions are frequent there just as much as earthquakes" continues the artist in love with this nature both hostile and captivating which forces man to humility and vigilance. In total alliance with these spaces as far as the eye can see, almost cosmic, dominated by the four elements, the resulting works are traversed by planets, asteroids, shapeless masses, ices and undulating lights. The liquid element is also present through the resin which shimmers on the surface of the canvas like a stream revealing itself as you walk. the opposite of the ephemeral works of certain artists, the creations of Bernard Alligand are part of duration and timelessness: if the subject, nature in this case, is doomed to an evolution, a constant metamorphosis, the role that s he assigned the artist is to grasp its movement without freezing it, to let the material run free, without stopping its progression. In continuous effervescence, the compositions of Bernard Alligand, fragments of an arid and violent nature that the artist seeks to reassemble and revive, are traversed by a latent energy perceptible at first glance.

In perpetual renewal, the aquagravures of Bernard Alligand which are an extension of his paintings, constitute a harmonious and coherent complement, although the tensions are less exacerbated and the compositions more structured. The intaglio engraving technique undoubtedly imposes this atmosphere which is both serene and disciplined. Likewise, the paper medium, a living material that the artist strives to respect, both for its flexibility and for its delicacy, encourages him to a certain extent, to take a different approach. Space-landscape, the sheet of paper, white by nature, lends itself to the different techniques used by the artist: he does not hesitate to mold it (on a resin), to emboss it, to strip it, to enhance it. of materials, to juxtapose the white of the paper with the black of the ink to evoke Icelandic ice and lava. "However, these are not solid areas but contrasts that I am looking for, until the light penetrates the folds of the striped paper," he explains. Like a sculptor, the artist models his graphic work with the concern of restoring the roughness of the ground, the roughness of the material, the softness of the light.Writing, omnipresent in the work of Bernard Alligand since 1992, the year of his very first book, also runs through some of his plastic and graphic works (integration of musical scores and fragments of handwritten texts in some earlier works). Today, it has found refuge in the artist's books that he painstakingly produces in close collaboration with writers from all walks of life: the works of the Icelandic writer Sigurður Pálsson and of Michel Butor. Sometimes handwritten, sometimes printed in typography on the presses of the National Imprimerie’s Book of Art workshop, each copy of an edition is unique, the artist enriching it with original compositions. An incessant dialogue between words, shapes, colors and materials, these works form part of the constellation of a work in the making, which asserts itself and unfolds over time and the spaces crossed.


Edito : Pascal FULACHER


Pascal Fulacher, born in 1959, is a French journalist and book specialist. He is the author of numerous articles and works on the history of books, paper and creative binding. Graduated from CELSA (1984) and doctor in "Art and science of art" from the University Panthéon-Sorbonne (thesis on The Aesthetics of the creation book in the twentieth century: from paper to binding, 2004), he began his career as a specialist journalist, then became editor-in-chief at the journal Art & Métiers du livre.

In 2004, he entered the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Paris, to direct its main exhibitions. In 2007, he was appointed editor-in-chief of Plume, the written heritage magazine, launched in 1993. Alongside his journalistic activity, Pascal Fulacher teaches the history of books, the history and techniques of paper making, the history of creative binding, editorial techniques. He gives numerous conferences around the world on old books, painters 'books, artists' books, bibliophiles, paper, bookbinding ... Since 2016, he has been director of the Atelier du livre d'art and a print from the Imprimerie Nationale which is installed in the Flers-en-Escrebieux factory, near Douai.

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