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RETURN FROM ICELAND. The reign of the beginning

In the beginning was darkness and its unfathomable depth, in the beginning was light, galactic winds, sky and dust, in the beginning were the universe and earth, mountains and deserts, oceans and seas. All phenomena fortunately present in the work of Bernard Alligand.

Indeed, what would the universe be, the sky and the stars, the earth with its mountains, oceans and deserts, without awareness of their reality? Without the gaze and thought of man no one would know what the universe is or how it works. And man, to explain it, first personified its elements, thus making his representation of the world in his image in a legendary, allegorical or mythological way, whatever civilizations were. Christian theology, on the other hand, places God at the origin of the world. All this questioning about the universe has given rise to remarkable artistic creations. How many visions have works of art given us of this mystery of origins! Let it suffice for us only to think of "The Creation" of Joseph Haydn or of the magnificent orchestration of the entry choir of the "Passion according to Saint John" by Johann Sebastian Bach with its dissonances and its chromatic modulations, then traversing the whole work, which expresses the cosmic upheavals that punctuate the different stages of Christ's passion, up to the earthquake and the eclipse at the time of his agony on the cross. An evocation that is also found in the figuralism of many cantatas where the writing adds a visual aspect to the meaning. To take only musical examples.

But how to translate this birth of the universe pictorially? A question that Bernard Alligand has often asked himself from the start of his work. It only takes a quick look back to realize this. During his training, his visit to the Lascaux caves - the birthplace of painting - made him aware of the role of matter, the figured representations being inseparable from the wall on which they were drawn, giving them a dimension not only spatial but also colored, the rock by its relief, by its texture being an integral part of these representations. And this is where Bernard Alligand's sensitivity to matter was born as a constituent of painting. From then on, he will make it his fundamental principle, his primordial quest.

And it is by working from the material, from a lively material that propagates color and generates space, that Bernard Alligand will produce most of his works from his great lyrical period of 1992-1995. Material also present in his first etching attempts, thus making intaglio, an engraving in charge, a path opened by our mutual friend Henri Goetz, a great visionary of infinite or infinitesimal spatial content.

If, later, Bernard Alligand was perhaps more concerned with the adequacy between forms and colors (constructive geometry of forms, spatializing energy of color), the material will nevertheless remain omnipresent in his works as an adjunct to the composition but always to expressive way: element of the original chaos, because it is through matter that Bernard Alligand accesses the universal. Material that he will then glean, take, to desert places during his stays in Egypt and Morocco and which will henceforth enter into his work by inclusion. But it is Iceland which will play the role of catalyst in this process of integration: Iceland, country of active volcanoes from which Bernard Alligand will collect lava, ash, slag (living matter expelled from the earth's caves). and projected incandescent in the air) to make them the constitutive elements of his work, primary materials to which he will attribute the function of expressing the genesis of the world.

But how can we pictorially express this "genesis of the world", a phenomenon that is both telluric and cosmic that only the gaze can grasp, the function of the work of art not being, however, to give an image of reality (for this there is a la photographie), nor the copy which would provide, by equivalence, by imitation, a figurative reproduction, but to "make visible" as Paul Klee so rightly indicated or "to show" as Paul Éluard wrote. How can we make visible with specific means (those of artistic creation) these natural phenomena which unfold without our knowledge and of which man is the only witness? To seek it out, to find the properly pictorial means (as Jean-Sébastien Bach, Handel, Richard Wagner and so many others have done in music) to capture the moment when matter "instantly queen" (René Char) generates the earth under the impulse of a vital breath charged with elementary dust coming from the bottom of the universe. And this is the whole function of a work of art, in a word: to invent a language. For this Bernard Alligand will make deliberate choices when in 2020, he set himself the objective of expressing this "genesis of the world", that is to say this perpetual moment always at its beginning, like the poet Johann Rist l 'evoked in verses that Johann Sebastian Bach will use to compose his cantata BWV 60 in 1723 and which he will resume a few months later in 1724 in the cantata BWV 20: "O beginning which will have no end".

So what are these means? A predetermined format and a strictly limited technique at the start, so as to form a sequential sequence: painting on paper in the 30 cm x 30 cm format and, in the wake of large format canvases. So, a defined compositional framework, a single process: painting, rigor and sobriety. Second, the bias not to use polychromy, almost only black and white, light and darkness, light and dark: a fruitful alliance of opposites. Third, the exclusive use of materials collected on site (including volcanic sludge) crushed, filtered, sieved to which will be added sea sand and crushed, crushed shells. Finally, a stable, neutral light, sometimes still darkened, moving, uniform, without atmospheric coloration, that of the origin, that of the still uncreated.

These are the basic elements that Bernard Alligand imposed on himself to structure each of his compositions in order to form variations where the theme constantly returns as a continuum which ensures the organic link, pledge of their unity, a phenomenon circumscribed only to the sky-earth relationship, within space, to the exclusion of all that is happening simultaneously in the rest of the universe. To grasp the sources of life, the breath of life where celestial matter and terrestrial matter combine, interfere in a constant renewal. Thus we are witnessing the birth of reliefs, oceans, deserts, continents in their initial dynamism, in their original forms. Fluttering paintings for a precarious balance, still fragile. Paintings similar to thunder or lightning that transfigures. Paintings where dust generates matter. Paintings in which everything is accomplished and metamorphosed in the field of the gaze and in the "song of the world" (Jean Giono). A place of all possibilities. An endless prelude in its fiery cloud or in its nebulosity.

Editor : Jean-Pierre GEAY. Vesseaux - May 2021

Jean-Pierre Geay is a French writer, poet and art critic, born 20/11/1941 in Bruailles in Saône-et-Loire. Associate professor of modern letters, he taught at Privas then at Aubenas until 2002. "Poet of light and ephemeral", landscapes of the Alpilles and Ardèche, nourished by the influence of Pierre Reverdy and from the proximity of René Char, his poetic writing also expresses a critical look at painting, according to his encounters with artists. Author of critical works or exhibition catalogs on his friends Henri Goetz, Yves Mairot and Bernard Alligand, he has also collaborated with around forty plastic surgeons. Knight of the National Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, Officer of Academic Palms, Member of the Académie des Sciences, Lettres et Arts de l'Ardèche.

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