Loïc Le Groumellec “Peregrinatio” at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
Galerie Karsten Greve is pleased to present for the fifth time within twenty years a solo exhibition in Cologne featuring works by French artist Loïc Le Groumellec, whom the gallery has presented and represented since 1989. On display are about forty works from the series Écritures, which he has been working on since 2015, including new and never-before exhibited objects from the artist’s studio. Oil paintings and gouache works on paper converse with twelve Chapelles/Reposoirs, wooden constructions that house his works, such as Écritures, as one might shelter a sacred body: thus creating a mise-en-scene suffused with sensations of a mysterious spirituality.
Born in 1957 in Vannes (Brittany), Loïc Le Groumellec graduated in 1980 from the École de Beaux-Arts in Rennes. Right from the beginning, his artistic endeavours moved away from figurative work: a very popular trend at the time with the young French artists of his generation who were seduced by minor subcultures like comics, as is the case for the French painter and sculptor Robert Combas, as well as by potential hybrids of pop iconography and an expressionistic style of painting, as is the case with the Algerian artist Jean-Michel Albérola. Loïc Le Groumellec, however, has chosen to reduce his patterns and palette to a minimum, thus reaching back to the very root of pictorial creativity. He became aware of Neolithic archaeological sites in Brittany, and has remained fascinated with the formal simplicity of how they are built and the enigma surrounding their purpose. Most especially with regard to the rows of menhirs on the Carnac site, as well as the indecipherable incisions on the Gavrinis Island cairn, in the Golf of Morbihan, both of which have become primary sources for his imagination.
Loïc Le Groumellec’s works are included in prestigious private collections, as well as the CAPC (Centre d’arts plastiques contemporains) collection of the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Bordeaux, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes. His works have been exhibited in several important international institutions. The artist lives and works in Paris.
By doing and re-doing the same painting – never resulting in the same one twice – all sorts of possibilities and infinitesimal variations are duly probed to attain the very essence of shape. The trace, as a concept, reappears in the Écritures series: enigmatic concentric arches emerge on a brown background that vibrates with luminosity thanks to the layers of diluted paint applied to the canvas. These signs, always originating from Brittany’s imagery, echo the wall engravings on the megalithic funeral chamber at Gavrinis, the purpose of which archaeologists have not yet deciphered: decorative or linguistic? For us therefore, they remain un-codified writings, a pure form void of meaning. This is how Loïc Le Groumellec’s body of work carries along the relationship between creation and absence. The imagery it refers to is comprised of enigmas and emptiness. The menhir is a primitive construction whose purpose we do not understand, and the signs engraved on Breton cairns are traces of a language that has lost its code.
A great mystery, therefore, animates Loïc Le Groumellec’s work. The incomprehensible presence of these massive figures in the series of the Mégalithes, as well as the hypnotic energy of the new ones in Écritures, endows them both with great spirituality that recurs even more tangibly in the Chapelles/Reposoirs works. Like ephemeral aediculae, built in general by rural people to shelter statues of the saints at each stage of the Troménie of Saint Ronan (one of the oldest religious processions in France that takes place annually in Locronan, Brittany), these wooden structures frame and protect the Écritures. His keen attention to aspects of folklore, and his efforts to revitalise both their abstract and ideal value, bring Loïc Le Groumellec’s approach closer to that of Constantin Brâncuşi who also used symbols borrowed from Romanian folklore in his artistic process. Romanian artist Brâncuşi stands amongst his major references. He turns back therefore to the archetypical concave shape of the cave or the hut. Generally associated with the desire to protect something precious, it hails back to a notion of sacredness and spirituality that many cultures all over the world share as well. In Loïc Le Groumellec’s work, the Chapelles/Reposoirs not only make the painting sacred as an object itself, but the act of painting also becomes a symbol of artistic creation. These receptacles, and their reference to pilgrimage, become metaphors of the path the artist follows as he searches for the ultimate essence of his art.
At Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
until 4 January 2020