Here are translated excerpts from an interview by Dominique Brebion of Ernest Breleur, on the subject of his ongoing exhibition “Mythologie de la lune 1989-2022”—on view from November 6, 2022, until March 4, 2023, at Maëlle Galerie, located at 29, rue de la Commune de Paris, in Romainville, France. [For the original interview, see AICA Caraïbe du Sud. Also see our previous post Art Exhibition: Ernest Breleur’s « Mythologie ».]
Maëlle Galerie, which has devoted itself for ten years to defending the sculptural work and drawings of Ernest Breleur, presents for the first time, pictorial works by the artist with the series Mythologie de la lune, initially designed and produced in 1989. Preparatory sketches from that period, unearthed but not completed at that moment, inspired this new unpublished series produced thirty-three years later.
Ernest Breleur was kind enough to evoke this return to painting and the reasons for his successive artistic breaks in the endless quest for singularity as a contemporary Caribbean artist.
“During my artistic process, I never envisaged a comfortable situation that would consist in finding a goal in my creations. I have always considered pictorial work as the essential means of understanding painting, of questioning and continually trying to subvert it. Thus, I have always considered my practice as a permanent critique of all my pictorial surges offered to the eyes of the world. This is what justifies the incessant ‘ruptures’ that have manifested themselves through the period in which I exercised the act of painting. (…) Each of the periods taught me what I did not know about painting. Each one confronted me with doubt—a doubt that is so necessary. Each one strangled what remained of certainty for me. Each work, but also each one of my decisions concerning painting, told me that the pictorial exploration was endless, that the diversity of possibilities was extraordinarily vast, and that ultimately the work remained and will always remain to be done.”
This new exhibition in Romainville presents the current version of a series painted over thirty years ago. Why did you resume this series?
I revisited this series at the instigation of my gallery, which absolutely wanted to exhibit works from La Mythologie de la lune. I have always had the obsession to practice painting in a way that corresponds to my time period. Painting has evolved a great deal over the past thirty-three years, and above all, my vision of painting has changed. I believe that I have gained in sobriety and in gestural efficiency to go towards the “essential,” which the work demands.
All of the paintings in the exhibition are new except for one, which depicts a pack of dogs angrily barking at the moon. This painting has been modified, especially with the character lying dead in the lower section.
It was therefore necessary to pictorially assume these new works. The second version of the remix of Henri Matisse’s famous La Dance—an ode to life, joy, and physical abandonment—makes my new vision noticeable. Sobriety and simplicity have found a raison d’être at the center of my new concerns. The characters are more often in a floating state, the ground has slipped away from under their feet. All of this seemed important to me. The feeling of an enigma is felt more deeply and is experienced by the viewer more strongly. The parts of shadow, of opacity, open up to further questioning.
Resuming a series with a new approach is not obvious. During these thirty-three years, I have matured, I have reflected. Once I had finished the new series, there was a certain anguish at the idea of exhibiting it in Paris, especially since I had never shown my pictorial work in Paris. But Paris is one of the great capitals of contemporary art and it raises, for all artists, the question of the work’s reception.
To my eyes, there was a very nice reception reserved for the works that I presented. I was able to discuss at length with the public, which led to a feeling of success in my new pictorial exercise. This Parisian experience leads me to reconsider my future work.
Is it still an impossible quest for the Moon?
It is always the impossible quest for the moon in terms of appearance in each of the works, but in this series, as in the previous one, there is a complexity to approach—the complexity hidden behind the visible. It is in this opaque space that the deep meaning of my questions is played out. Without a doubt, I ask myself the question of the Divine—the unthinkable, the impossible, and its accessibility. There is an answer, the only one conceivable and possible to formulate: there is something beyond me, beyond us.
Therefore, in this series, it is an issue of the impossibility of understanding, of the impossibility of grasping, and at the same time, the matter of illusion, because the moon always seems within reach. When we pick up a string to catch it, it is because we are responding to the illusion of proximity.
I know you worked from old sketches. What makes the 1989 series different from the 2022 series?
The way of painting changes… everything that surrounded the characters, for example, is different. Before, there were many breaks, many fractures, many planes to denote space… Today I assume a certain frontality to signify a space that is suddenly less tormented. It is a painting that is much less expressionist, more serene, as if the central question of meaning should be affirmed more strongly.
Thank you, Ernest Breleur.
La Mythologie de la lune [Mythology of the Moon] and the break with the Fwomajé group marks for Ernest Breleur the closure of a programmatic creation around the quest for identity and the question of Caribbean aesthetics. His objective is to approach, in a permanent experimentation, his singularity as an artist. The following series, despite their constantly renewed formal explorations, reveal a thematic constant that a retroactive perspective underlines. A metaphysical meditation runs through all of Breleur’s work, whether it be the series of Christs, the White Series, the assemblages, and radiographic installations, the Celestial Landscapes, the drawings on the genesis of the living. Ernest Breleur ponders on life and death, the afterlife, the origin of life. The reflection is less anxious, more peaceful, staring with the period devoted to the drawings from “L’énigme du vivant” and “Paysages célestes.”
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For original article, in French, see https://aica-sc.net/2023/02/08/ernest-breleur-mythologie-de-la-lune-1989-2022/
[Shown above: The piece on the left is from the series Mythologie de la lune 1989; the piece on the right belongs to the Mythologie de la lune 2022 series. 2022 photos by Jean- Philippe Breleur. Courtesy of Maëlle Galerie for AICA.]