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The concept of the tableau

Major works by French artist Pierre Dunoyer explore the artist’s deep-rooted interest in abstraction

  • Pierre Dunoyer: Vers le tableau will run at the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Alserkal Avenue until October 26.Image Credit: Supplied
  • Pierre Dunoyer, Untitled , 1978Image Credit: Supplied
  • Pierre Dunoyer, Untitled, 1979Image Credit: Supplied
  • Pierre Dunoyer, Other Criteria (Leo Steinberg), 1979Image Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

The latest exhibition at the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Pierre Dunoyer: Vers le tableau, presents major works, by French artist Pierre Dunoyer, that explore the artist’s deep-rooted interest in abstraction, based on the concept of the tableau. They include acrylic on canvas paintings, and pastel and pencil drawings spanning from the 1970s to more recent works. Also on display are notes written by the artist, and other material from the foundation’s archives, that facilitate a better understanding of the artist’s work and journey.

Dunoyer was born in Marseille in 1949, and is based in Paris. He studied architecture and psychopathology before he began to paint in the mid 1970s. He was a member of the Ja-na-pa Group, and right from the beginning of his artistic journey, his analytical approach aligned him with artists such as Pete Mondrian, Ad Reinhardt and Robert Ryman.

The artist’s place in history derives from a form of painting that refuses the deconstruction of the pictorial space to paint as though in a tableau. He has a philosophical approach to art, and seeks to produce works that can turn seeing into thinking.

The crux of Dunoyer’s practice is the differentiation he makes between tableau and painting. “For me tableau is the end result of painting. It is an artwork that not only questions the basic elements of abstraction, but examines collective universal concerns,” he says.

Dunoyer’s association early in his career with Support Surfaces, the 20th century French avant-garde modernist movement, influenced him to view the tableau as an object of thought or knowledge. Rather than the subject, he focused on the practice of painting, and the relationship between colour and form over pictorial space. Over the last 35 years he has interrogated the specificity of the painted object, insisting that the primary goal of the tableau is to be here in the present as an entity onto itself.

“The tableau exists to tantalise the viewer and to question the purpose of its own existence. There is an analogy between Being and the tableau; just as Being is no single instance of being, so the tableau must be nothing determinate above and beyond its presence. In respect to Being, the tableau is a pure indeterminate presence — a privileged ‘beingness’ that articulates being as different from the totality of all being,” he says.

The artist was recognised internationally after he was invited in 1991 to present the inaugural show of the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, and exhibited 24 works in the same format, arranged around four different coloured backgrounds. Since then he has given numerous lectures on the tableau across Europe, and his paintings are in the permanent collections of important museums around the world.

The Jean-Paul Najar Foundation for Contemporary Art is a nonprofit ICOM registered private museum, gathering abstract European and American art from the 1960s through today. The foundation also has a remarkable archive, tracing 40 years of artist-collector exchanges, and its main aim is to present educational programmes that promote a spirit of discovery and inquiry.

To complement this show, it has organised a workshop titled, Eyeballing Pierre Duneyer on October 11, from 6pm to 7.30pm, where participants can explore the artist’s work through a close-up look, lively discussions, drawing and other fun activities. The session costs Dh100. To register write to programs@jpnajarfoundation.com

Pierre Dunoyer: Vers le tableau will run at the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Alserkal Avenue until October 26.

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