Start with the Truth, End up with a Fantasy: Alexis Ralaivao @ Bill Brady Gallery, Miami
There are many elements of painting which can convey a certain atmosphere, capture the emotions related to the depicted scene, and reveal the nature of the person who created them. And for Alexis Ralaivao, the quiet, candid intimacy speaks volume about his life, his interest, his attitude, and approach to his painterly practice.
Bill Brady gallery in Miami recently ran Start with the Truth, End up with a Fantasy, in which the French artist reveals some of the most personal, intimate moments from his life. To make it clear, Ralaivao isn't really exposing his life or anyone from his imminent surroundings, but is continuously creating delicate snapshots of things only he sees or notices at any given moment. The concept of "less is more" comes to full light in these works in which framing imposes a voyeuristic role onto a viewer, while creating a sense of monumentality and importance. But the effect of the scale is somewhat diluted with his painterly technique that creates a velvety veneer around these visuals, turning this documentation process into a fragment of a romantic memory, a bookmark for an emotion, and a puzzle piece of a larger picture that is life.
"The more you go back in time, the more subtle and sophisticated they get. From Fragonard to his master Boucher, from Boucher to Watteau, who is the subtlest of them all and my current favourite. They are part of my country’s history so understanding them and the context they lived in helps me understand today’s society," Ralaivao told Juxtapoz about the way he sees his work in regards to the famed painterly heritage of his country. His curiosity, dedication, and knowledge about art history is continuously informing the ways he is approaching the practice, creating a more and more profound link between the romantic past and familiar present. The ongoing research of these topics led to the title of the show, which is a statement about Rococo from the documentary Rococo: Travel, Pleasure, Madness by Wadelmar Januszczak.
"I start with a scene from everyday life, ordinary intimate moments. But as I sketch and paint them, they become something more. Layers after layers, what was the 'truth', is mixed with my personal feelings, desires and fantasies," the artist told us about how this line resonates with his process. And the layering of images and the urge to romanticise and refine the desired sight by caressing the canvas surface, directly shaped up this particular body of work. "When I first started working for the show I finished a series of 5 or 6 paintings. Then I realized I could do better, so I just covered them and made new better ones on top. But I’m happy they’re still somehow in the show, under the new paintings," he told us about the snippets of personal history that are now buried underneath the thin layers of paint. Whether a precious and delicate detail from a picture on his phone, a nod to some of favorite artworks he's experienced (Bernini, 2021), or an exploration of the most iconic motifs such as drapery (Le Foulard (The Scarf) or Le chemisier rouge (The red blouse), or Minerve (Minerva) all 2021) or jewelery glare (Jeune homme au collier de perles (Man with a pearl necklace) or Le Présage (The Omen), both 2021), Ralaivao's paintings are sophisticated looks at life's most mundane and obscure sights through the theatrical and blissful lens of epochal artistic styles. - Sasha Bogojev