Joan d’Orel’s studio and private exhibition room are in Paris 8.
In hallowed silence the works take form, prompting poetic and lyrical contemplation of the creative process as an indefinable world comes into being.
In her introduction to one of his catalogues, Hélène Lassalle, Head Curator of the Department of Heritage at the Louvre, and author of a number of books on art, observed:
The Alchemy of the Painter
The painting is there - on the canvas; a physical thing, unpretentious, without affectation. It hangs before you, unruffled, calm, neither disturbing nor alarming. The piece is imbued with a gentle, even, light that seems to emerge from its very texture – the morning light of long beaches awaiting high tide, or the light of the desert before the sun becomes oppressive, of distant towns at daybreak swathed in an early morning mist that heralds their awakening. The world is serene, silent and bathed in a clear light. The paint lies on the canvas, dense and smooth - a telling sign of the artist’s pleasure as he worked in the privacy of his studio.
The touch is brad and thick, with generous use of oil, flattened with the knife. On the blank canvas he has blocked a preparatory layer in burnt umber, so that reddish earth tones show through the layers of paint to give warmth and depth, employing the time-honoured method of the great masters. Little by little thick, unthinned layers of paint have been laid on, one after the other.
The artist works standing up. His canvas is laid flat, supported on trestles or on the floor, so he sees it from above. Not horizontal, not vertical, without perspective – the landscape is entirely in the mind’s eye, making no reference to any representation of the natural world. The composition is improvised, developing gradually, led by the movement of the brush, drifting in silence. Absorbed by his concentration on the canvas, aware of nothing else within his visual field, nothing can distract the artist from his painting. Besides, there is no image, no object in his immediate surroundings, apart from the easels and stretched canvases propped up facing the wall, to remind him of the outside world. The light of the picture has nothing to do with the light at any particular time of day. The painter’s studio is darkened, the shutters always closed. On the ceiling, fluorescent tubes provide a light as impersonal as lacking in interest. The light in the picture is produced by colour, by paint squeezed straight from the tube and mixed in large quantity on the palette. These are the glowing colours of earth, sand, water and sky. On the table where he keeps his tools, much used misshapen tubes of paint still have their labels, stained and torn: “Natural Burnt Sienna”, “Natural Burnt Umber”, “Cadmium Yellow”, “Cobalt Violet”, “Titanium White”, “Yellow Ochre”, “Ivory Black”. Sometimes a vermilion heralds a sudden burst of colour, in sharp contrast to the delicacy of- the palette as a whole. The chemistry of manufacture leads to the alchemy of the studio - the alchemy of the studio to the mirages of the exhibition room.
The picture springing from the artist’s mental landscape, this soothing, balanced, purified, serene and harmonious world presented frame by frame, large or small, vertical - mostly - or horizontal, will suggest different visual references to each visitor, depending on how the viewer perceives it. The individual will project their own memories or feelings on to the paintings. For one person this may be an invitation to travel, for another, the echo of a piece of music, a distant memory or a familiar scene. Everyone will interpret the work in their own way; though the light-filled painting itself will always be present.
by Hélène Lassalle
Head Curator at the French Department of Heritage
Joan d’Orel paints mainly in Paris. Connoisseurs and collectors are welcome to visit the studio, by appointment.