The show presented at the Laurentin gallery is extremely well researched and thought out, giving us an invaluable retrospective of the work of Raoul Ubac, the first in a gallery since he passed away in 1985. As we follow his footsteps, we realise what kind of extraordinary empathy connected the artist with the gallery owner. Their special interaction is revealed in some fifty inks, gouache paintings, prints and sculptures, as the exhibition gives us a tiny insight into the artist’s mystery, while spanning almost his entire career. Beyond an apparent austerity, we perceive fertile affinities between nature and creation.
The origin of life is there, in the furrows cut into those slates, in these relief pictures using synthetic resins. Where did he get his taste for grooves and prints? From Mother Earth and her ancient plough lines. No wonder, considering that Raoul Ubac was born in 1910 in Malmédy, a land of springs and bogs which became part of Belgium after World War I. The sculptor loved to go for endless walks through the High Fagnes area, with its heaths and green forests stretching before him. Peaceful and quiet stretches of land where the wind is silent, where there is nothing else, and where only the rhythmic sound of footsteps reveals any human presence. This nature that he observed, that he took in, felt and smelled would be at the root of his creation, the life juices of his intellectual process, the essence of his identity as an artist. “It occurred to me that this rhythm created by the farmer is a fundamental rhythm in the world,” Raoul Ubac said in an interview. Hence these beautiful stone prints, these lines, these ridges created in gouache.
Ubac was seduced by Surrealism and was a member of the CoBrA group. The exhibition shows never-before displayed pastels from these periods. In 1946, during a trip to Haute-Savoie in the French Alps, he picked up a slate and later proceeded to engrave it with a nail. Upon this revelation, that was it, he was hooked, and until the end of his life, slate engraving remained his preferred medium. As a thinker, he focused on this all at once strong and fragile material, cutting furrows and scratching it to give these endless shades of charcoal the beauty of fossils. A very private man when he was alive, Raoul Ubac did not show his works much. Let’s thank Laurentin for having brought together so many treasures, most of which belong to private collections. This exhibition is worth the challenge.
43 rue Ernest Allard
Until 9 March 2016
Tuesdays-Saturdays, from 10:30 to 18:30