Perambulating the Bounds

Monday, November 28, 2005

Voluptuous ghosts at Sarratt

For a few more days (through the end of this week) Sarratt Gallery is showing work by a Belgian painter, Roland Delcol, who has been active since the 1960s and comes with a recommendation from Gilles Deleuze. The basic pattern here is a painting in highly realistic style that includes a youthful, sexy nude female figure with other characters in full dress, put in either an abstract dark space or an out of place setting like a garden or jungle. The nude and dressed characters occupy different spaces in spite of their proximity. First off, they either look through or past each other, or have reactions that don’t go together, fragmenting any dramatic mis-en-scene. Light and color also place them in a space outside of the setting. The human flesh in these paintings is rendered in a limited palette of browns, with even the eye color toned down in comparison to the more vibrant color of the clothes and whatever the setting is. Because the clothing on the dressed figures participates in the more dynamic color range of the remainder of the painting, it is the nude who seems most out of place in the setting, a voluptuous ghost. Some of the paintings borrow the groupings of classical paintings like Manet’s Olympia or other iconic figures like the RCA dog listening to the victrola.

The paintings are well-done and worth a look, and they certainly offer easy pleasures of the attractive figures. There’s a psychological interpretation for the proceedings, mixing the super-ego and id, the structures of social restraint and hungry sensual desire residing uneasily in the same space. This work also puts you in mind of a cosmopolitan Europe-centered cultural world several decades gone, when the recollection was still strong of the age when French surrealists ruled the visual arts. For some people, the recombinations of stock characters will have a stimulating effect, a form of geometric extension of images, but for me it felt too much like someone running through variations on familiar formulas.

http://www.w3art.com/RolandDelcol.html

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/sarratt/gallery/delcol.html

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