The World which the French artist Renaud Archambault de Beaune conceives consists of a mesh of fine lines which do not readily reveal what they represent when seen from close range but on the other hand gain substantially when our viewpoint moves to a distance.

The art as presented by this artist through his exhibition of 15 ink drawings at the Contemporary Room of the Fine Arts Museum, until November 10, has a strangely fascinating quirk about it. Even his manner of execution is quite unorthodox - he uses a long contraption at the end of which a stylus is attached and which he eventually moves about with quick, incisive strokes with varying densities to produce these singular effects.

The photograph of the artist at work should help in making us better understand the process. The French writer Jean-Luc Chalumeau however reminds us that Franz Hals used to do something similar with his brushes "to work his laces and faces".

Born in 1944 in Versailles, Archambault de Beaune is highly selective in the materials which he uses. Apart from Indian ink, he employs large-sized Chinese and Japanese papers. The general effect at first sight approaches that of engravings with the fine concentration of lines. On closer examination one can admire at least the laborious process which the technique entails.
It may be quite illusory or simply part of the natural manner of perception, but the comment by another French critic Marc H‚riss‚, that the artist "even succeeds to suggest colours by the lone use of black and white" could be confirmed in the actual seeing of these large drawings.
There is one other regular trait in these works. It is their sense of movement which at times gives the impression that individually they consist of a collection of stills fused into one whole, as in War Mask or Karatekas, and in so doing they transmit this dynamic feeling, vaguely reminiscent of the art of the Futurists or of Duchamp's famous Nude descending a Staircase, a characteristic that has been pointed out in a note by Dominic Cutajar.

This French artist estimates that no fewer than 10.000 variations of grey can be perceived in this work. Naturally, I made no attempt counting them, but it became immediately obvious that this incompletely defined grey world had an infinite life of its own.

Even in the variations on the theme of embracing couples, the artist shows that he possesses deep resources from where to draws his inspiration. They offer him endless opportunities to encapsulate what he calls the "actions and moves of interconnected forms, governed only by the order of light and shadow".The triptych entitled Oblique Light, for instance, is an essay less involved in dynamism and more of a exercise in justifying this constant concern with 'chiaroscuro' effect.

Thus, within the relatively small compass of the present exhibition venue, the visitor could at first be perplexed by the haziness that envelops these drawings. But as he starts wandering about with a possible turning back to take a second look, he is surprised at how what had previously appeared as a large smudge begins to take a more recognisable form, with figures caught either in embrace or else struggling in less amorous attitudes.

This extent of this interesting artist's achievement and the required concentration and steady hand is made even more manifest when we read that he does not design his drawings in advance but allows them to emerge in stages as his work progresses. But in the process we can still sense that urgency on the artist's part to capture the eternal struggle within the ethos of humanity which, for the sake of an authentic artistic expression , is less significant when viewed from the sole perspective of its physical manifestation than from the sphere of the spiritual dimension.

In that sense, we might resist being swayed exclusively by the artist's virtuosity of technique and in turn duly reserve part of our attention to his representation of those closed misty spaces from where, as in Francis Bacon's art of the horror of dissolution, the cry of an existentialist fear thunders out sympathy. And we would be utterly shorn of sensitivity not to notice that as well.

E. Fiorentino

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Drawn from a Distance
Sunday Times 11/1998
The ink drawings of the French artist Renaud Archambault de Beaune are deliberately paradoxal. The paradox lies in the artist's union of what Dominic Cutajar has called "a fascination with dynamism" and the shadowy, soft treatment of his subjects. In short, there are two, seemingly opposing forces in Archambault de Beaune's works. Firstly, the related notions of futuristic motion and distortion. Using a home-made pen with an uncommonly long handle, the 54-year-old artist from Versailles creates a baffling whirl of figures and architecture. Forms are torn apart by the artist's obsessive cross-hatching, a technique which at times achieves the effect of violent brushstrokes. His series of "Embrace" drawings, for instance, end up looking more like struggles or raw couplings in the tradition of Francis Bacon.

The second force in Archambault de Beaune's works is his use of a subtle variety of understated tones of grey. These hazy tones have a cathartic effect, calming or rather balancing the rough sea of distorted faces, limbs and torsos in his drawings.

The artist, who has been drawing with Indian ink and pens for more than 20 years believes that "ink drawing cannot deceive, it conceals nothing, neither repentance nor accident" . He controls his pens and paper which, as he tells us, allow for no mistakes, with a high degree of skill, varying the quantity and direction (rather than the quality) of his lines with a masterly finesse. The result is almost too soft to look like ink; from a distance, his works distinctly resemble charcoal drawings.

Another Frenchman, Georges Seurat, had also produced incredible effects of light and shade using black conte crayon in the 19th century. But Seurat's sublime shading was complemented by some equally sublime and pacifying compositions.

Renaud Archambault de Beaune confronts understatement with overstatement, black with white. The end-product is an infinite gradation of greys.


Raphael Vella
Independant 1-11-98

Peacefully Violent
Independant 11/1998
Gods are Events moving
" They paint in Flanders to deceive the out-side sight ...., people's deceptions snatched me the time which was granted to me to gaze at god". The artist who's writting this is called Michel-Ange; getting an old man, he his just coming to understand that "Art" is at first "Art to see "and whether you adopt such and such among the differents conceptions of the last mentionned , you will just see the flat appearance of things or have access to the main point .

Renaud Archambault de Beaune does'nt take care of the "people's deceptions " , the main point that he tracks by means of drawings is called by him " thought's fibre " . Apt and meaningful expression, for this artist working exclusively on non-chemical papers , often coming from China and Japan, non-pasted, in such a way that if the pen scratch too much , the ink is immediately diluted in the fibre material of the medium .The question is that the pen be always successful to go straight to the point or everything is wasted .

In this case , the instrument looks like the "Sergent-Major" of the schoolboys of the past . It comes from the ex-Soviet-Union where they manufacturated it not long ago . Archambault de Beaune fix his pens to stranges supports , long stalks which permit him to throw an infinite amount of lines , staying from a good distance , the one who permit him to get a distant sight , a " stay in the background of the picture . Does'nt Franz Hals used to get manufactured two meters long brushes , so as to work his laces and his faces out of optical illusion trompe-l'oeil, and like that better conquer the fleeting appearance of things ?

To the abounded touch of the Dutch Master reply today the Archambault de Beaune's swarming of grey ink lines and commas . Never black : only the grey variations allowed to reach to the optical mixture mastery .Beetween the lightest grey and the darkest one the artist estimate the scale of the perceptible variations at about ten thousand : that is his answer to the ones who would talk of uniformity in front of his compositions in grey. Such was Durer's viewpoint , of whom Archambault de Beaune collects willingly the lessons . Without forget thoses of Lautrec and Degas , others favorites references .

Is it to the two last mentionned that the artist borrow some of his subjects , whose eroticism is at once infinitely discreet and perfectly legible ? . The feminine nudes wear almost all silk-stocking and suspenders , which is probably not completely innocent , but permit to do a refined work about contrasts and values . The same kind of information could be done concerning the " fights " from 1986 - 1987 ( judokas moving ) or about the series of the " couples " from 1994 1995 .

"To gaze at god " said Michel-Ange . Dont be mistaken , the question to know if this contemplation is likely religious is not so important for the pure artist . The divine system of the ancients Greeks pointed out the gods like " events moving ", and Platon was talking about a universe in which the reality is the invisible . Here we are : Renaud Archambault de Beaune who struggle for decades to " fix the ephemeral in the durable " , thanks to the drawing , has understood that the one who can grab the events moving has , on this account , the gift to approach the divine essence . It is not nothing and that's what explain the strange power of fascination exerted by the works of this artist all the more alone , that his thought process is obviously out of common .

Jean-Luc Chalumeau
Art-Critic - director of the Art-Newspaper
" Verso - Art et Lettres "

Other Reviews
What I like in your work, is the urgency of being, such as it appears in the "phenomenological " way of the term .
Violence and love are raw, feelings and sensations are without ornament . They strike directly our heart . In return, we observe them without modesty, transforming each of us into the peeping Tom of the human soul, scrutinizer of our own human destiny .

Hervé de Charette de la Contrie
ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs . 1997

 

There is a concentration which goes till to ascesis in the big drawings of Renaud Archambault de Beaune . There indeed, lost of control, crossing out, or scraping off, are not possible. This mastered stroke and yet so perennial, of a great classicism in his modernity, plays with shadows and lights, and even succeed to suggest colors by the lone use of the black and the white .

Marc Hérissé - Art Critic - la Gazette de Drouot

 

As I understand, the Art of Renaud Archambault de Beaune, its most sensible feature happens to be one of the more hallowed concepts in western Art - a fascination with dynamism, a venerable tradition that encompasses such eminent protagonists as Bernini and Marcel Duchamp, a persisting development that also includes the entire Futurist movement. Archambault de Beaune is an active dynamist in the sense that he shows no interest in freezing the moment of motion, preferring it to describe motion in progression - therefore often in violent movement .

One might add that while the above is only a general and immediate impression that his drawings suggest, there are other qualities - probably more essential and determining - that vastly enhance the spiritual character of his Art. The present writer registers in particular the closed, airless, claustrophobic atmosphere pervading these drawings, accompanied by the deceptive, soft, mellow, tone of the pen texture, sharply contrasting to the tense, often violent, forms that loom mysteriously from the gloom of his thick pen-work.

Somehow, one is distantly reminded of the Incubi series of Goya's lithographic production expressing an inner world of utter dismay. Renaud Archambault de Beaune forgoes such an emotional impact to suggest a state of convulsiveness, amorphous and indistinct, a pot-purre of animal energy without moral contours.It seems much like a disoriented world where the sheer expression of competitive energy appears to increasingly replace meaningful values in a restricted obfuscated environment.

Dominic Cutajar
Curator
National Museum of Fine Art