The painting of Odile Escolier, a French artist who has lived in Chambéry for 27 years, is deeply rooted in the informal artistic experience of this French-speaking area: the outlines of Jean Dubuffet, the gestural expressiveness of Georges Mathieu and the materials of Jean Fautrier. In these roots are to be found the use of different materials, the force of the gesture and sign and the infinite possibilities of expression which the pictorial material succeeds in obtaining.
It is always a fertile experience because it can produce and reproduce, as if in the grammars typical of each exponent whose style we succeed in recognizing. From these roots Odile Escolier brings into being a language which re-orients form, material and gesture towards figuration, without impoverishing the possibilities for expression that these means offer.
The use of colour is valued, wise and thought about, and the backgrounds of the pictures are thickened with various layers which bring out the gestural expressiveness according to the power of the gesture itself. Escolier writes: “The pictures born are the result of all the emotions and feelings embedded in the living memory, conscious and unconscious, individual and collective. I often paint on various canvases at the same time, making the most of the time it takes for the colours to dry, a time of incubation necessary for taking my distance: a canvas being worked on can bounce back at any moment, Allowing the canvases this openness is an act of freedom, a renunciation of controlling everything and instead letting this hidden marvel emerge and develop over and above our conscious actions, making room for chance, for accidents on the canvas... The painter nourishes his or her canvas, but the canvas nourishes the painter.
Inks, pastels, acrylics, mixed techniques with a wise use of the spatula on Odile Escolier’s canvases become living matter through cracks, spaces and thickening, as if the painting were becoming sculpture. Thus a world is born, above all human presences are born and meetings are born on the streets of earth or of heaven. Consider the canvas Emmaus where the three figures of Christ and the disciples are walking together in a deep, glowing red, but are waiting for an event which binds these three travellers. What we grasp is the presence, not the characterization, but rather that presence which belongs to all intersecting stories.
Odile Escolier’s painting contains the universality of simple, transversal forms which can speak to every epoch and culture. In the large canvas of the Miraculous Catch, in the azure of a radiant dawn, the disciples in their boat glimpse who it is on the waters of the sea, ready to cry: “It’s the Lord!”. And Jesus approaches them…. When we contemplate Escolier’s canvases, not by chance present in our Church at Bose, we feel we belong in a certain way to the depiction, to the sense of expectation which passes through it, as though these signs were present in our memory with the task of bringing us back to that moment in life in which we came across them.
Odile Escolier is an essentialist painter who hints at the figurative, offering the possibility for discernment of a biblical word in her works: she is an artist for whom the human being and nature remain her principal sources of inspiration. Indeed, humanity in its frailty shows its beauty and its mystery, in a tension between environment and subjects which highlights the present moment.
I met Odile Escolier at an exhibition in Paris and from then on a great and profound friendship developed between us. Thus I saw some of her exhibitions in France, while others were organized in Belgium, Austria, Ireland, the United States, the Arab Emirates, Russia and Japan. Known and appreciated at an international level, she loves the simplicity of life in the mountains of Chambéry and pursues a profound spiritual search, above all Christian, but without erecting walls. She is a painter who walks and can discern who is waiting on the road taken.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 27, 2020
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