It was nearly sixty years ago now that Jean Pierre Raynaud arrived on the art scene. Given that his work has revolved exclusively around objects, there is good reason to question his participation in this series of dialogues that the Musée Marmottan Monet has decided to set up, in which contemporary artists respond to the work of the great impressionist and painter of the Water Lilies. It would be easy to critique the fact that Jean Pierre Raynaud’s original training was in horticulture— and not in fine art—and that the first work he made involved a flowerpot and a can of paint. But, beyond this founding anecdote, the artist has consistently developed a stance based on the power of gesture. It was a similar power that led Claude Monet, in his day, to open up new, different paths, enriching the history of art with exploratory formulations.
If, for Jean Pierre Raynaud, this invitation is more about an encounter than about a dialogue in the strictest sense, that is first and foremost because the artist wants to avoid any form of misunderstanding: the fact that he is not a painter does not disqualify him in any way from addressing the question of painting. And that is what he has already done in his own way, explicitly, at several stages in his career. Notably in 2008, at Galerie Patrice Trigano, in an exhibition entitled RAYNAUD PEINTURE, which brought into play cans with lids simply coated in color and placed in transparent plexiglass forms. Upstream from painting, in a sense. On this occasion, the artist wrote a manifesto-like text for the invitation that shed light on his thoughts on this medium, in which he noted that, “The word painting is a work in itself, I am claiming it as a work. Here, the idea of painting appears to me as stronger than the painting itself. I come in before it becomes art, before it becomes a masterpiece.” This says everything, and informs the choice he has made for this fourth “unexpected dialogue,” of a Study of Water Lilies, dating from 1917–19, that is to say, a painting that is a first gesture, a first thought.
Jean Pierre Raynaud’s art is based on an aesthetic close to a form of minimalism, driven by projects whose simple inception, which he sees as the “perfect moment,” could be enough to satisfy him. In this regard he claims that there is no “Raynaud style” but only a method: “taking the risk of finding oneself with less than less.” Once again, that is the risk the artist has chosen to take with the invitation extended to him here. A risk on the level of that taken by the person he is facing up to. Raynaud says that he has always admired the radicality of Monet’s engagement with painting, particularly in his Water Lilies project.
That Jean Pierre Raynaud should thus have chosen to reactivate the concept of his “painting project” in a new, even more radical formulation, by hanging a series of his cans on a dedicated surface, highlights the pertinence of a position that refuses the act of seduction. A gesture, a simple gesture. With him, more than anyone else, the experience of art ensures that the viewer will not emerge unaffected, and will therefore intensify their existence. That is certainly the founding principle of Monet’s work, in its visual invention and twofold invitation both to reflect and to marvel. The Water Lilies project involves a unique history, going from the digging of an artificial basin to the construction of a huge studio to give the painting a panoramic limitlessness. A place, or even a milieu of its own. Raynaud’s proposal expresses the same will to embrace space with the idea of painting: paint alone. An unexpected dialogue? An encounter? It matters little. The fact is that, here, paint is at once pretext and text, subject and object. For the pleasures of the eyes and of the mind.
From October 12, 2021 to April 10, 2022