Entering this gallery off a courtyard, tucked away from the buzz of rue Vieille du Temple, is like entering an oasis of silence and peace. This is especially so with the current exhibition of Alexandre Hollan's paintings and charcoal drawings.
Hollan's work has two main forms: drawings and paintings on paper. The drawings are done in ink and charcoal while the larger paintings are in watercolor, acryilic and gouache. Also, included in this show are some acrylic works on canvas. However, it is Hollan's works on paper that are most captivating. In fact, Hollan's techniques and concerns do not translate well onto canvas.
The real beauty of the charcoal works on paper is the softness, the silence (to borrow their title) and the gentle movement of the trees, which are, in almost every case, what he pictures. The gentle rub of the charcoal across the paper surface results in an emphasis of the tactility and sensuousness of the paper itself by raising its checkered weave to the surface. Similarly, the edges are always blurred, the figurative always in the process of merging into the abstract. This is why Hollan's acrylics on canvas don't share the mystery and ease of the charcoals on paper especially. For in the works on paper, the relationships between nature, its representations and all the sensuous associations of the two come to life. But on canvas, the fluidity and ease of these relationships are lost. The grace and freedom, evoked by images of the wind blowing through trees on a winter's day, is completely transformed in the much bigger colored images on paper.
The paintings are reminiscent of Girogio Morandi's pots and jugs: there is an absolute stillness and fixity to the objects as they nevertheless also verge onto becoming abstract shapes. However, unlike Morandi, the colors of the acrylics, gouaches and water colors appear to float on the surface against a vibrant background. Also distinct from Morandi, the shapes and objects are always in claustrophobic closeup - the compositional choice that ensures their gesture towards abstraction. These two aspects of the work are reminiscent of Rothko, only without the virtuosity of the build up of paint on the canvas. Thus, while the trees in motion against a completely white background express their silence through a reference to the natural world, the shapes and color fields of Hollan's painted works on paper exude an overall sense of entrapment in their move towards abstraction.
It's an interesting body of work for an artist to have these, for all intents and purposes, two diametrically opposed approaches to meet similar ends: a silent, peaceful space of contemplation.