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ART SEEN - Bernard Garo; paints with crushed marble

Mid Morning Mix// ART SEEN // Events// WRS// Art & Culture // Jan. 24, 2017

Uli Van Neyghem visits Bernard Garo's studio in Nyon to get a preview of the exhibition opening this Thursday and his book; GARO Déflagration. 

ART SEEN - A sneak preview in an artist's studio

By Uli Van Neyghem

When visiting Bernard Garo's studio in Nyon prior to our interview I was excited. Not only is his huge studio in a former factory building, where he is able to work on and exhibit paintings in XXL format; every artist's dream, but I was looking forward to talk to Bernard, whom I had met before at one of his exhibitions. Garo is without any question the most renowned and internationally acclaimed artist of our region. He is also a pleasure to talk to because he is passionate and open. 

I was to get a first glimpse at his new book GARO DEFLAGRATION, fresh from the press. Being a fan of his work my expectations were high, but when he put the book in front of me and I got the chance to turn the pages, it simply left me in awe.

It has the volume, size and weight of an ancient bible, print and paper of the finest quality, but this alone does not make it stand out. This book is so obviously the tour de force of an exceptional artist who has put all his passion, curiosity and willpower into this project, uniting artistic, philosophical, historical, geological and societal reflections.

Reykjavic to the North, Istanbul in the East, Alexandria to the South, Lisbon in the West and Switzerland's landmark the Matterhorn.

Bernard Garo's studio space in Nyon. 

"Garo does not use brushes, neither does he use paint from ready-made tubes. He finds his natural pigments on expeditions to nature, in the places he visits: sands, earth, powdered marble, stones and brick, bitumen or wood ashes."


What inspired Garo to associate these places in one big project?

In Europe and Switzerland in its centre, we live in a politically stable, sophisticated and highly technological society and are therefore tempted to believe that we are safer than in the past. Garo questions this assumption by taking a figurative stand on the Matterhorn, a summit owing its existence to the shifting of geological plates, creating the Alps where once had been nothing but ocean. From this perspective he looked out for the gateways to our continent in the 4 directions of the compass and settled on 4 fascinating cities that are all located in challenging geographic or geological zones, have known major natural catastrophes and always face the prospect of new ones. 

Might it indeed be their exposed location, permanent danger and extremes of nature that powerfully stimulate the human spirit and resilience? Garo uses painting to feel a place intensely, to become immersed in its history, geography, the spirit and and soul of its civilisations. He searches for strength as well as fragility and translates into his unique language.

Garo does not use brushes, neither does he use paint from ready-made tubes. He finds his natural pigments on expeditions to nature, in the places he visits: sands, earth, powdered marble, stones and brick, bitumen or wood ashes. To apply these on the canvas, he uses spatulas, trowels, sieves, as well as his bare hands. He always paints flat on the ground. The dimensions of his works are often monumental: the fact that he is not able to take in the entire surface of the work in progress at one glance is intensional, the lack of control bringing out creativity. His paintings hover between figurative elements and abstraction in a fascinating mixture in which we distinguish volcanoes, molten lava, desert sands, ice or waves. Fragments of architecture appear or seem to disintegrate in front of our eyes, pieces of gone cities and civilisations. 

In his quest for knowledge and understanding the unknown, Bernard Garo turns to other kinds of art and knowledge. He does not paint aimlessly. Each canvas is the result of long and deep reflection. Numerous sketches with handwritten footnotes included in the book bear witness to this. He researches on the subjects he paints and reflects on them from different angles. That is why for DEFLAGRATION, Garo invited art historians, geologists, architects, philosophers and archeologists to collaborate on the project. Their reflections are also contained in the book, in French and English. 

This unique mixture makes GARO DEFLAGRATION one of the most interesting publications connected with the Arts I ever held in my hands. It more than deserves any attention it can get. Exploring the strength and fragility of civilisations it is also of an impressing topicality in the present developments of today's world. 

In order to secure a copy, you have the following possibilities:

Visit the upcoming exhibition, celebrating the publication of the book: a huge retrospective of Bernard Garo's work of the past 15 years including his monumental paintings, as well as photographs, sculptures and video performances:

ESPACE ARLAUD Place de la Riponne, CH-1005 - Lausanne

January 27 - March 26 2017 (Weds-Fri: 12:00 -18:00 | Sat-Sun: 11:00 - 17:00 | Mon-Tue: closed)

Entry Fee:  CHF 6 (Students and Seniors CHF 4, Children under 16 are free)

or order the book online at a reduced price of CHF 78 before the exhibition. 


The book will also be available in bookshops in the region as of the end of January.  



About the author: 

Uli Van Neyghem was born into a family of artists and so art is very much a second nature to her. She uses her surroundings as inspiration and so, whilst living on old farm-house in Luxembourg, country living became a theme for her artwork for 10 years. She is no stranger to working on a large-scale format herself, creating large-scale paintings, often in rich, earthy colours. 

Uli is a regular contributor on WRS as part of our ART SEEN segments on the Mid Morning Mix. 



Tags: artist, art

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