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Claude Viallat
  • Artist (1936)

Claude Viallat, who was born in 1936 in Nimes, was one of the artists at the origin of the movement Supports/Surfaces, founded in 1970. In the mid-1960s, together with Louis Cane, Marc Devade, Daniel Dezeuze, Patrick Saytour and André Valensi, he would implement a critical and practical critique of the traditional picture. “A canvas—piece—alone is nothing, it is the process—system—which is important”, Viallat wrote in Fragments published in 1976. These artists would undertake a deconstruction of the pictorial space in order to reveal the dead ends and limits of representation. “Dezeuze painted stretchers without canvas, I painted canvases without stretchers, and Saytour painted the image of the stretcher on canvas.” (Claude Viallat). They painted repetitive motifs, areas of colour with random forms, they cut out, wove, folded, crumpled… Colour spilled over from the fixed structure of the traditional canvas, reaching the frame, and thus broke the classical support-surface relation. It was in 1966 that Claude Viallat adopted his “imprint process” which enabled him to systematically repeat an identical and undefined form on the free canvas relieved of its stretcher and not primed. “It is in the very gesture of colour that the painting is produced without the medium term of imitation.” This technique lent itself readily to multiple editions, the repetition of the imprint, and the stencil, a sort of “haricot bean” or palette that we find in the lithograph on canvas, L6, which, from then on, became his trademark. Viallat uses all sorts of flexible supports, adopted for their mobility, and their format, as well as their matter and their capacity to be folded: sheets, used textiles, nets, tarpaulins, parasols, and blinds with fringes. He also made objects, simple assemblages associated with the exhilarating notion of DIY (bricolage), all constructed using various salvaged materials (driftwood, scattered pieces of fabric…). It was after studying at the Montpellier School of Fine Arts and then at the Paris School of Fine Arts (1962-63) that Viallat settled in Nice, where he taught at the School of Decorative Arts. Before very long he was exhibiting works which questioned the medium and the tool, the figure and the background, and the relations of tension between forms and their surface. Since then, the artist’s works have been exhibited in most art centres in Europe, America and Asia, and feature in most major public and private collections.

Nadine Labedade