FRENCH CHRISTIAN GASTALDI IS A PAINTER WHO HARDLY USE PAINT - A POET DESTROYING WORDS
CARMEN HUST | ARTICULATE #19 | APRIL 2019
THE VULGARITY OF THE OBVIOUS
The French artist Christian Gastaldi (1960) feels art as a necessity. He has to engage himself in artistic creation processes to reach the elevated levels of emotions that make life worth living. Gastaldi works with materials he finds on the streets, after having suffered the passing of time. Materials whose mundane functions do not spontaneously elect them as arty material. His work is built upon humanity and the fragility he perceives in it.
Christian Gastaldi is interested in rhythm and composition. He seeks to develop the graphic equivalent of what is the style for a writer, how the rhythm of sentences, of syllables create a melody that can give rise to emotions on their own merits (independent of the meaning conveyed). In this context he states:
“I am a painter who hardly use paint! I am a poet who destruct the words, to retain only fragment of letters, desperate attempts to communicate.”
Gastaldi is a big fan of literature and particularly the styles that writers develop, more than the stories themselves. He’s fascinated by how a succession of words can be organized to create rhythms, moods that generate emotional reactions with the reader. In his work, he has the same approach.
He studies how elements can be arranged on the canvas to create the same reactions, with the viewer this time. Doing that, he destroys almost systematically the original elements, not to be polluted by their original significations.
Gastaldi retains fragments of letters, color elements, pieces of lines, of curves… to incorporate them into new movements developed on the canvas. The resulting chaos of letters, or the discrete appearance of typographic elements, confront the viewer to the incommunicability of today’s world (despite the large flow of information, that unfortunately dramatically lack of meaning, or emotional potential). The refusal of obviousness, of pre-cooked messages, opens an infinite perspective of freedom to the viewer, while creating a visual poetic scenery.
Talking about art, Christian Gastaldi wishes to initiate a debate, regarding the role and place of written production.
Does art need a written justification, when it is primarily the irrepressible need of a human being?
Should we preempt by words, viewers’ reactions?
According to Gastaldi, the current official dogma in art puts concept at the heart of the creation (defining its process, justifying the realization). Words precede actions (and even replace creativity), as if nowadays the sun was turning around the earth. In his view, art is fundamentally a matter of freedom. No words, no preconceived rules, should restrain it. It’s valid for creation, it’s also valid for the viewers, whose reactions do not deserve to be guided.
Christian Gastaldi works from pre-existing materials, elected from what he perceives in them (though seldomly preserving the meaningfulness of the original image), the textures they offer, their level of degradation, of dirt. They act as an impetus to formalize the idea of an artwork.
Gastaldi then develops the concept, through the filter of his conception of art, while working in his studio. His pieces are completely reconstructed. They are not ready-mades, though he tries to give to them the impression of naturalness. As an artist, going to the studio, he likes to embark on journeys, not knowing exactly where he will go, which precise trail he will follow, which feelings he will experiment on the way. Thinking, of course, has a place. It provides a framework in which the artist freely decides to place himself. It intervenes to decide how the ongoing work should evolve, after taking the necessary step-back.
When he started his artistic career, Gastaldi first needed to expel from his body subjects, which had been in him for a long time. He felt the necessity to confront himself with classical subjects, which made him initiate his creative process with Christ, Madonna, landscapes… Soon afterwards, his work evolved to more lyrical and poetic abstract forms.
To Christian Gastaldi the key element in creating a good composition consists of rhythm, with a special attention to spatial and chromatic compositions. His work is influenced by Ousmane Sow, Pierre Riba and Saul Leiter, among others, as their work combine the dimensions of humanity and poetry. Furthermore, Gastaldi is fascinated about how these artists have the modesty of speaking about their works with personal and meaningful words. To him, the key element of understanding an artistic creation, is when the artist expresses his or her intimate relation with the art piece. Concepts come afterwards, as a post-action reflection. Responding to the need of the artist to understand what he created and why. That’s when the words become important. They are difficult to find, given the complexity of the feelings involved. Gastaldi likes to hear them directly from the mouth of the artists, in the intimacy of their studios. The artists who inspires him, do not mention concept. They rather talk about their modest individual paths, their relative and personal truths, emerging from the trial and errors adventures they engaged upon, while seeking the transmutation of materials into art.
In his own creation, Christian Gastaldi destroys, quasi systematically, the words and images present in the original material, to let the viewer free in interpreting or reacting to the result. The obvious would be vulgar, or even obscene. Rhythm and composition, fundamental basis of any art work, express themselves in more subtle registers.
This article about CHRISTIAN GASTALDI takes part of ARTICULATE #19. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below