From year to year, from decade to decade, Jean Paul Riopelle constantly metamorphosed and reinvented his work to resonate with past and future movements. In this sense, L’Orage, executed in 1956, testifies to the stylistic discoveries made during the mosaics period (1949–59) and foretells a fertile new direction, both in terms of composition and tonality and of the craftsmanship of the paintings that would ensue. “This new style of composition [that] demanded a new space,” wrote Pierre Schneider about the works produced in 1956, made room for zones that were more frontal and stripped down, like an opening in a forest or the darkest recesses at its heart. Thus, on a smaller scale, the topography of these paintings is fragmented and layered to link form and function, with broader, more ordered, and simplified spatula strokes; the spaces—both visceral and imaginary—from which materials and colours flow seem to obey a revised geometry that “veers sometimes toward a dense complexification of polychrome prisms, or sometimes, on the contrary, into a less tumultuous song, a whispering among the trees,” as Guy Robert noted. L’Orage unfurls in a storm of contrasts, exposing the signs and features of nature’s turbulence, between the freshness of shimmering blues and greens and the magic of fervent strokes. Geomagnetic storm or volcanic eruption, the bands of black, white, and grey release their energy into the centre of the painting, taking hold of this compact space to expose a slow-motion free-fall of abrupt angles. Profil d’orage (1956), sold in June 2016 at Christies, London, approaches the same subject with equal passion, in a larger format with a similar palette, heralding L’Orage in all its splendour.
Jean Paul Riopelle, tireless painter, exceptional and intuitive in his quest for raw meaning and its inverse, delivers here a pivotal work from the mosaics period.