Bernard Rancillac

Born in 1931 in Paris, lives and works in Paris

45 Years of Painting – Paris, February 2008

When does a painter become himself? Before painting like Bernard Rancillac, Bernard Rancillac painted like – all the potential of a budding ar tist can be found in what comes after “like”. Gaston Chaissac’s influence in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is undeniable; Rancillac’s handling of the paint in the Fantômas series verges on abstraction.

On the back of one of these youthful fantasies is a De Staël from the period in which he was influenced by this twentieth-century shooting star.

Then one day, after a lengthy gestation, Bernard Rancillac became Bernard Rancillac. A painter of powerful, assertive contours, whose works reflect the technological and political upheavals of his generation, even in the sometimes aggressive sensuality of his nudes.

Let’s not forget that there was a time when pornography saw itself as militant.

That was during the Gaullist era, when Rancillac put La pornographie censurée par l’érotisme (Pornography Censored by Eroticism) on view at DanielTemplon’s gallery. With strong colors and forms, juxtaposed scenes of war and peace, Rancillac wielded a militant palette.

Figurative art is either narrative or not.With portraits of not only Ben Barka and Che Guevara, but also Antoine and Jimi Hendrix, Rancillac’s painting took risks, denounced crimes committed for the sake of politics and consumer society, with its perfidious, deceptive imagery. His artistic philosophy was sparked by the Ben Barka affair in 1966. Both his painting and texts attested to his “ideological view”.

Everything was a source of inspiration: comics, sports, photography, music and, above all, current events, always the focal point of his investigations.

What mattered was to reach the truth behind the cropped media image, to transcend one meaning and let another spring forth, to use an image in the same way as an image can dupe us.

Rancillac began his career by relating to other people’s eras, those that came before him. In 1966, he decided to stick to current events, to be at one with his own time, to draw inspiration for his works from it, so as to reflect the world’s own image back at it.

La fiancée de l’espace (Space Fiancée) floats in a happy blue silence, while canvases filled with caustic melan- choly denounce media image abuse. A Hollywood starlet heedlessly shares a bed with a dragon terrified by her carefree attitude. Rancillac likes diptychs, the crossroads of two thought processes, two contrasting points of view that clash, question one another, and challenge us.

East and West collide in the astonished delight of mutual curiosity mingled with the mistrust of two different worlds that are aware of each other, yet show no recognition. Rancillac plunges into the news, from film stars to Chinese dragons, dictators’ bloodstained suitcases to Muslim women’s veils.

La Vénus de Malakoff (The Malakoff Venus) emerges from her vase like a shy snake charmer and modern odalisques enthrall us with their candid, brazen charms, surrendering themselves voluptuously to us on languid canvases. Better hide, goddesses are everywhere.

He’s first and foremost a painter, unafraid of being restricted by genres and styles ever since he discovered his own. Stretcher after stretcher, cubes and readymades, collage and painting, sculpture and lighting: everything is valid as long as the image is enhanced.

A wooden horse fixed to a canvas marks the frontier of two horizons. He constantly seeks new forms, in increasingly impressive formats, to renew an already accomplished art. The world is changing. In his renderings and means of expression, his ar t changes, too. Through all the vicissitudes of his life as a man and artist, he has remained faithful to art, i.e. to himself in the artist’s ambiguous relationship with what he creates.

There was a time when pornography saw itself as militant, when the nude wanted to come out of the forbidden zone to which it had been confined, when jazz was synonymous with fallen chains, when murderous sensuality made light of sex, when happy moments did not dip their roots in blood.

Lélia Mordoch