Frédéric Diart

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My work consists of the direct relationship I establish and develop between word and painted surface, between literary and linguistic sources and their visual engendering, their material convulsions. I envisage my work as a slow manifestation of a state of hybridity whose mode of crystallization implies exhaustion, a divestiture of language, its dismantling towards a "beyond" of the word.

I believe that the spirit must continuously, by means of art, assimilate and appropriate to itself the impermanence of being in order to find and share a fertile and dignified moral concern. There, where I act, is a space made up of limits and margins, of pictorial acts in which an antagonistic movement can convoke legibility and visibility, deposit and withdrawal, emergence and burial. There, in this porous zone, time is made available and thickens.

This goal is founded on the principle of painted words presented simply or partially and is dependent on the amount of work done on the physical support and the manner of using letter- or word-stencils across which I deposit and arrange the materials. This network of meanings between words, materials, and colours privileges the non-apparent, the eloquence of muteness, and it seeks to make material the inexorable in the evidence of the weighted canvas. It is a way of learning to accept and to share loss, absence, and the sadness and pain of continual dispossession. The material announces its own failure and that of the words; language disperses, is diluted, and then crystallizes in a tense conglomeration that is painting—a ravaged language of the irresolute and the unbound, a language beyond words. A non-verbalized manifestation of God.

I cannot get used to the inevitable. Painting for me is a means, a paradoxical way of anchoring myself to the world, whose essence invites us to leave it, to escape it. It is poised between the torment of the spirit and the infinite silence of death. It uses artifice—materialization—in order to overcome darkness.

This project features paintings that were born from words over several years. These words have to do with experiencing limits: how we relate to history, how thinking can be made chaotic, how language can be torn apart. These texts and their authors are fertile and open fields of memory.

—Frédéric Diart

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Part of this body of work was exhibited in September 2013 at Galerie Scrawitch, Paris.  

To the vanquished...

Exiles, the shipwrecked, deviants, the rejected, the lonely, the drifting, martyrs, the abandoned, the despised, the erring, the humiliated, the enslaved, the sacrificed. To those who are lost, and whose tremors are still living within our present. They are the ghosts who whisper and weave the fabric of our mired shame and our necessarily constant renunciation, of beginnings continuously re-commenced. Their words have determined the act of painting, and I salute them.

The following text fragments occur in my paintings:

—"Variations on the matter of spirits," "phantom variations" as it is sometimes translated. The name of a composition said to have been dictated by "spirits" to the composer Robert Schuman just before his insanity and hospitalization.

"Domaine du souffle," "immorcelable," "éteint," "voici l'englouti," "inconnaissable," "cette matière mauvaise," "le souffle apporte la chair," "dans le verbe," "d'où vient l'appel"
—translations of fragments of the Chaldean oracles.

—the first name an adolescent gave to a boy child who was born and died in a concentration camp.

"Mass klo matisklo"
—the tentative phonetic translation of the only articulate sounds emitted by this being. The story is told by Primo Levi in The Truce.

"Schmuckstücke" "Schmutzstücke"
—according to the testimony of Primo Levi in The Drowned and the Saved, the mocking but closely phonetic phrases used by the kapos to heckle prisoners.

"Rien lumière"
—an inscription scratched in 1943 by a condemned man on the wall of his cell in Fresnes.

"Das schwarz kommt"
—phrase that ends a letter from Robert Schumann to Joseph Joachim.

"Mit humor" and "Zum beschluss"
—annotations on the scores of this same composer.

"Pallaksch," "Schmerzlos," "Deutungslos," "Sprachlos"
—Hölderlin's words. The first word is the single untranslatable expression that the poet used in the last period of his life. The others come from the poem Mnemosyne.

—the title of an early poem by Robert Walser.

"R U"
—Abbreviation of "Rückkehr Unerwünscht": these two letters were stenciled on the dossiers of prisoners condemned to death in the Nazi labour camps.

"Estos dias azules y este sol de la infancia"
—posthumous line of Antonio Machado, found by his younger brother in the pocket of the jacket that the poet was wearing at the time of his death.

"Le meaux de folle est mot mort contre nature"
—a text fragment of the schizophrenic Constance Schwartzlin Berberat, whose writings are conserved in the Museum of the Psychiatric Hospital of Waldau, in Berne, Switzerland.

"Oui morte hiéroglyphes"
—a phrase found in the unfinished novel Lenz of Georg Büchner; these are the words spoken by Jakob Lenz during a final exchange with Pastor Oberlin.

—the title of a lost film of Benjamin Fondane.

"Give the word!"
—Amongst the words currently written on the walls of my studio, the title of a poem by Paul Celan, referring to Shakespeare (King Lear), like an endless echo: "Give the Word" ("Gebt die Parole").

translated from the French by Simon Morley