A resident of Nice, France, artist Alain Laugier’s typical topics for his paintings are, not surprisingly, romantic. While he does delve into the area of painting portraits with decidedly less success, his emphasis is the romantic scene. On the whole, his artistic fascination is on a scene in a wide variety of places, (the beach, the country, a town square) with a pair of lovers set in the foreground, locked in a soft embrace, or holding hands, or kissing, or just looking tenderly into each other’s eyes. But what’s so surprising is that, without the pair of lovers, the view might be entirely lost to the viewer. Laugier’s style stands firmly on the line between modern impressionism and abstract expressionism, and it is precisely that crossing of styles that is so fascinating about Laugier’s art.
For the sake those who might be lost in the terminology, please allow two brief descriptions. Impressionism is a French style from the Romantic era. It was and is and attempt to offer a viewer a scene that is less than clear, more representational (if you’ll please pardon the paradoxical use of that term in this context) of a faded memory or of a scene that is merely glimpsed rather than studied. The concentration of impressionism is not in the details but in the sense—the impression—of the whole image of, say, a person or group.
Expressionism differs from impressionism in that, while impressionism allows the artist to take a step away from a picture-perfect “picture,” expressionism removes all resemblance of a picture from the canvas. Even in impressionism there is an image to focus on and areas to rest the viewer’s eyes. The figure near the centre is still of more importance than the space in the corner. In expressionism, the “stuff” in the corner is both equally important and equally unimportant with the “stuff” in the centre; the entire image is the focus. Expressionism is, literally, the visible expression of a thought or a feeling with no “picture” at all.
Getting back to Laugier’s work, when you take the time to enjoy one of his romantic depictions, focus some time on his background without considering the lucky love birds. If you do, you might realize that it is the loving couple that gives the entire painting its context. Without them, the background is often little more than a colourful expression, but of what, it would be hard to say. It is the presence of the couple that gives the viewers a sense of perspective, of dimension and context for the background.
One example to demonstrate this point is called “Waves of Love” (translated from the French by Google Translate). In the background is a large circular feature that is a breaking wave painted in lots of cool colours, but with the use of many warmer colours as well, giving it a destabilizing quality. Without the title and the lovers in the foreground, this feature doesn’t have to be anything. My first “impression” was a “time tunnel,” nothing aquatic.
My favourite and perhaps the finest example of this attribute of Laugier’s work is called “Romance in Colour” (translated from the French by Google Translate). With the two young lovers in the mid-ground, it’s is clear that the painting’s subject is two people enjoying a walk through a wooded area in autumn with many an ancient, huge tree. Without those two youths, though, even though you might see a pattern among all the colour, you would not necessarily identify the background as even a background, but as a canvas brimming over with delightfully expressed vigour of colour and texture. Laugier’s work is truly enigmatic.
Not all of his paintings are so mysterious. “For Mom” and “Romance is Dancing” are paintings depicting two scenes in a town with clearly more than two people present in both. While they are still clearly impressionistic, the backgrounds show none of the ambiguity of styles or eras, and even some of his more intimate romantic displays are not so vividly non-vivid. Even so, Laugier’s skill at walking the line, playing with artistic movements and dancing on the canvas with varying eras is one of the artistic attributes that can clearly, easily and entirely draw the viewer into his work as surely as the smell of your favourite food cooking in the kitchen; there’s no turning back.
Click on an image to view the large-view slides of the paintings.