Thierry Lefort by Philippe Godin - Painting and its shadow

By Philippe Godin
Hermetic to fashions and trends in art, Thierry Lefort pursues with rare fidelity a certain idea of ​​painting, the one that already pushed Cézanne to tirelessly return to the motif with the obstinacy of the monk focusing his gaze towards the unique god . As a fervent admirer of the master of Aix, Thierry Lefort perpetuates the gesture of taking painting out of the workshop. Does he not take it to the streets, drawing the material for his future paintings in situ within the urban spaces of Paris or Los Angeles?
Does it not thus confer an aesthetic dignity to places as innocuous as a parking lot, a marshalling yard, an industrial wasteland or a simple street corner? Doesn't he take particular care with plastic motifs that are generally understated, like these cast shadows which end up invading the surface of the canvas? Often overloaded with seemingly useless details, like the tangle of telephone lines, posts, and beams that the painter strives to detail with the patience of a Morandi encircling the outline of a carafe, the paintings by Thierry Lefort seem to deliver a metaphysics of these insignificant urban objects. The electrical poles of a square in San Francisco sometimes even take on the appearance of a tripalium for future crucifixions...No doubt, the absence of characters contributes to giving an unusual plastic consistency to these deserted streets that the artist strives to deprive of any narration.

Each painting by Thierry Lefort becomes a fascinating freeze frame that crystallizes the intact beauty of a painting lesson in the digital age. In fact, streets, parking lots or wastelands regain their state of balance, adding a truly remarkable treatment of colors and light. As with certain paintings by Matisse, in which the colors, tones and play of light harmonize the disorder of the lines and serve as unique visual references.
Thus, by painting a most prosaic urban reality with the same exacting standards as Cézanne treating the Montagne Sainte-Victoire or Monet his Giverny basins, Thierry Lefort is not delivering a simple remake of Impressionism in the age of the third millennium. By multiplying his latest series on the roads of California, he is not creating a pictorial version of Street Photography either. And, if his work takes up the figurative fiber dear to the painters of the San Francisco Bay School, it is in no way an ersatz of the work of Richard Diebenkorn.

One of the great interests of this “out of date” painting is to offer a direct confrontation with the triple regime of the photographic, cinematographic and digital image in what is most caricatured: the reign of clichés. By leaving to paint Californian urban landscapes in search of new forms, 7 years ago, the artist did not run the risk of exhausting himself in contact with this land overloaded with mythologies, which from Hollywood to Ford Mustangs have invaded our imaginary? However, far from corrupting his art by giving in to the sirens of an illustrative and seductive painting, Thierry Lefort was able to abstract from his paintings of the west coast, compositions which surprise with the balance of the play of colors and shapes, of lights and shadows, and their capacity to create real “blocks of sensations”, according to the expression of the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. In this sense, as Yoyo Maeght reminds us, the painter faithfully applies Cézanne's lesson according to which “painting from nature is not slavishly copying, it is realizing one's sensations”.

For this, Thierry Lefort's painting proceeds from slow methodical work, as far removed from the spontaneity of inspiration as from the hollow immediacy of digital photography. Everything that makes up the painting, its harmony and its mystery is the fruit of deep meditation.
Initially, the artist will draw his motif from the street, drawing almost “off the cuff” B&W sketches serving as a template for his future canvas. He therefore begins by simplifying reality by reducing it to the form of a sketch, in which the lines of force and shadows already take on their full importance. Secondly, he transposes his sketches to the scale of the canvas, and gives free rein to his imagination, playing in particular with scale, framing, and choice of colors. In this work of recomposing reality, the painter will also erase the figurative elements that are too identifiable. The drawing of lines of American cars, for example, is carefully schematized in order to prevent any recognition that could catch the viewer's eye. This art of purity thus preserves this figurative painting from any inclination towards scholastic and kitsch imitation.

“I did a lot of martial arts. » confides the artist. Painting, martial arts and meditation are quite close from this point of view. They teach us to move forward by subtracting – not accumulating. We must unload, strip away…”

Finally, if Thierry Lefort's paintings appear as an ode to postcard sunshine, it is in no way out of a taste for easy hedonism, but to better highlight the power of shadows, which the painter has made his credo. . The artist even manages to create a disturbing motif, like wild vegetation filling the canvas with its sprawling presence. More than shading, it is the cast shadows that fascinate the painter; those produced by objects, pillars, trees, etc. in a parking lot or a road. We understand why California, with its unique combination of sun and tarmac, is a paradise for this shadow hunter. The omnipresence of these wandering shadows that the painter enhances with a blue of which he has the secret, fully participates in the magic of this painting, by allowing the spectator to better dream of the images he discovers. Didn't Leonardo himself recommend to his students to stimulate their ability to project shapes by looking at "walls soiled with stains"?
Download the pdf here
Zoom in by clicking on the images.