Thierry Lefort by Philippe Godin - Painting and its shadow

Thierry Lefort, painting and its shadow , by Philippe Godin, 2021

Hermetic to the fashions and trends of art, Thierry Lefort pursues with rare fidelity a certain idea of ​​painting, the one that already pushed Cézanne to return tirelessly to the motif with the obstinacy of the monk concentrating his gaze on the only god. . As a fervent admirer of the master of Aix, Thierry Lefort perpetuates the gesture of taking the painting out of the studio. Doesn't he take her to the streets, drawing the material for his future canvases in situ within the urban spaces of Paris or Los Angeles?

Doesn't it thus confer aesthetic dignity on places as innocuous as a car park, a marshalling yard, an industrial wasteland or a simple street corner? Doesn't he pay particular attention to plastic motifs that are generally understated, such as these cast shadows that end up invading the surface of the canvas? Often overloaded with seemingly useless details, like the skein of telephone lines, poles, and beams that the painter strives to detail with the patience of a Morandi defining the outline of a carafe, the paintings by Thierry Lefort seem to deliver a metaphysics of these insignificant urban objects. The electric poles of a square in San Francisco even sometimes 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, the streets, car parks or wastelands conquer their state of equilibrium, by adding a quite remarkable treatment of colors and light. As with certain paintings by Matisse, in which the colours, tones and play of light harmonize the disorder of the lines and serve as unique visual cues.
Thus, by painting a most prosaic urban reality with the same rigor as Cézanne treating the Sainte-Victoire Mountain or Monet his basins of Giverny, Thierry Lefort does not deliver a simple remake of Impressionism at the age of the third millennium. By multiplying his latest series on the roads of California, he does not make 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 "outdated" painting is to offer a direct confrontation with the triple regime of the photographic, cinematographic and digital image in what is most caricatural: the reign of clichés. By leaving to paint the Californian urban landscapes in search of new forms, 7 years ago, did the artist not run the risk of exhausting himself in contact with this land overloaded with mythologies, which from Hollywood to Ford Mustangs invaded our imaginary? However, far from corrupting his art by yielding to the sirens of an illustrative and enticing painting, Thierry Lefort knew how to abstract from his paintings of the west coast, compositions which surprise by the balance of the play of colors and shapes, lights and shadows, and their ability to erect 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 “to paint from nature is not to copy slavishly, it is to realize one's feelings”.

For this, Thierry Lefort's painting proceeds from a slow methodical work, just 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.

At first, the artist will draw his motif from the street, drawing almost "out of the blue" sketches in B&W 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 the shadows already take on their full importance. In a second step, he transposes his sketches to the scale of the canvas, and gives free rein to his imagination, playing in particular on the scales, the framing, and the choice of colors. In this work of recomposition of reality, the painter will also erase the too identifiable figurative elements. 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 leaning towards school 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 by accumulating. You have to unload, strip…”

Finally, if the paintings of Thierry Lefort appear as an ode to the sunshine of a postcard, 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 creed. . The artist even manages to make it a disturbing motif, like wild vegetation filling the canvas with its sprawling presence. More than the shadows, it is the cast shadows that fascinate the painter; those produced by objects, pestles, trees…on a parking lot or a road. We understand why California with its unique combination of sun and macadam 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, participates fully in the magic of this painting, by allowing the spectator to better dream of the images he discovers. Didn't Leonardo himself recommend that his students stimulate their ability to project shapes by looking at "walls stained with stains"?

Download the pdf here

Thierry Lefort, painting and its shadow , by Philippe Godin, 2021