Michel Castaignet
Tree and Cloud. 2019, oil on canvas,24x33 cm

Michel Castaignet „Landscape as a Line” 2020:
“I’ve been looking at ways to make a very minimal landscape.
Just a few lines to suggest a tree, a hedge…
It could also be a tree and a cloud, depends on the colours.
Maybe just trees…
A bit bolder, tree and hedge.
A tree and a cloud.
Tree, cloud and hedge.
Tree, haystack and horizon.
I was done with drawings, I started painting this little idea. The result is quite joyful I think.

My notebooks record my formal mediations. I incessantly arrange shapes within the space of the sheet. Alike some writing that would constantly engrave the present time, like a diary, I talk about the transience of the world though a succession of equilibrium of simple shapes. In the Atelier I then curate those drawings and classify them in order to reproduce them on different supports. In 2018, at Positions Berlin, gallery Maksla XO exhibited glass paintings taken from these notebooks. This year it is a selection of paintings recalling landscapes. The plain and colourful shapes become signs and their balances create minimal landscape that invite the viewer to reflect about the impermanence of the world” – Michel Castaignet.



Maksla XO gallery 14.02.–11.03.2019

"It’s been several years that I have been engaged in a graphical reduction of the world, looking for a new rapport between drawing and painting. In a way, the new painting series “Frauwelt” is an extension of my previous interest for the optical dimension of photography – the projection of the image and the cut in reality made by the frame of the photo. Since my solo show “Asphodels” in 2016 (“Maksla XO” gallery), I gradually lost my interest for the kind of realism induced by the photographic process in favour of the balance of shapes and colour in spaces.
Being keen on exploring abstraction in drawing and glass painting, I was seeking for a way to bring together abstraction and figuration, while at the same time keeping them autonomous.
I decided to draw over the abstract shapes, which form the painting’s background, as if it was a smiley. This face was inspired by illustrator HG Peters’ invented character – Wonder Woman. I stared to use this face several times on the same painting and I liked this repetition effect. Now, this graphical painting world is inhabited by one figure, which in a way is a generic persona. It seems both totally familiar and totally alien to classical conception of the human figure as its body is a stack of shapes.
The more I am painting, the more I am stroked by the effect caused by this unique persona that happens to be a woman. There is a science fiction feeling but it’s a retro sci-fi because the face is obviously from the 1940’s and evokes some kind of Marlene Dietrich. So, I used this effect to progress in my compositions and create a world that questions our own world,” Michel Castaignet, 2019.


Michel Castaignet. Frauwelt. - - 2018. - 12 P.


Michel Castaignet. Mountains and flowers

The American painter Agnes Martin (1912–2004) spent several decades in the desert of New Mexico in an adobe hut she built herself. She lived a simple and solitary life painting geometric compositions from simpler and simpler forms, pale and soft, until in the end the colours were almost transparent. They were mainly horizontal lines. A quite surprising collection of her writings was published after her death. It turned out she had also been writing something akin to poems in prose about nature, inspiration, clarity of mind and truth. Martin’s poetry-prose work is called “The Untroubled Mind”. Michel Castaignet is very familiar with this work and if you stand next to his large canvas “Asphodels”, you can hear it. The horizontal lines in which I see the terraced hills of the Sicilian landscape also remind me of Agnes Martin’s desert.
In 2013 French painter Michel Castaignet saw a dream in which someone told him that he had to go off alone to Sicily and set up a studio there. The next year he bought a small piece of land with a tumbledown house not far from Syracuse. He spent the winter of 2014 in this lonely place with his canvases and paints waiting for his object to appear.
He says he went there imagining these were the lands of ancient Greek deities and hoping to paint something geometric about natural phenomena such as rain, snow, hail and the wind. Michel experienced all these phenomena in his Sicilian studio, literally in his studio, because it had no windows or doors and there were holes in the roof but this did not become the object of his paintings.
In the painting “Cronus devouring his children”, we see Cronus the king of the Titans and the only things left of his six children, their hands. Michel, it seems, has imagined Cronus as symbolising Time, the rule of the past over the future and Time’s insatiable appetite – the children of Time will only manage to take from the earth what they can.
“Errinyes” with their marble heads and raven bodies were deities of revenge and remorse. Just but relentless, they pursued their victim to the end of the world. Michel writes that he painted them after he received the news while at his retreat about the terrorist attacks in Paris on 11 January 2015. The Errinyes are perhaps expressing his remorse for being away at a time when it seemed all the French had to be in France because this violence didn’t destroy only a few free people or French citizens, it affected everyone at the same time and together.
In “On the hill” we see a plain, a steep hillside and tiny shoots sprouting from it (yes, Sicily’s lands are volcanic – they both destroy and nourish). These tiny shoots sprang from bulbs that, it was discovered later, were asphodel bulbs. Fifteen days before Michel’s departure they flowered as we can also see in the large painting, which, like a diary, was continued and supplemented during all his time in Sicily. To the Greeks, asphodels symbolise the Underworld or hell because the blossoms are as pale as flesh without blood. When right here in Sicily, Persephone left her mother Demeter to pick these flowers, she was abducted by Hades the ruler of the Underworld. As anyone can see by opening their eyes and looking around, Persephone spends eight months of the year underground with her husband and four above with her mother. And then everything blossoms.
In Michel’s paintings I see great vitality, strength, purposefulness and hope. His asceticism bore fruit, his object appeared. The Greek gods did not deceive him. Despite the mercilessness of Time and remorse. And Agnes Martin too, whose texts Michel had wanted to learn by heart, wrote:
Everyone is chosen and everyone knows it / including animals and plants / There is only the all of the all / everything is that / every infinitesimal thought and action is part and parcel of / a wonderful victory.

Agnese Gaile-Irbe, 2016.



Fau Alexandra. MICHEL CASTAIGNET. Castor & Pollux, 2012 - 96 P.