"Dyptique" by Eurydice TrichonMilsaniart critic, writer
The wonderful world of Pascal Chauveau

Pascal Chauveau lives and works in Cherbourg. 'The very end of the world' I declared the first time I went there in order to get to know his work. ' It's far' he agreed in the guilty way of a man who humorously describes himself as a 'province painter' who doesn't like to come and go. He dutifully adds: 'Anyway it's a beautiful town when the weather is fine. It doesn't rain as often as Jacques Demy claims.

However it was raining but the coastline was as beautiful as it is in some of Boudin's and Dufy's paintings and instead of regatta, half-sailed 'Optimists' drifted. Then there were the sights of closed ports spiked with a forest of masts, the beaches and the hills dressed with the autumn colours and the impressive ancestor submarine like a huge grey pachyderm in its concrete cradle, discoveries that Pascal Chauveau offered me because ' it's worth being showed all that, it's life that feeds spirit and seeps through painting, because human relationships are as important as the aesthetic consideration and the expert's verdict'.

Once you are in the rue Malakoff house where Pascal Chauveau has been living since he was 5 years old, the world topples over. A three-storey bourgeois house changed into a permanent exhibition place. If somewhere easels, palettes and colour tubes exist, they are well hidden, away from sight. Works emerge from everywhere. Walls, pieces of furniture, easels, all kinds of supports are garnished with any size paintings.

Finished products, as in a shop window, they sparkle. Tables are covered with books and catalogues with photos and information about the artist's work.

The paintings I have known through photos are now alive and set up in front of me. In a glance I recognize the style as well as the different manners of the painter, both surrealist and abstract. But painting is not the only master in the place. All the storeys as well as the corridors and the stairways are full of objects which compete with it and strongly seek your attention.

Roman sculptures, armours, Western and Japanese arms, pairs of shoes in line, Roman costumes, ancient clothing worn by mannequins arise curiosity not to say wonder. Going deeper into my etude I discover an amount of Roman attributes swarming around a laurel crowned bust of Julius Caesar. Later the artist invites me to admire an astonishing jewel collection: some of them are copies of Roman sets, others have been designed by him and made in solid gold by his jeweller in Cherbourg; a true documentary and aesthetic treasure.

Going from one surprise to another, my eyes hardly focus and wander around from an object to an other, from a painting to a drawing, from a set of jewels to a piece of cloth. This entire world takes me in a historical and cultural adventure, in a journey in the heart of a surprising and well organized frenzy which arouses the liveliest curiosity.
This almost dramatic group is made up of true 'environments'. They are so well structured that they prevent me not to take them seriously; I have to believe that it's no accident and to separate them from the purely pictorial work. I only can consider them as a whole. Besides, the set-up, the colours choice, the matters-cloth-glass-metal, are not unfamiliar to s more general aesthetic research.

According to me Pascal Chauveau turns out to be an environment and setting-up virtuoso in the current meaning of the word. The elements I have in front of my eyes, surprising in their association, strangely attractive in their characterized spirit, reach a perfect consistency. However the artist makes me understand that they are not to be put in an exhibition and that their only place is in the privacy of his home. These theatrical set up fed on fantasies and reveries are just playing a role in the set for the moment. What Chauveau considers as 'his job' are exclusively his paintings.

There are a lot of them. The painter admits he is continually working, always pushing further his taste for colour, geometric shapes, ornamental effect, firm and vibrating marks of the movement and the stroke, and the immateriality of transparency. These values are well visible on all the painted surfaces which illustrate the two inclinations his artistic imaginative world evolves in: the figurative and abstract arts.

You can say that Chauveau cultivates surrealism in all its range since this so fruitful moment of the French creation blooms out in different ways, with the aim of revealing the turbulent and unusual treasures of the unconscious. At the beginning of its story, it was first the illustration of dream and delirium; then thanks to automatic techniques', what André Breton called 'absolute automatism' happened, that is to say the ejection of the subject and abstraction. This last period gave free rein to movement and spot and freed the painting from any extra-pictorial element to reach what was called pure painting.

We can understand how such an eclectic and unpredictable artist, averse to be stuck in a sole and unique language, has found happiness in the surrealist adventure in its entirety. At the heart of the inexhaustible source of ideas and energy he has invented a perfectly personal vocabulary. To go from one style to an other while remaining faithful to the very essence of surrealism, a dream catalyst and generator of surprises, has become for him a wonderful game which has led him very far. During all these years he has developed a whole narrative and romantic imagination in his series of figurative paintings. That is where he gave free rein to his fantasies. His darling antiquity-heads of Greek gods remains of temples, columns- revised and filtered through the great surrealist masters Dali and Chirico, blossoms in spellbinding paintings. In the background of breathtaking perspectives, the mysterious face of a goddess appears in the middle of geometric elements. Hand-trees grow in spaces inhabited by remains of heterogeneous civilizations that the game with the scale makes disturbing. A cosmogonist atmosphere rules in the fantastic space of the paintings, places of dreams and memory.

At first Pascal Chauveau's abstract paintings seem to be some distant epigone of the abstraction which was born after the second Great War. Big size painting, they are cheerful and well balanced compositions that are prone to the laws of harmony and symmetry. All the knowledge gained from the 50s and 60s Ecole de Paris but also New York abstraction are recognized and interpreted in a very personal symbolic language. Action art, tachism, stencil work and airbrushing create light and stimulating surfaces, funny jazz scores as well as modern tantra likely to guide your mind and to convey optimism. The artist doesn't hide his fondness for Kandinsky, Klee and Mondrian.

He pays tribute tc them in passing, choosing his own way. He keeps them in mind to feed his own creation but also to go elsewhere in a more honest and more decorative world freed from theories and concepts. With time these shapes become clearer and clearer and wee ordered in an unforeseen offhand manner and freshness.

Chauveau rightly claims the title of 'modern" in the extent that his references are in the heroic years of the prime abstraction when painters were incredibly daring and had the conviction that they were building a new world. But he is not necessarily backward-looking. His taste for quotations and pastiche, his lightness, the ease with which he combines manners and matters and achieves a successful blending of pictorial and so unexpected fantastical experience, straightaway make him belong to today's world which is so full of memories and controversies. Whatever we say, he is a true contemporary. His desire for quality, his tenacity, his respect for the spectator are values which guarantee that painting, age-old but still present art, is the privileged place for beauty and expresses our need for escape and dreams.

Eurydice Trichon-Milsani

Art critic, writer, member of AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d'art), 'DUFY'-Au musée National d'Art Moderne'-Fernand HAZAN edition (collection Les chefs d'oeuvre)
PARIS-SORBONNE: PhD in Art history. Speaker at Musée national d'art Moderne Georges Pompidou, Paris