It is said that art changes minds and certainly, hearts; maybe that’s true. It certainly can unexpectedly expose the viewer to, literally, another way of looking at a same old, same old trope.
For instance, after many years of conscientiously analyzing the Oedipal hamster wheel that constitutes his fruitless, but not disagreeable, life, Italo Svevo’s Zeno concludes that he doesn’t die only because his organs have no common sense of direction to collapse into.
Thus, Zeno believes that, in the end, the unexamined part of self rules life’s roost.
My intentions, though sometimes gasping now in the rare air of worldly wisdom, as well as my organs, thanks be, are still in good enough shape to take me past the Point Rouge Gallery on the rue de Dahomey.
Dahomey abuts, not incidentally, the rue Faidherbe, where a smiling, preternaturally smooth-mannered barmaid, if told about the injustices inflicted on me (perhaps even on you) by a certain curly-haired woman of a certain age, promotes a complex theory of lies that might seriously shake the moral resolve of such other persons as would need to hear it.
Such eyes! But, back at it. I’m with Zeno’s general point that, when all is said and done, there is no elaborable point to action and less factually deliberate direction to its doing. In short, my fanciful or evasive scenarizations apart, I do not generally know why I do things, let alone the initial or final import of such same things in the real world – i.e. what I actually do and what the real outcome of it will be or, rather, how spectators might describe that outcome. If they can perceive it, that is. Largely speaking, I mean.
Things do just seem to happen or not and is as does. No? Besides, really looking into all the unconscious muck slopped up by life’s too-rapid progress might be dangerous. Mightn’t it? Given how troublesome all these pesky truthisms are, I prefer to stay with the prejudices I have carefully developed.
For example, the comforting prejudice that darkness, allegory for the unconscious mind, is peopled by unfathomable monsters, symbols of unredeemed anguish, and, finally, darkness is usually found, but not strictly so, under the bed, metaphor for the quivering Self.
So, back to the Point Rouge gallery on the rue Dahomey. All this desperate previous reflection, including that barmaid's theories and those two pints and unburdening myself, is why Richard Lallier’s paintings there caught my eye.
That is, elbowing my way through the gallery and suddenly catching sight of them, I nod sagely to myself and say to myself, “Here’s dancing in the dark, just like me.” Just to prove my point to my own satisfaction, I determine to ask Richard Lallier, just as I have so often done with the curly-haired woman of a certain age after two pints, just what the devil is meant by this dark stuff? Unlike the curly-haired woman, Richard is always friendly and approachable, at least with strangers.
So there’s no problem just walking up and asking Lallier point blank if he knows why he does what he does and what he’s doing and what will be the consequences? For the consequences, he doesn’t know; I admit to myself that I never have given the curly-haired woman any satisfaction on this point.
But as to what he does, Richard Lallier is straightforward and clear: he blackens a surface, then wears away the black, brushes it clear again, enabling the (light) initial surface to emerge. This explanation was totally unexpected.
It surprised me because it had truly never occurred to me that what I believed, at first sight, were figures lost in the dark, were actually figures emerging from the dark. Looking again, squinty up against the canvas, I see that this is quite true, if I look.
The why of the technique, too, is straightforward, as tangible experience, Lallier points out: “My grandma was an usher in the movie house. She took me to work with her. It was from the dark that wonderful things emerged.” Later, after I have been looking a while, Lallier adds, “My brothers and I shared a sleeping room; they always fell asleep before I could, so I made my plans and projects and visions from the blackness.”
In Richard Lallier's work, then, the shaping light is already there. His creative task, then, would be to discover the light, say, as one might discover a person behind the role assigned in the shadow play. So, as he creates, Richard Lallier feels pleased surprise in the brightening shapes that emerge from the blackness covering them.
As I leave the gallery, hurrying to catch my bus, I realize that, because it has not been Yahweh’s way:
"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light"
... existing light has always frightened me …