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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Caroline Chariot-Dayez

''When a philosopher paints, he paints painting itself. His painting turns to reflection on itself and the painting is always self-representational.

Here, reflection acquires a metaphysical vein. When a painter sees visible things, he does not see them withdrawn, as from a balcony. He sees them from the inside, because his body is part of them. He is something visible that sees what is visible. Within him, it is as if the visible were returned back on itself. A hole is dug, a fold without whose shadow there would be no visual perception. It is as if the unveiling of things were folding, cloth, … canvas.

When the painter paints, it is the world that folds up and becomes canvas. Painting is canvas in essence. A canvas is not the material that the painter covers with paint. It is the metaphysical substratum of the painter’s gesture. It emanates visible things when someone visible hollows them and looks at the crust, their skin, on which colours turn up as secretions. The visible paints itself. And the painter is nothing but the canvas that clothes him.

Caroline Chariot-Dayez was born in Brussels in 1958. Painting was part of her life from a very early age, as her staple diet. When she started her studies, her prime concern was to understand what painting is, and that is why she enrolled in the faculty of philosophy. She was immediately taken by the works of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who would live a deep imprint on her pictorial oeuvre.

Her life has been an ongoing interaction between philosophy, which she teaches, and painting. They are like two sides of the same approach, the obverse and reverse. But until the age of forty, she felt reluctant to show her paintings in public (with the exception of an appearance on the RTBF (1) programme “Les arts en liberté” [The Arts at Large] in March 1995, presented by Christian Bussy''

by Anne François

''First of all she waits for the sun to appear, but it has to be coaxed. If it agrees to show its face, Caroline places the old aprons on the desk in her room, towards the south-facing windows. The aprons used to be white, but the constant friction of paint brushes being wiped against the fabric has taken its toll over the course of time so that they now look a bit like ripped skin in places, brittle where marked by stains. Or they have the appearance of sheets, as if congealed, hardened by old colours. Caroline then waits: there is but one moment when the fabric is revealed by the light.

She prepares her dimensional trap: a large poplar panel that has been (hot) coated with rabbit skin glue. The old apron, the ball of crumpled sheets has to slide from their celestial body towards their image, without any suffering or becoming denatured. Their third dimension may have to be swapped for a further degree of soul but there is no question of them being stuffed or embalmed. In this transformation from one life into another, the hunter becomes a courier. He/she prepares the ointments and background, arranges the sable and mongoose hair brushes and goes to stand in front of the trap. It does not matter how much her back or legs have to suffer, this is a game of patience whilst awaiting the appearance of the colours concealed in the folds and the light hidden in the rear of the shadow.

Never any black on the palette. A touch of white for the mixtures and pure white for returning to the light. For the red, a hint of madder lake and tête morte, for the brown, sienna, burnt or otherwise, ochre and violet, and as for the blue, ultramarine, cobalt and ceruleum. A few red chalk lines on the wood to start with. Apron, sheet, disappear, yield up to us what is left behind when our eyes have travelled all over the surface: pure presence.

Shadow cannot be invented. It has to be contemplated and it is up to this darkness itself to provide inspiration for the colours. No shadow is immune to light, no black hole is bereft of light. The folds sometimes create grisly gaps through which the sky allows us to guess the other side of the picture. Sometimes they reflect the dark red of the female sex. Sometimes the woman holding the end of the paintbrush tumbles into the hollows, as if the paint brush is turning around to catch her in her own trap, so that at last she sees this trap hard at work and how she is caught and united with both the shadow and light, which merely play at emerging from the image.

As a result of these illuminations, even the pain in her back or legs is overlooked. The object has made its qualitative leap. The red and ochre invest a face with depth. Shadow is given expression via the pink or the blue. The utilitarian dimension has been transcended. The white square illuminated. The being is glimpsed in a fold, at the interface of light and darkness. At the intersection of appearance and disappearance. A miracle has been entrapped. The painting has become thought. Thought has become painting. The colour, the shape, shadow and light invested with a body and skin.

Just as truth is drawn from founts of knowledge, so philosophy is teased out of black and white mazes, its paths of letters and papers, to lie down completely naked in the old sheet, completing its transubstantiation. The painting now exudes more light than has ever been seen before in this studio with its south-facing windows. Caroline is worn out''

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