Pierre Soulages : Painter of black and light
Pierre Soulages
Painter of black and light
Hans-Ulrich Obrist + Cédric Moullier, April 8, 2013
Pierre Soulages_Portrait
Pierre Soulages_Portrait
An interview with Pierre Soulages

(…) from the very beginning, Soulages has thought of painting in its relation to architecture. Not only is he “freeing himself from painting so as to approach architecture” but he treats painting as architecture, fixing his works by means of cables stretched from floor to ceiling, working exactly like an architect, with architectural space. “If you hang a painting on a wall,” he says, “it functions as a window. But fastened to cables, it becomes a wall itself.” Shown like this, his paintings establish a new mode of presentation, a new space, opening new prospects for the many contemporary artists who, in their installations, investigate the relation between the work of art and its space of exhibition, and the work of art’s status as an object (…).

Pierre Soulages/Soulages S-T
Pierre Soulages/Soulages S-T
Hans-Ulrich Obrist: What was your first profound aesthetic experience? Do you have a clear recollection of it?

Pierre Soulages: Yes, it was in the interior of the Romanesque abbey of Conques, near Rodez, the town where I was born. A town that was for a long time cut off from everything.

H.-U.O.: Was this first contact a real epiphany, in some sense?

P.S.: That first contact was followed shortly afterwards by a certain reflection about art. I had found in a book a reproduction of the Bison of Altamira. 18,000 years! That’s a hundred and eighty centuries, I thought to myself. And I realised, suddenly, how narrow was the history of art you were taught in school or saw in the museums. There you were presented with five or six centuries of painting, and even if you went back to ancient Greek sculpture, it was no more than twenty-six centuries. But a hundred and eighty centuries! From that moment on, I wanted to see what they didn’t tell us about. They talked to us about Romanesque architecture, for example, but not a word about Tavant, Saint-Savin and so on. So I then tried to find out all about painting, all the way back to its most distant origins, and likewise, about the art of other countries, of Africa, Asia… I also took part in archaeological excavations of prehistoric sites, caves, dolmens…

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