74-75 B – 113 x 105

Martin BARRE

Date : 1975

Medium : Painting

Size : 113 x 105 cm

Acrylic on canvas

Since 1973, Martin Barré returned to his radical and studied attempts at rendering the fragmentation of space, surface and his work. The artist produces entire series of works and creates geometric assemblies. He brings together triangles, squares and rectangles, sometimes truncated or tinted, and hangs them according to their geometric shape.
Midway between Geometric and Lyrical Abstraction, Martin Barré’s oeuvre may be defined as a reflection
on painting through painting. Invested with a simplicity verging on a sketchlike quality, his work ceaselessly
questions and rethinks its fundamental elements: format, movement, figures, series, even the very installation of his paintings. With titles that look more like bar codes than definitions, his canvasses come
in series. A work is identified solely by the year in which it was painted and its size: enigmatic equations that in turn convey the austere abstraction of the canvasses. Although he deliberately rejected spectacular effects, Martin Barré’s laconic style by no means excluded a
poetic, sensitive approach to painting. Public recognition of his discreet, meticulous work came late in his career. He died in 1993, the same year as the retrospective
held in his honour at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu
de Paume, Paris.

© Adagp, Paris, 1976

The guide

"Reduction and concentration" are the key words that describe this artist's work.

Martin Barré has rejected figurative painting to devote himself to exploring painting’s codes. Let us look at how he does it.
In this painting, for example, he used hatching and drew parallel freehand lines in pink. Notice how the freedom of the gesture is juxtaposed with the strict geometry of other elements of the painting.
In this painting, the painter is playing with contrasts.

Can you see the role played by the composition of the work?

The artist has placed two grids in the background. The first, which we can hardly make out, was sketched with a lead pencil. It fits perfectly in the frame of the canvas. This system evokes squaring off, a traditional painting technique. It serves as the basis for a second grid, which is tilted this time and traced in black. The relationship between the two is governed by the application of very old rules related to the search for mathematical harmony. It may be hard to believe, but as you can see Martin Barré's work draws upon the same sources as those used by as artists such as Leonardo de Vinci.

Now look carefully: in this frame, the hatching forms one drawing, but our gaze instinctively lengthens what has actually been drawn to make a second square. Simply by the way he has put his painting together, Martin Barré has broken free of the frame's strict borders.