Bernard Piffaretti

Date : 2008

Medium : Painting

Acrylic on canvas

"Entering a Bernard Piffaretti painting exhibition first of all involves addressing a series of what the artist calls “painterly situations”. These, as the viewer will have no trouble in recognising, represent modernist abstraction whose codes and components have been gradually defined in the course of the last century.

Any explanation of a Piffaretti painting necessarily involves outlining a method, one that consists in dividing the blank canvas in two with a vertical line and marking one half with a set of signs, signals and traces which are then duplicated on the other half: a process that makes Piffaretti part of the long history of those “split images” and pictures within a picture which all speak of painting as a reflexive tool for making the work of painting visible. So every Piffaretti painting is a meta-picture, a mirror-device in which one part, as a consecutive, adjacent recreation, reflects the production scenario of the image to be found in the other part.” (Arnauld Pierre)

The guide

Let's play a game: can you spot the differences?

Look very closely at this work by French painter Bernard Piffaretti. At first glance, both halves of the painting appear identical.

But that is not entirely the case. Notice the mauve colour in the middle of the left half. The other blue at the bottom is not in the same place. The red is too faded on the left outer border. The green line in the bottom right corner ends too early.

What at first seems to be an abstract or even minimalist painting is more playful than it looks. The creative process is complex.

How does Bernard Piffaretti proceed?
-First, he draws a vertical line dividing the canvas in half.
-Then, he creates an original painting on one half.
-Finally, he tries to make an exact copy of the first painting on the other half, remembering the chronological order of pictorial gestures.
When it is completed, we are unable to distinguish the copy from the original. The two halves of the work become one.

Piffaretti has worked this way since 1986, to the extent that it is called the "Piffaretti system"!
Through this process, he is able to balance constraints with freedom:
-the constraint of the rule,
-the freedom to interrupt his gesture at any moment and of course the freedom to create—which, despite the formula, always produces a unique and different result. 

Beyond that, Piffaretti has this to say: "the painting always depicts itself alone".
His painting practice is therefore intellectualised. Its product is as pleasing to look at as it is conceptual for its creator.