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Simon Hantaï’s Discontent

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On the occasion of the exhibition Simon Hantaï at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (through September 2, 2013), Gwenaël Kerlidou considers Hantaï's work in the context of his decision in 1983 to "withdraw from the art scene and stop exhibiting his work, if not to stop painting altogether. He would not show again until 1998, a fifteen-year hiatus and self-imposed silence that echo with more force as time goes by."

Kerlidou notes that "on one side Hantaï’s studio activity was structured by unpainted blanks on the canvas, and on the other by the reflective blanks or silences in the painter’s own activity, a rhythm where breathing space and breathing time were as critical to a painting’s success as to the well being of a studio practice. The French word réserves also carries a second meaning of having second thoughts or doubts about something. As, for example, in the case of a contract which could be signed “sous réserves de” (under the following conditions). It would seem that Hantaï’s work points towards a practice of the réserve both directly on the canvas and in his conceptual approach to his work."

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