Decoding Romain Blanck’s Falsely Spontaneous Abstract Paintings

Thoroughly paying attention to details, Romain Blanck’s paintings render polyvalent surfaces divided into different parts that build a coherent abstracted artistic entity. His vagueness is interspersed with semi-figurative elements, offering not only some discernible visualisations but also an additionally aesthetical upturn on the pictorial space. Blanck presents a prolific body of work which accommodates a diverse and antithetical span of techniques. The young artist employs an impressive array of colour combinations as well as painting techniques; from large monochromatic brushstrokes, bold contours and energetic blurred-colour brushes to abstract forms and meticulous squiggles, the artist successfully brings varied vibrancies and lines on his canvases.

Blanck’s work is reminiscent of recognisable elements or depictions that look familiar to the viewer’s eyes from the everyday life. His body of work provides an art display of details or other elements that the viewer is already familiar with in advance, therefore he/she feels more capable of being engaged with the artist’s compositions. In this respect, familiarity with the artist’s signs enables the viewer to notice attributes of an automatic creative style implying a decoration that makes the painting outcome more dramatic and vivid. Furthermore, this sense of intimacy functions an important role in the artworks’ interpretation setting a reminder to the viewers that these compositions not only encapsulate a creative code to decipher but also perform as a sort of visual lexicon based on images that they have previously seen or experienced in real life. Now while observing his work, they could to apply this information on his canvases making the correlation with his vague arrangements a smoother and more digestible experience.

Romain Blanck, Bien à vous, “L5R3”, 180 x 240 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2023 (Production Generator 40mcube)

Text: Yannis Kostarias

Blanck’s work underscores a complex system of contradictory gestures in which the final structure looks anarchic and the painterly arrangements interlace on big canvases enforcing a fuzzier disarray of blowing colours. Particularly, the black colour sports a major choice represented in various usages from meanderings and geometrical forms to unpredictable scribbles, and illustrates the underlying aesthetical dynamism of the dark colour and its relationship with the rest hues and tones. Paintings such as ‘28.05.2022 (a lot of hot)’, (2022), ‘31.06.2022 (here there nowhere)‘, (2022), or ‘10.07.2022 (hilf mir)‘, (2022), fairly indicate the immediate effect of darker colour’s speed and energy.

“Was that supposed to be funny?”; although this was only a Blanck’s recent exhibition title, the artist indirectly summarises a broader aspect of his artistry envisaging his art with significantly cool and humorous narratives. When creating an artwork, the painter’s intention looks nothing but a visually abstract state of mind which lies on seemingly careless tangled gestures on canvas. His concentration on large formats enhances an intricate creative language of his work which flirts with intense scribbles, bold marks, and animated items or figures smudging the surface of his canvases through a quick, almost automatic feel. The scale of his work is not simply the physical size of an artwork but also an advanced space for an inescapable interplay of clumsiness and boldness. These large-scale abstract paintings are dominated by perplexing bursts of colour either on bare background or on the lines of a big notebook.

Playing with manifold perspectives and slovenly fractured images, Blanck’s paintings feel rather structured and renowned for the manipulation of color rendered in contrasting applications. A sense of speed, obscurity and complexity of lines dictate his effortlessly appealing process that apparently comes from an elaborate artistic deliberation. Regardless the range of abstraction, Blanck’s paintings still encapsulate an internal aesthetic ground that is based on a set of recurred elements enhancing the logic of familiarity in his work and the everyday motifs as a common place in the artist’s creative vocabulary. Chaotic surfaces and overlapping compositions showcase significant importance on his canvases, beyond his identifiable imagery. Nerertheless, these seemingly disorganized visualizations have been carefully built by the artist based on a meticulous painting plan allowing him to finally render some falsely spontaneous arrangements on his canvases.

Romain Blanck, Exhibition view, “Bien à vous”, Hotel Pasteur, Rennes, 2023 – “L2R2”, 180 x 240cm, acrylic on canvas, 2023 (Production Generator 40mcube)

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I start by collecting shapes and drawings, I pay attention to lines we all do, so there is a feeling of familiarity. I then approach painting very protocolary, and try to play with how its reproduction will be diffused. A recurrent starting point has been collecting papers in art supply shops where strangers are trying out pens, crayons and markers. I worked there for two years and was waiting for the day to end so that I could collect the papers, as you would wait for the end of the market to see if there are some good fruits in the leftovers, like depicted in “Les glaneurs et la glaneuse” from Agnes Varda. I have thousands of these in my studio, where multiple anonymous authors are overlapping inside a given rectangle. These papers are filled with information and yet tell me nothing because I have no idea of who did what. I am interested in translating pre-existing shapes and images that I consider available, like you would re-sample royalty-free music found on the internet.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Falsely spontaneous paintings.

Your titles often hide an interesting story, tell us about naming your paintings; do their titles come up in your mind before your start creating a new work or could it be the opposite?

The titles always come up at the very end. For quite some time I would randomly open the book I was reading and look for one sentence from the page I landed on to find a title. But for a series of works I am doing during my time in France with the art center 40mcube, I named the painting L+number and R+number. Every Left (L) part of the 6 paintings can work with a Right (R) part making 36 possible combinations. The title names the combination (for example L5R3 or L2R2) recalling the button combinations on a video game controller.

Is there any particular story behind the “Punkt Punkt Komma Strich” (2021) painting title that you could share with us?

Punkt Punkt Komma Strich” is an easy way to draw a face with very simplified shapes, Dot+Dot for the eyes, Comma for the nose and Line for the mouth. In French, the version would be “0+0=la tête à Toto” using the zeros for the eyes, the + for the nose and the = for the mouth.

Romain Blanck, Punkt Punkt Komma Strich”, 190 x 130 cm, acrylic on canvas, Exhibition view, “Faux Amis”, Projektraum 145, Berlin, 2021 (photo : Eric Mueller)

Can you tell us about the way you want to exhibit your work?

I liked showing big works on top of walls that where too small to contain the painting, so that on the exhibition view the painting looks like something photoshopped on top of the photograph. If I think about the current works I am doing, I would let the curator of a group show choose his Left+Right combination, like assembling a kitchen and choosing parts.

Ansichtsexemplar” (2022) is another recent painting series approached by a less messy compositions and a monochromatic palette comparing to previous artistic works of yours. What Ansichtsexemplar is about?

“Ansichtsexemplar” is the “viewing sample”, the product that you can try before actually considering buying it. They are often covered by little scratches and marks of previous clients who tried it before you. I am interested in the mechanical movements that we all do, repetitively without thinking about it anymore.

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process?

I definitely think and plan a lot before going to the studio and even start to paint. Every seemingly uncontrolled movement is staged, and I spent a lot of time arranging the elements where I want them to land. I always have one protocol of actions that will define the work in the studio. The Oulipo, a French group of writers and mathematicians, where figuring out rules for every book they would write, such as Georges Perec’s “La disparition” that is written without the letter “E” in the entire book. I think I apply this method to the way I approach making the works.

Which are your plans for the near future?

I am still in Rennes (France) where I am taking part in the Generator9 program with the art center 40mcube. We just opened an exhibition I have been co-curating at Hotel Pasteur, and I will co-curate another group show together with Vincent-Michael Vallet at his artist-run space Le4. I am working on the L+R paintings that will be displayed for the group show/open studios to end the residency here in the last days of April.

Additional Images

Romain Blanck, Studio view, Hub Hug 40mcube, 2023
Romain Blanck, “31.06.22 (here there nowhere)”, 180 x 130cm, acrylic on canvas, 2022
Romain Blanck,”Ansichtsexemplar Neutralgrau 2″, 15 x 21 x 3 cm, acrylic paint, lack, glue, wood, mounted on wood, 2022


All images courtesy of the artist

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