In his abstract paintings, Guillaume Bottazzi refrains from representing anything or imposing any emotion. All his paintings are untitled. Unbound by meanings that might limit the imagination, we approach his paintings directly in the absence of clues. Your interpretation of the work depends on how open you are to it. Even the scale of the work corresponds to the vision of viewer, at times seeming infinitely wide or impossibly minute.

For the most part, humans have been making artworks, in the form of paintings and sculptures, to reflect the things they see in the world. Since prehistorical days, our creations have grown as countless as the stars. The impulse to create art may remain unchanged since Lascaux, but what about the need to see art? Some cognitive neuroscientists tells us that the brain, like the computer, is skilled at editing and organizing the data it accumulates, but less talented at creating data. Thus, when people look at an artwork, they see it through the filter of their knowledge and experiences. Odd, ungraspable forms that shape-shift from gases to liquids to solids inhabit Guillaume Bottazzi’s paintings. Some of the new works in this exhibition evoke steam, fire, smoke, and molten material; others are reminiscent of swelling and floating balloons; still others look like dividing cells.

In his previous work, we saw strong contrasting colors applied in garrulous relief-like impastos. But recently, the lavish, thick-surfaced painting has given way to transparent washes of thinner pigments on unprimed canvas. He now achieves mass and density through purity of color. Compositions are simpler yet increasingly dense, a shift that generates tension. This change in style evolved after Bottazzi’s first trip to Japan several years ago. The artist himself has admitted to being influenced by the stoic spirit of Japanese traditional arts such as Sumi painting.

Bottazzi, however, has consistently maintained his straightforward use of the layering and glazing techniques of classical oil painting. He has worked with other media and techniques, but feels painting with a brush suits him best. We witness similar brushwork in the murals that he creates in parallel to his other work, even if the “canvases” here are the four external walls of a twenty-meter tall building. Despite the strict conditions of working on site-specific murals, Guillaume Bottazzi enjoys painting the large-scale permanent projects, which are open to public view. Working at the tumultuous forefront of a creative field, he struggles to maintain his painterly course and push the boundaries of two-dimensional art.

Why do people make art? What is it about art that attracts them? In the midst of recent financial crisis and economic turmoil, some may think that questions like these are superfluous. Indeed, art may have no practical value, yet our interest in it shows no signs of abating. Perhaps it is because art awakens unfamiliar sensations, and leads our consciousness towards new ways of looking at things. And, in these times of economic and social uncertainty – when doubt reigns and the future is murky – we may need art more than ever.

Encountering an extraordinary artwork makes one realize how rare creative ability is; the artist’s power to invent goes beyond that of the average person. Tracing over Bottazzi’s paintings, we see multiple layers of expanding fields moving from the depths of the picture plane out into three dimensions, making us aware of the passage of time in the process. Although Bottazzi may be working unconsciously, with no specific intent, his painting has a catalysing effect. It is full of a strange charm that tempts us towards new adventures.

Y. Takaishi

Guillaume Bottazzi

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