Color is probably one of the most difficult knowledge associated with our senses to describe. Jacqueline Lichtenstein, art historian and philosopher, described it as the “irreducible component of representation which escapes the hegemony of language, this pure expressiveness of a silent visible which constitutes the image as such”. Color does not alter the body, has no time component nor essentially defines an object. It is therefore a projection from our minds onto the world: a data so difficult to apprehend, the sole sensation of a light diffused by an object, captured by the eye and processed by the brain.
This interpretation of color has been the one erected since the end of the 19th century : Paul Signac, in his essay “From Eugène Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism”, recounted the discovery of Turner’s art by Monet and Pissarro. The two future impressionists discovered that a convincing result was obtained “by a number of ‘touches’ of various colors, placed next to each other and reconstituting the desired effect from a distance”. The artist’s brushstrokes then finally tended to agree with a quest towards the intangible.
Thomas Andrea Barbey has retained this ambition to capture imperceptible changes, present moments, snapshots. The division of subjects by pure hues – inherited from the Neo-Impressionists – was digested by the French artist, who retained anti-naturalist colors and vaporous textures in his latest works.
Barbey obviously does not hide his attachment to the art of Seurat or Signac but reworks their technique : the pointillist base becomes finer and rounder. Unlike those 19th century artists who adapted their strokes to the formats of their works, Barbey uses a unified and standardized point. The gesture then becomes mechanical : this division of the line is close to that of the functioning of cathode-ray or LCD screens and therefore operates like the assimilation of Neo-Impressionism – and thus of an anterior artistic lexicon – to the modern world.
Barbey’s compositions are then understood as pixelated, and therefore the culmination of a long formal and technical work.The transcription of reality is thus the fruit of a slow search, of a work with meditative accents to truly contemplate what must be translated onto the canvas. The meticulousness exercised during the creation is then opposed in an antinomic way to the fugitive moment which is reproduced, and yet manages to transcribe an indiscernible feeling : accuracy.
Lucas Gonzalez Poggi