Alexandre Masino, Painting of the Present
Jean-Marc Desgent


Painting, like any act of actual creation, is only valued insofar as it makes a synthesis of painting as a whole : from figurative art to gestural painting, from the dynamic interaction of shapes to shifts and subdued or violent juxtapositions of colors. Painting is also, every single time, a proposal; it would therefore lie in a sort of perpetual present; this nonexistant time between past and future, arrival line forever crossed and starting point not entirely undertaken. To paint is to give a silent lesson in art history while proposing a new perspective, a new conception. This is why the painter is the culmination of what came to him, just as he is at the beginning of what constantly starts over, of what will come from him : I would place Alexandre Masino's work on this fine, paradoxical line (the beautiful, dangerous and precarious equilibrium); still lives so vibrant, so intense, in which one recognizes traces of Morandi, Giacometti and Barceló (in Dès la première aube, or in Le sacré du profane), lines just as moving and yet calculated (Jackson Pollock himself denied that dripping had anything to do with chance), colors, hues and textures just as subtle as they are obvious : soft blue, vivid red, emerald green, gold and bronze leaves.

More than a hundred years of painting come alive in Alexandre Masino's pictures, more than a hundred invigorating paradoxes haunt his encaustics, and how many paintings yet to come are already in gestation in his detailed figurations, his transparencies, his outbursts, his colorful manifestations. To paraphrase French poet Paul Éluard, I would say that the painter is just as much the one who inspires as the one who is inspired. Masino is an artist of the paradox, which has nothing to do with contradiction, but rather with the dynamic equilibrium (here again, beautiful and dangerous) between two opposing principles. A contradiction would result from the pulling apart of two concepts moving at equal speed. A paradox, on the other hand, is a reconciliation, never achieved but always attempted, between two forces that are conflictual and yet drawn towards each other, with only one power, one will, one intensity. We could speak of tensions supported by an unfulfilled longing for resolution, and these tensions between seemingly incompatible forces are precisely what gives these paintings their unity : expressionism and erudition, mysticism and coarse materiality of the encaustic, inner peace and a whirlwind. Here lies Alexandre Masino...

Look at these paintings, how they vibrate, how unpredictably they catch daylight or electric lighting, look how much these so-called natural figures are nothing  but constructions of the mind (Transfigurations, a huge landscape that was virtually invented, the Au cœur des monts triptych, or that subtle reference to Van Gogh in another triptych, Poussières d'étoiles), see how the painter touched, retouched, waxed, masked, rebuilt the layers of encaustic, the hues and the applied colors. If you look closely enough, you will see the paradoxes moving towards you and playing their games of interlacing and disolving without becoming one. The beauty, therefore the difficulty for the artist in paradox is to create this place, this blending, while leaving the spectator free to contemplate the tensions. Kiefer is never very far from this maelstrom. Masino offers us a tangible world (fruit, landscapes, various objects), but also a world where, appearing, disappearing, transforming under the surface, silhouettes, moving, living shadows come to us, because they obey another reality than the attention of the spectator, they live through the everchanging light, by the fixed, imperceptible displacement of the spectator, by his distraught retina (our bodies vibrate frantically, con sordino). These shadows, like angels and their mysteries, live, come and go, dance in the light, through the spectator's body; body and light, body of light, vibrations of being recreate their presence through the transparencies initially proposed by Masino. Spectator and light demolish, continually reinvent these fantasmagorical, indefinitely changing figures. How many paintings are hidden in a Masino painting, and his particular use of encaustic allows all these effects of life, of temporary disappearance, of ethereal matter, of montainous immateriality.

Masino's work can be experienced in real, concrete painting, but also in its more metaphysical dimension, between peace and energy, between introspective matter and the spirituality of pigment caught in wax. His encaustics allow us to understand how a figure is neither still nor fixed for good, but also movement, gesture, vibrant coloration, akin to the physical, natural composition of light itself. Actually, what we see, or think we see in a Masino painting, are the movements that enabled the creation of the figure, to its final outcome. It's like the figure became the representation of its own lines, "image" not disfigured, but rather transfigured by everything that moves in it and in us, by the plays of colors, of forms, of gestures : the figure, in front of us, remains in perpetual birth and rebirth, claiming the movement of its own revelation.  Encaustic turns out to be the privileged medium allowing all these paradoxical encounters. In this regard, it seems consequent that Masino paints large landscapes as well as small fruits, simply displayed, humbly, on a table; paradoxes appear in the paintings' subjects themselves.

Masino's work is not one of verbose concepts where explaining takes precedent over painting itself, over watching, momentarily living in and with the canvas. 1 With Masino, we are in the synthesis of painting, in its generosity, in its gift of itself to other paintings, those that Masino might paint, or those we may paint starting from his work. To quote an inspired Jackson Pollock : "It's not about now, it's about forever." This is why Alexandre Masino paints now, not only in the present tense, but in the immense tense of renewed painting.

Jean-Marc Desgent, June-July 2012

Translation : Nicolas Masino


1 This intellectualization of art has imposed itself upon us to the point where we do not seem able to think and look at a painting in any other way, to the point where painting becomes indistinguishable from its cold, flat media (photos, slides, USB keys, disks, etc.), to the point where we unconsciously prefer to deal with reproductions rather than the founding gestures of modern painting, the impasto, the vibrating lights of that painting. When one thinks of a "painter", one thinks of diplomas, art school, explanations, as if a work of art could not stand on its own without verbal crutches to explain it, to make us believe they explain anything. When one thinks about a "painting" now, one does not see it, but rather guesses at its presence behind the theories, the movements, the lectures, the demonstrations.




©2004 Alexandre Masino