|French artist François Geffray is no stranger to new challenges. With an extensive array of mediums from digital art to painting, his body of work is vast and varied. It was with this continual sense of pushing himself in new directions that he was drawn to the NY Arts Venice Pavilion, where his works are currently on display. Inspired by his own journey through life, Geffray’s work takes its primary focus on the form of people and culture. Geffray’s artwork takes a psychological perspective of the “other.” Drawing on images from day-to-day life Geffray’s work highlights both the highs and lows, contrasts and similarities between human relationships by producing morphed images that combine literal representation with metaphor.|
Suzie Walshe on François Geffray
French artist François Geffray is no stranger to new challenges. With an extensive array of mediums from digital art to painting, his body of work is vast and varied. It was with this continual sense of pushing himself in new directions that he was drawn to the NY Arts Venice Pavilion, where his works are currently on display. Inspired by his own journey through life, Geffray’s work takes its primary focus on the form of people and culture. Geffray’s artwork takes a psychological perspective of the “other.” Drawing on images from day-to-day life Geffray’s work highlights both the highs and lows, contrasts and similarities between human relationships by producing morphed images that combine literal representation with metaphor.
His own relationships clearly inform his paintings and unique color palette. He layers colors to create the razor-sharp and gauzy, soft textures that coexist in his work, best exemplified in his piece entitled The Hesitation. His colorful blending of figuration with abstraction reveals his physical involvement in the work—paint has been applied with passion, leaving behind a verifiable artistic signature as testimony for the viewer.
Geffray’s striking paintings draw us into an enigmatic and sensual world of fantasy, seduction, and spirit. Geffray’s work features a variety of styles such as Surrealist figurative work, luscious quasi-abstraction, and folksy still life. Geffray’s work often appears formalist in its concerns; the artist is equally drawn to isolated and quiet places—as he is to crowds and chaos. The one strand linking the various facets of Geffray’s work is his overwhelming sense of fluidity, swelling brushstroke, and his sumptuous approach to applying paint on canvas.
Color and form undulate in florid compositions that form an interior dialogue on the intersections of space, place, time, memory, culture, and history. Geffray’s new series of works in acrylic emphasize the leitmotif of a spiritual journey that is at once historically embedded and intensely intimate and personal. Primarily a figurative artist, Geffray is known for paintings characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form. His graceful portraits and lush narratives evoke a very personal idiom, distinguished by strong linear rhythms, simple extended composition, and verticality. This minimalist reduction is effective in its simplification of form, which like Plato’s ideal forms, functions not as reality, but as an archetype of the land and sky which reside deep in our collective unconsciousness, as well as a representation of our deep connection with the earth. His work confronts the image of the individual, a subject Geffray repeatedly revisits.
Shifting between two approaches—Expressionism and naïve figuration—his oeuvre is compelling in its diversity. Geffray’s painterly approach revolves around the uncovering the spirit of each individual he paints. The French painter works intuitively, obsessively, and instinctually coloring his canvases in bright palettes of brilliant hues. Inspired by the natural world, he infuses his works with a Zen-like spirit of harmony and balance. In fact, it is this kind of spirituality that motivates his work.
Geffray’s strength of vision and personal style always resonate deeply within the recesses of the viewer’s heart and imagination. In the cases where Geffray’s allows his sensitivity to form and color take over, his work verges on a new form of Romantic-Expressionism. In fact, he achieves a seemingly effortless synthesis of abstraction and representation, presenting curvilinear contoured forms replete with subtle-toned transitions of a variety of hues. Evoking a celebratory joie de vivre, Geffray’s paintings are simultaneously poetic and fantastical. Emitting a transformative power, these works elevate the viewer to a higher plane of awareness.
An interest in masks and sculpture remains evident, especially in the treatment of the sitters’ faces: flat and masklike, abstract faces. Despite their extreme economy of composition and neutral backgrounds, the portraits convey a sharp sense of the sitter’s personality, as seen in the work of Modigliani. Both Modigliani and Geffray’s figure paintings address the human form, an elegant, arresting arrangement of curved lines and planes as well as a striking idealization of both femininity and masculinity. The strong influence of another painter—Cezanne is clearly evident, both in Geffray’s deliberate distortion of the figure and the free use of large, flat areas of color.
In both Man 1 and Man 2 Geffray conveys a sense of the isolation of the individual in the world. Like many of Geffray’s work it depicts a gaunt, angular human face with hollow features, echoing German Expressionism’s harrowing sense of alienation. The sitter appears to shrink under the artist’s scrutiny and the continual reworking of the image. In another work, he depicts a female figure in red, located in a distinctively social setting, yet she appears never fully committed to the environment, and is seen staring back at the viewer while standing amidst a room full of strangers. Executed in luxuriant crimsons, oranges, golds, and accents of cool periwinkle, this highly stylized image employs skilfully and delicately rendered details, all projected on a flat decorative space. The work is a surprising contradiction where the central figure appears uninterested with the scenarios in which she finds herself, yet the viewer is left enchanted, drawn inward by the splendor of luminous reds, greens, and oranges.
Both illustrative and decorative, Geffray packs the positive space of these compositions with vivid details, texture, and pattern. Like automatic drawing, these images resonate with a profound sense that the subconscious soul has been manifested in color and form. What truly exists within Geffray’s work is a vitality and rigor that is descriptive of a body of work reaching far beyond the confines of reality. As well as the metaphysical, which is so often the retreat of the artist, there are color and movement, warmth, humour, and a kind of illustrative unity that references both the past and present trends of the visual arts. The ingenuity of Geffray is certainly part of the reason why his works are so engaging.