At the show with the artist: Rade Petrasevic fights with Henry Matisse


Stamatia Dimitrakopoulos and Rade Petrasevic  -  May 4, 2017

When we asked Rade Petrasevic to contribute to our ‘At the show with the artist‘ section by presenting an artist or artwork that has influenced him and his artistic practice, we suggested that the source could be Henry Matisse. The writer’s inspiration hit Rade immediately and it seemed like it was just a matter of a day’s time for him to complete his writing. After a month though fighting with the text, Rade gave up the son’s battle to deconstruct his father, and with every resistance and relief that may bring. Pasted on Facebook chat his words.

The text is an honest analysis of an artist’s own reflection on his personal style, his humor, his fears. Rade states, and Matisse’ experts agree, that Figure décorative sur fond ornemental (Decorative figure on ornamental ground, 1925/1926) marks an important step on the French titan’s work. Knowing the wittiness, emotion, and formalistic consistence of Rade Petrasevic’s painting, one would wonder if the Decorative Figure on Ornamental Ground finally influenced Rade more than Matisse himself.

Why Matisse? When Conceptual Fine Arts asked me to contribute to their column and write about a painting, I asked myself numerous times: seriously, why Matisse?

If you are a painter and you are supposed to talk or write about another painter you are immediately forced to either write nonpersonal-superintelligent-wow-science-shit or you have to completely undress in front of the audience and present them all of your darkest secrets in order to have an honest analysis.

So, since I don’t want to follow any of the aforementioned paths, I decided to completely lie in the following text and say absolutely nothing. The text that follows is basically just random words in a queue and the welcoming effect would be a quick and precise comment à la TL;DR.

Ok, back to Matisse. I decided to write a little something about a painting that was created in 1925-1926. It’s titled Decorative Figure on Ornamental Ground (131 x 98 cm, oil on canvas) and it is in the collection of Centre Pompidou, Paris.

I didn’t choose this painting cause I like it a lot, but because I think it marks an important step in Matisse’s work.

Although not centered, the figure holds a big space of the whole painting. When you look at it you can almost see how Matisse tries to forget what he has learnt about anatomy, even though he does not seem ready to do so. The figure looks totally undecided; while the face of the figure is almost painted like an African mask, it still holds the proportions of the rest of the body. The pose is so unnatural, that one could think it is painted more from a memory than from a real person. I mean, who finds himself sitting in such an uncomfortable way in the middle of a super-cozy room full of super-cozy carpets, next to ta fluffy plant, “covered” in a bloody blanket! Furthermore, it’s obviously very hot because the model seems to be hanging around naked her tanning screams that she has been walking at the beach the whole morning, come on.

Only at the back of the figure, almost parallel to the canvas frame is where Matisse seems to be willing to break through and make this figure a painting. This element is very interesting to me because If you lose the connection to the painted figure, you can’t see any story behind it. It’s not a portrait or a statue. It’s just a figure chilling in the name of the composition.

The ornaments in the back are amazing, so amazing that it could have worked out better if he had spared us the chilling figure and let these ornaments do the rest… I think this work is painted in a brilliant manner. Matisse shows us how blurry you can be with information and still have the message being read in the exact way you want it. The whole painting is overloaded with those patterns; the background seems to be one piece consisting by the carpet and the wallpaper, fading into each other. He could even not put the plant in the composition and just leave o the floor the lemons and this thing in the right bottom-corner that looks like a piece of chair or something like that.

Yet the whole painting is quite calm and the colors really work together. You don’t have any hysterical color-moment to make the painting fall apart. The dominant yellow of the lemons in the bottom and the mirror at the top of the painting, mirror each other and bring a certain relaxation to the composition.