1999 piece de ferme 100x100 1

Painting on canvas

The naive genesis of a giddy scribbler

“One day, while we were having dinner at the home of some wealthy friends overjoyed to have acquired a canvas by a renowned master. This very large oil on canvas sat in the middle of a vast white wall. No oil pigments, just white, white on white. A low-angled white light highlights some discreet dark white shape. The agility of the knife in this impasto is subtle and powerful. A lot of worldly debates could make the flutes tinkle on the creaking parquet floors of a Haussmann loft, but I feel like replacing that old poster above our sofa with a creation of my own.

What arrogance, what contempt for art, for beauty, am I really so short-sighted? The innocence of my early twenties and a few hundred hours spent tinkering in my grandfathers’ workshop are driving me up the wall. This weekend, I’m gluing. In the Normandy workshop, I made a frame and stretched a linen canvas that I was preparing.

Back in Paris, I took the plunge and found this extract from a painting by Léon Lhermitte, ‘La Paye des moissonneurs’ , which I sketched onto my canvas before painting it with a knife.

Being a clumsy right-handed newbie painter, my gesture was gawky and the result had no claim other than to add a little colour to our ochre wall. The painting suits our sofa. I forget about it, a few flattering or sympathetic friends rave about it. I thanked them, they encouraged me, even if I wasn’t fooled at the time that the road ahead would be long… very long.

As the years went by, I finally got bored of the painting and started to paint a picture of a young Cambodian monk whose portrait I had taken during a stay in Siem Reap. With only my daub to hand, I ventured to cover it in a dark green and brush out the relief left by the knife strokes. I liked the result, which we used to decorate our new living room in Singapore.

Years later, one evening when I came to see her because she had given me a magnificent painting of a faceless bard, which I keep with love, for my wedding, Chantal, whose work has thrilled me for years, said to me when I told her the story of my painting,“You never cover a painting“, which still torments me a little.

“Barde”, oil on wood
by Chantal de la Boullaye-Billet

Today my daub rests gracefully under the monochrome Kesa of my appeased monk.”

  • Fabien Raveton, 1999
  • Acrylic on canvas
  • Dimensions: 100x100cm
  • Exhibition space : No longer exists, masked.

Published on: 13 July 1999  -  Filed under: Paintings