Clouds / sritantra@gmail.com

Inadvertent naturalistic calligraphic tendencies of literati colour-field non-figuration


René Laubies, Untitled, 1960, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 38x35cm

Rene Laubies: an abstract thesis

Welcome to our ongoing research project: an abstract thesis, not on or about, but very close to the life and work of Rene Laubies. We elucidate his legacy by drawing attention to the Euro-decentering cultural hybridity essential to his commonplace ascetic-arts procedure.

René Laubies is best represented by Galerie Alain Margaron, Paris.

Laubies, Aphorism No. 9

A painter who claims to paint what he wants is mistaken. The painting is imposed on us, changes its course, goes left and right, then suddenly stops. It knows when to stop. Ageing painters lay it on more and more. Heavy toil does not restore grace. Chinese painters of the classical period knew when to stop. They accentuated accidents detected in nature. A poetic and musical work of art owes everything to inspiration. One needs to forget technique and virtuosity. One cannot paint the void without painting the fullness!

Un peintre qui prétend faire le tableau qu'il veut se trompe. Le tableau s'impose à nous, dévie sa course, prend à gauche et à droite, puis soudain s'arrête. Il faut savoir s'arrêter. Le peintre en vieillissant charge et surcharge. Le lourd labeur ne remplace pas la grâce. Les Chinois de l'époque classique eux savaient s'arrêter. Ils pouvaient voir dans la nature un accident qu'ils accentuaient. Le tableau poétique et musical doit tout à l'inspiration. Pour eux il faut oublier la technique, la virtuosité. On ne peut peindre le vide sans peindre le plein !
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Guo Xi as cultural toponym

Guo Xi (c. 1020–90), the distant eleventh-century cultural figure, wafts as a buoyant toponym on the mirage-like horizon of Laubiesian Studies. How disposed should we be to this ominous placement, this transference of securities to a small group of investors?

Spelt also typically "Kuo Hsi," "Khuo-Chi," et cetera, Guo Xi (郭熙 / Japanese Kaku Ki), as legend has it, was a court professional landscape painter and aesthetician of the Northern Song dynasty. As a highly lettered or literati painter, Guo Xi developed an amply personal and detailed system of idiomatic brush strokes that proved influential for later painters. He is typically attributed to have produced a treatise on landscape painting. In his best known painting titled Early Spring," dated 1072, Guo Xi demonstrates his innovative methods for producing an amalgam of perspectives, which he called "the angle of totality."

Cautionary note on transliteration: Subsequent researchers should not be confused by the varied spellings of the painter's name. Aside from the two most common appearing – "Go Xi" and "Kuo Hsi" – and which alone in the eyes and the ears of uninitiated seem in themselves to be hugely divergent, the following variants are also attested: "Khuo-Chi" (Harambourg 1998), "Kouo-Hi" (Abadie 2003), "Kuo-Shi" (Cloutier c. 2006-7), and lastly, the eminently proper "Guō Xī" with finalising Hanyu Pinyin tonal marks. Reasons for the appearance of these wildly diverse orthographic outcomes are due in large to the historical presence of not less than nine different, often competing, and perceptively dissimilar Romanization systems of Mandarin transcription that arose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The two most universally recognised conventions are clearly Wade-Giles and Hanyu Pinyin. However, deeper confusion arises from the fact that in our current attempt to place Guo Xi within a formal Laubiesian Studies framework we are invariably reliant on textual materials that are generally the product of Francophone discourse. Puzzlement therefore is bound to arise from the way in which earlier generations of French scholars had presented Chinese words in the dress of their own distinctive Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient transcription scheme that was instituted in the 19th century – a system, moreover, that even the French found difficult to pronounce without first knowing its intricacies (Ware 160, n. 5). In recent times, however, Hanyu Pinyin has nearly replaced all other Sinitic Romanization schemes and is increasingly seen in parts of the world where the Latin alphabet is the norm.

References

Abadie, Daniel. 2003. Texte écrit à l'occasion de la publication du catalogue René Laubiès édité par la galerie Alain Margaron (Août).

Cloutier, Guy. N.d. [c. Winter 2006-7]. Untitled document.

Harambourg, Lydia. 1998. L’Ecole de Paris, 1945-1965: Dictionnaire des peintres.

Ware, James R. 1932. Transliteration of the Names of Chinese Buddhist Monks Author(s), Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 52, No. 2, (Jun.): 159-162.

Photo of Laubies

Colonial French painter Rene Laubies (circa 1960)

On Laubies' work

The "naturalist pre-figurative" abstract impressions of René Laubiès, the spiritual tête of "nuagisme," that vague appellation engendered by his critics that ignored too much his exteriorized plasmas, wind-blown ash over arid terrains. Anonymous transparencies of loosened stain from the torrid earthen wall. They are the light of quiescent colour (his tableaux): shade without tension, toneless shade; texturous shade of warmth rubbed patchy under fine-scratch brushings and sun-blanched mauve.

"Just chase away the thoughts from your mind," he said at Puri, with his subtle modulations of gait and laugh. He is the culminating issuance of Modernist trends since the ancient Chinese Tang.

These odorous strains of fecund terseness disarming in their paucity, stoic, sheer; and with each new tablet out-flanking its precursor: pure abstraction retaining no interpreters, inwardly comporting yet devoid of gnostic footnotes, ramps unsolicitous precipitating ends...

Wintering in Kotikulam, Palakunnu village, he is stunning, amazing, salubrious, calm. Cessative tinctures of diluted jissom let dried and peeled in the morning-fresh sun... Then Spring exhibitions in Milan and Paris then back through the Greater and the Lesser Sundas, through hunger, thirst, tabulation, and loss, through the patterned stains of sweat-laced breezes, hiking off alone when the turpentine is finished, transparently alive in the pan-Islamic silence...


"On Laubies's Work," 1990. Early draft originally published in René Laubiès, Octobre-Novembre 1990. Gallery Michel Broomhead. Paris; Achevé d'imprimer sur les presses de Mira Impression à Libourne, Conception: Canovas Belchi.

See Nuagisme.

Nuagisme

Nuagisme (literally "cloudism") is a French art-critical term that was advanced in the 1950s by art critic Julien Alvard (1916-1974). The term nuagisme initially designated the painters René Laubies, Frédéric Benrath, René Duvillier, Fernando Lerin, and Nasser Assar whose work was seen as broadly comprising a modern naturalist non-representational abstract movement that remained aloof to prevailing theoretical disputes by refusing to enter the oppositional framework that raged between geometrical and lyrical abstraction. Writing in 1955, Alvard described nuagisme as an "insurrection against the form" in attempt to paint the "boundless."

Related posts 

Pound, Laubies, Alvard & Facchetti
Assembling notes around Paul Facchetti
Cloud stains, a post-Nuagiste critique
Art Informel

Italo Magliano

On returning from the United States in 1958, I met Italo Magliano at the gallery of Le Noci. Italo had a strong personality; he knew how to communicate his enthusiasm for painting. He animated to convince and overcome. Corso Vercelli in its art nouveau style, we went from one salon to another: Sironi, De Pisis and Morgandi brought us to Hartung, Fautrier, Tal Coat and Manessier; then came the youngest, Laubies, Benrath, Bellegarde, Yves Klein and Manzoni. There was a whole dining room for Fontana (sculptures, ceramics). Italo, true collector, had accumulated enormously the works of Italian and foreign painters. One could find at his place Twombly, Schumacher, and works of the painters still poorly known but whom he made known and recognized. The sum total of life devoted to art... Their children continue taking care of this great collection.

En revenant des Etats-Unis en 58, j'ai rencontrée Italo Magliano à la galerie de Le Noci. Italo avait une forte personnalité, il savait communiquer son enthousiasme pour la peinture. Il animait convaincre et vaincre. Corso Vercelli dans un palais liberty, on passait de salons en salons : Sironi, De Pisis, Morandi, amenaient vers Hartung, Fautrier, Tal Coat et Manessier, puis on arrivait vers les plus jeunes, Laubies, Benrath, Bellgrade, Yves Klein, et Manzoni. Il y avait une salle à manger entière pour Fontana (sculptures, céramiques). Italo, véritable collectionneur, avait accumule énormément d'œuvres de peinture italienne et étrangère. On pouvait trouver chez lui Twombly, Schumacher, et des peintres encore mal connus qu'il fit connaitre et reconnaître. En somme toute une vie consacrée à l'art… Ses enfants continuent à prendre soin de cette grande collection.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Note: Italo Magliano was a Milanese industrialist and art collector; the first Italian to have purchased Fautrier and Hartung (Martina Corgna, "
Fino al 22 luglio a Sondrio mostra sulla pittura francese del dopoguerra raccontata attraverso le collezioni private", newspaper article, La Republica, 09 July 2000 Page 10, Section: Milan. See also "L' elegia della memoria (Corrispondenze con Italo Magliano", text by Angela / Marta Madesani / Locatelli.

Guido Le Noci

He discovered my painting at Facchetti's gallery when I was in the United States. He had opened his gallery in via Brera [in Milan] with the support of Italo Magliano, Count Panza, Visconti etc... These collectors immediately bought several of my paintings and I became the friend of Magliano who supported me for more than forty years. Through me, Le Noci knew Fautrier. When I brought him over to "Vallée-aux-Loups", he dropped at Fautrier's feet crying "genius" (which didn't embarrass Fautrier...). After that, everything developed in a rush. Argan, Ungaretti and our dear Palma Bucarelli arranged for him to win the Prize at the Venice Bienniale; but that he had to share it with Hartung representing France enraged Fautrier against Malraux who could do nothing!

A découvert ma peinture chez Facchetti quand j'étais aux Etats Unis. Il avait ouvert sa galerie Via Brera avec l'appui de Italo Magliano, du Comte Panza, des Visconti etc… Ces collectionneurs m'ont acheté immédiatement plusieurs tableaux et je suis devenu l'ami de Magliano qui m'a soutenu pendant plus de quarante ans. Par moi, Le Noci a connu Fautrier. Quand je l'ai amende a "la Vallée aux loups", il s'est jeté aux pieds de Fautrier en criant au génie (ce qui n'a qas gêné Fautrier…) Apres, tout s'est précipité. Argan, Ungaretti et notre chère Palma Bucarelli lui ont fait avoir le Prix de la Biennale de Venise, mais qu'il a du partager avec Hartung présenté par la France, ce qui a fait enrager Fautrier contre Malraux qui n'y pouvait rien !
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Laubiès on Pound

Wrote Laubies: «I do not remember having any difficulties returning to visit Pound at the Asylum of St. Elisabeth's. I asked him whether the surroundings obstructed him: "Not at all," he said, "these are the only acceptable Americans."

«When I told him that I was born in Saigon: "Ah, that's why! Only Europeans with a master key to the Suez Canal are worth something. . . ."»

«He died quiet as always in Venice, on his tomb a [laurel] shrub inclines itself toward the offerings, flowers, and seeds of young American poets.»

From Laubies, Ritratti e Aforismi / Portraits et Aphorismes (Bilingual, Italian and French), Morgana Edizioni, Firenze, 2002.

Palma Bucarelli

At a dinner in Rome where Ione, impetuous inspirer of Ungaretti praised physical love, Palma turned to me: "That has always annoyed me!" Indeed this so intelligent and effective woman had to be irritated to also make use of her beauty to obtain what she should have had naturally. She made her Museum of Modern Art towards and against all. In several months, she wrote the catalogue of Fautrier, which remains the only valid work on him. Her gaze, when in turquoise and sometimes a flash of emerald passed, tamed Mussolini and other monsters.

A un dîner à Rome, où Ione, inspiratrice fougueuse d'Ungaretti, vantait l'amour physique, Palma se tourna vers moi : "Cela m'a toujours ennuyé !" En effet cette femme si intelligente et efficace, a dû être agacée d'avoir à se servir aussi de sa beauté pour obtenir ce qu'elle aurait dû avoir naturellement. Elle fit son Musée d'Art Moderne envers et contre tous. En quelques mois elle rédigea le catalogue de Fautrier qui reste le seul ouvrage valable sur lui. Son regard où dans le turquoise passait parfois l'éclair de l'émeraude, a dompté Mussolini et autres monstres.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Fautrier, Seibel, Facchetti, Le Noci, Magliano

I find it interesting (correct me if I'm wrong) that Jean Fautrier (1898-1964) did not have a solo post-mortem show until 26 years after his death (Jean Fautrier, Museum Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, Germany, 1990). The reader may recall my brief discussion with art-critic/author/editor Castor SEIBEL who I met at Galerie De Meo, Paris, in March 2008 (Assembling notes around Paul Facchetti). Seibel has written for the Michael Werner Gallery (Jean Fautrier – Nudes, 2001), which holds some importance regarding the exposure of Fautrier's work. Seibel is a penetrating analyst of Laubies as well and closely acquainted with Italian collectors.

A Laubies retrospective needs to be organized gathering works from a range of collections. With respect to Rene's own clear indications, Italian collectors hold the most promise. In his Portraits and Aphorismes (2001), you notice that he only speaks well of Italians, who, (it ought to be mentioned) collected his work 'for more than four decades.' Here is the passage from René's brief sketch of Guido Le Noci.

He discovered my painting at Facchetti's when I was in the United States. He had opened his gallery on Via Brera [Milan] with the support of Italo Magliano, Count Panza, Visconti etc… These collectors immediately bought several of my paintings and I became a friend of Magliano who supported me for more than forty years. Through me, Le Noci knew Fautrier. 

A découvert ma peinture chez Facchetti quand j'étais aux Etats Unis. Il avait ouvert sa galerie Via Brera avec l'appui de Italo Magliano, du Comte Panza, des Visconti etc... Ces collectionneurs m'ont acheté immédiatement plusieurs tableaux et je suis devenu l'ami de Magliano qui m'a soutenu pendant plus de quarante ans. Par moi, Le Noci a connu Fautrier.
These are just raw notes.

References
Laubiès, René. 2001. "Aphorismes," in Ritratti e Aforismi / Portraits et Aphorismes. [Bilingual, Italian and French], Morgana Edizioni, Firenze.
Seibel, Castor. 2001. Jean Fautrier – Nudes. Gallery Werner, New York.

See also
Assembling notes around Paul Facchetti
Pound, Laubies, Alvard and Facchetti

Assembling notes around Paul Facchetti

I would like to assemble some scattered notes in homage to Paul Facchetti (b. 1912). The spur of this account is very recent news that this exceedingly rare photographer and artist continues to flourish in Paris. I first came to learn of Paul Facchetti in the initial phase of my bio- art-historical investigation of nonfigurative painter René Laubiès (1922-2006). In the process of establishing an early working contextual framework, I configured some notes titled "Pound, Laubiès, Alvard, Facchetti" (Sep. 2007). Even then, in the very inchoate stages of my research I had publicly appealed for clues on how to get in touch with Paul Facchetti. It was fortunate for me that someone responded, and the heartfelt concern and information provided soon led me to embark on a strenuous month-long fieldwork project in and around Palakunnu village, that southern Indian seaside community where René Laubiès spent the final five extended winters of his life. It was late October 2006 when René arrived on his final call there. That visit however proved tragically short. After only nine days, on Nov 2, he entered Wenlock Government Hospital in the nearby city of Mangalore. Eleven days later on Nov 13, René expired.

During my month-long research in India I spoke with three broad sets of informants: 1) local villagers who were privy to Laubiès' various pastimes, 2) western travellers who knew René in that roughly six-year period of winters, and 3) administrators, doctors and other health care workers associated with the elderly patient during his eleven-day residence at Wenlock Government Hospital, Mangalore.

In the later part of February 2008, I received an endowment in the form of an air ticket, Singapore–Paris–Singapore, for the sake of expanding my research. I visited Paris from Feb 24 to Mar 24, 2008. A major objective in going to Paris was obviously to meet Paul Facchetti. I tried my best but failed to meet him, and I place the blame squarely on my own ill resolve and lack of French. Yet not unsurprisingly, numerous people when learning of my project consistently asked if I had met with Paul Facchetti. "I'm trying to!" I replied. Yet nobody offered to arrange a first meeting. All the same, after speaking to various friends and colleagues, I became more aware of Paul Facchetti's immense historical significance, not merely through his long association with Laubiès, but by his own individual achievements far more.

It was ultimately Mr. Castor SEIBEL, art critic and collector who more then anyone else in Paris beseeched me to go and meet Paul Facchetti. "Before it is too late!" he dramatically implored. "Do you know if he's still alive?" he asked. "Yes" I replied, "A person I know just talked to him on the phone. He lives in the States but flew to Paris when he knew that I was here. We're supposed to meet tomorrow for lunch."

* * *
Ten weeks after returning from Paris I became the beneficiary of a data reception that after a kind of analytical re-structuration confirmed Paul Facchetti as the consummate Mid-Twentieth to Early Twenty-first Century global art-historical patriarch. But a fundamental point that we need to bear in mind is that Paul is now 96 years of age. According to reports, he is physically frail but on the road to recovery from a tumble that he suffered earlier in the year. Reports speak further to his state of mind as effervescent, lucid and indomitable.

Let me halfway sum up here. It was only from the point of meeting Castor Seibel at Galerie Di Meo, rue des Beaux-Arts that I began to fathom the immense importance of meeting and speaking with Paul Facchetti. My deepening research on the life and work of René Laubiès discloses all the more that Facchetti represents a living spring of crucial art-historical data. Paul Facchetti was among Laubiès' earliest supporters in the 50s in Paris, and his Galerie Facchetti was the first to exhibit a selection of Laubiès' work. In his Portraits et Aphorismes (2001), René gives expression to the admiration that he held for his long-time friend and colleague. The pithy accolade is especially marked when weighed against the general balance of the text as contained in the limited Italian edition wherein otherwise René does nothing but expose his famous blend of comic wit and venomous tongue.

See René's brief portrait of Facchetti here.
See also Fautrier, Seibel, Facchetti, Le Noci, Magliano.

Not for your amusement but your edification

How do such instances of vital sensibility sustain themselves in the ambiance of memory? Why do they impel us – call attention to themselves – as if private graffiti dragged into the lanes of interfaciality and interspatiality?

What can be supposed of these collectible emissions as if children who demand to be seen and heard, and who denounce curatorial arts as bollix and play at what they do until their made to be sickened by the grovelling Contemporary Art charade and its growing ranks of Tupperware hosts...

What is to be drawn from these ethnographic galleries that mimic trade procedures of an early modern era when ridiculous breeds of men changed hands on the docks of cosmopolitan boomtown ports?

I first met Rene on the beach at Puri (draft)

[Painting by Prafulla Mohanti]
I FIRST MET RENE ON THE BEACH AT PURI, in Orissa India in 1983. It was late afternoon, and he was standing on the shore wearing Bermuda shorts and a colourful shirt while casually talking to a German traveller. I was out in the water body surfing jerky, two-meter-high curlers left and right across the cooling faces of blue-green wave. But they were coming so fast that much of time was spent diving under the oncoming foam. The tide was high. He was waving his hand while standing on the shore. The sunlight shone with filmic brilliance on his well-tanned face. He kept on waving. He waved as if he knew me. There was no one else near me. He was waving at me. I was rather exhausted leaving the water. I stood there dripping on the soft brown sand. He stepped right up. "I like the way you dive through the waves," he said. "You glide very well."

We met the next morning in front of my lodge along Chakratirtha Road. René was staying a few minutes away at Hotel Bay View. Local tourist officials were looking for volunteers among the foreign tourist to take us for a two-day/one-night tour of the region of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack to practice hosting foreign tourists and get their impressions on the places we would visit. There were about eight of us chosen for this trip. René had also volunteered. We were to travel in two Ambassador Sedans. Each of the two guides would drive. It was seven o'clock. René took me aside and we chatted a bit. He told me he was an abstract painter and asked me what my interests were. "Poetry," I said. Then he asked me if I knew the American poet Robert Creeley. "He is one of my favourites," I assured him. "Oh I'm glad that you are coming on this expedition," he said. "It would be so boring with only the others." The others were mostly English. We piled into the automobiles. At first I sat in front. We drove ahead a couple of meters and stopped. The other car was not yet loaded. I asked a girl that was sitting in the back if she would like to sit up front instead. She agreed. I opened the door and immediately put my foot in a fresh green patch of cow dung. "Oh," I said. I was a little embarrassed. Some one quickly fetched a pail of water and rinsed my foot and rubber sandal clean. The tour guide told me not to worry. "It's considered auspicious to step in cow dung, especially at the outset of any venture." "That's right," said René as I climbed in the back and sat beside him, "Indians believe that. I do too." We had a lot of time to talk in the car. He told me all about his connections with the American poet Robert Creeley with whom he lived on the Spanish island of Majorca, and especially of his meeting with Ezra Pound in the 1950s at St. Elizabeth Hospital in America. Our first stopped was the little town of Pipli, famous for its artistic appliqué. We were then on our way to the town of Cuttack. René told me more of his abstract art. I mentioned to him an Indian artist from Orissa whose colourful abstract paintings I saw in a Gallery in Jimbocho, Tokyo near to the school where I used to teach. "But I never actually met the artist," I told him, "I only read the bio data at the gallery … But then one night when looking out the third-floor window of my classroom waiting for a tardy student to arrive, I noticed a solitary man walking briskly down the street with a woollen shawl draped over his shoulders. 'That must be the artist,' I though to myself, and watched him disappear in the wet and misty night." Just at this point in telling my story, while driving in the car along the winding road, another car suddenly began to overtake us, and the just mentioned Indian artist was sitting in the back along with a tall European man. "That's him!" I shouted, and immediately told the driver, "Catch that car!" He sped up quickly and honked his horn. The car pulled over. We all got out. I asked the man directly, "Are you the artist who exhibited paintings in Jimbocho Tokyo about one year ago?" "That's correct," he confirmed. Then I turned to René. "Please introduce yourselves." They spoke for some minutes and exchanged brief professional data and contact information. The Artist's name was Prafulla Mohanti.

We continued our drive to the town of Cattack and spent the night in a nice small hotel with restaurant attached. I shared a room with René. I needed a shave but forgot to bring my razor. René said to use his, "The blade is new. I haven't used it." At dinner, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I had not eaten descent food in a while. They menu boasted an array of North India dishes. I puked 'in the bathroom sink of our room. I was fine after that. The next morning we visited the temples of Bhubaneswar and then took the longer drive to the famous ancient Buddhist archaeological sites. We passed through an incredibly impoverished area where half-naked tribal people lived hovelled in thatch. We returned to Puri by early evening.

The following morning, René and I took a walk south along the beach to the town and returned by the road. In this way, René was able to show me the general orientation of the ancient locale. René had visited Puri many times: for me it was my first.

Nearly every morning soon after breakfast, René took a long walk north along the shore past the Andhra fisher people's makeshift encampment to an isolated stretch of sand. There he could relaxingly strip to a g-string and bathe in peace and sublime seclusion. I never went with him. I preferred the waves just south of the encampment. As he briskly walked along the shore near the boats, the fisher children ran from their ramshackle hutments to greet him with jubilant hand waves and squeals. He smiled at them sweetly and waved in return. "These are my children," he nobly declared.

With the cooling light of early evening, we sometimes walked in the direction of the town. The boats there were different from the Andhra people. There were always several elderly lifeguards, too, with cone-shaped straw hats helping plump women in saris take their holy baths in the dangerous tides. But René was careful to watch the time and not be late for dinner at Hotel Bay View. He liked to have room and board together and to pay in advance on a monthly basis. "It's better for me to avoid the tourist restaurants," he explained. In Sri Lanka they have a good home stay system. I like it very much. It suits me well."

At Hotel Bay View, René always stayed on the terrace roof, in the "puja room," he called it, as it satisfied his fundamental need for seclusion and gave him plenty of space to paint.

He asked to read my poetry. I gave him the entire typewritten sheaf. He returned it two days later. "I like your poetry." (The seascapes took him.) "We should make a book," he pertly remarked. I'll do the cover art like I did with Robert Creeley. After that, his work became very popular. There is a printer in the town. I can take you there tomorrow."

I had still not asked to see his paintings. "Come to my place about five pm," he said.

I climbed the stairs to the terrace roof. The sand and sea were all in view. He had arranged about eight or nine works for me. They were lying on the ground outside his room. Only one he propped on an easel. "I don't use the easel to paint," he said. "It belongs to the hotel. I just brought it up to display one work." I scanned the lot for about 30 seconds and then broke into a steady solo applause. I kept on clapping for a minute or so as I continued to look at the paintings. Then I stopped. They were all of an approximate orange hue, chromatically analogous to the immediate backdrop. I paused a moment to collect my thoughts. "Through calm reflection you absorb the essence of the local colour. You don't try to copy but extract its essence from the breathing space, and then it's naturally abstracted."

I told him I was interested to find a yoga ashram. René only knew of the Ramakrishna Mission. He took me to meet the Swami in charge. "Do you teach yoga here?" I asked the swami. "No, this is not that kind of place," he said." "Do you know any other ashrams in Puri?" I asked him. "Puri is one big ashram," he said. That was a very good lesson.

Walking to the town one day, René showed me a room that was available for rent. I found it very dismal and too close to the town. Walking back, I disclosed to him my desire to find a guru. "I'll be you guru," he said light-heartedly.

He returned to Paris. I wound up in Bangkok. We wrote each other often. In attempt to help me publish my poetry, he introduced me to his old friend Cid Corman who was living in Kyoto at the time. After his death in 2004, our combined correspondences were archived with the large collection of Corman's papers at Indiana University (see Corman mss. III, Papers, 1943-2004. See "I. Correspondents/authors," http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/lilly/mss/subfile/corman3ser1.html).

Two years later, I returned to Puri. It was April or May, quite late in the season and Rene had already returned to Paris. I stayed in the puja room at Hotel Bay View and began a suite of poems titled 5 pm sun.
. . . . . . . .

[Writing notes]

Varkala two seasons

In 1989 we met in Paris. I stayed in his sixth-floor walk up on Rue des Beaux-Arts. He was busy in Nice but came up to see me twice. Before he departed again for Nice, we arranged to meet in Venice.

He met me at Venezia Santa Lucia Station. He had already found a room somewhere. It dawned on us that Ezra Pound's grave was on an outer islands, the cemetery island of San Michele. We went there in search of his tomb. We had to ask the groundskeeper. I left a plum on the gravestone. "All the way from China," I remarked to Rene. "It will only rot," he contended. I considered the argument and reclaimed the plum, only to eat it. I ate several more and left the seeds on the tomb. "Seeds of young American poets," he would later pen (Laubies, 2001).

Tipped into sheer prefiguration

On learning of the passing of Rene Laubies the figurative infix died all around me. It had taken the death of my friend and teacher to tip me into sheer prefiguration. I had never been able to go there before in spite of my arriving to the crucial point of esteeming non-figuration solely. I had never been able to bring to an end the image/figure referencing impulse. So I simply quit painting and stuck to writing. Yet the drive to go total—to go without—adhered to me through years of intention-bearing écriture: a quiet metamorphosis advancing formulation of a cumulative method that reveals the nearness of its blind operations to those of an illiterate calligraphist having doffed both semantic and semiotic latticework. But the concatenations of conspicuous extension sustains right through to anointive release and the hushed veneration of its ontic approach.

Paul Facchetti has passed away

Photographer and gallery owner Paul Facchetti died on 27 November 2010. He was 98 years old.

Facchetti was the consummate mid-20 to early-21st cen global art-historical patriarch. Paul was among Rene Laubiès' earliest supporters in the 50s in Paris and his Galerie Facchetti was the first to exhibit a selection of Laubiès' work under the banner of nuagisme. In Portraits et Aphorismes (2001), René expresses the admiration that he held for his long-time friend and colleague:

"Few galleries can ... pride themselves in so many discoveries that mark their era."

See http://bauddhamata.blogspot.com/2010/03/paul-facchetti.html

Paul Facchetti

The flair is unexplained, if not for that it would be too easy and everyone would have some! When seeing a painting for the first time Facchetti senses what is new in it, what is personal, while the others all look at what can sell, at what it resembles. In the film that was recently dedicated to him, one sees Facchetti walking in his gallery. It's his garden: Sima, Pollock, Hundertwasser, Michaux, Dubuffet and Laubiès. He never listened, that's his taste, he persisted and did not cede. Few galleries can therefore pride themselves in so many discoveries that mark their era. Just as he knew to find the young painters, he exposed through his photographs the personality of Breton, Ossorio, Gracq, Michaux, Fautrier, [Michel] Sima, Wols...

Le flair ne s'explique pas, sans quoi cela serait trop facile, tout le monde en aurait ! Facchetti voyant un tableau pour la première fois sentait ce qu'il y avait de nouveau, de personnel, alors que tous les autres cherchent ce qu'on peut vendre, à quoi cela ressemble. Dans le film qui vient de lui être consacré, on voit Facchetti se promener dans sa galerie. C'est son jardin : Sima, Pollock, Hundertwasser, Michaux, Dubuffet et Laubiès. Il n'a jamais écouté que son goût, s'entête et ne cède pas. Peu de galeries peuvent s'enorgueillir de tant de découvertes qui ont marquee leur époque. De même qu'il a su trouver les jeunes peintres, il a montré dans ses photos la personnalité de Breton, Ossorio, Gracq, Michaux, Fautrier, Sima, Wols...
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

In the Javanese Quarter

I do my best to shape a course that calls on as many ports as possible and furthermore try to tender goods that appeal to the broadest array of tastes. You can find me in the quiet of the Javanese Quarter – on the shaded pier near the fishnet menders. They protect me.

Interiorising Southeast Asian Histories

Of the tropical agricultural and horticultural goods that stimulated 15th century Southeast Asian sea trade, both among herself as well as with the world, the black peppercorn (Piper nigrum) was far and away king. This was followed by cloves, then the nutmeg seed together with its outer covering known as mace, then raw palm sugar and benzoin resin widely used in the production of incense. Next came a catalogue of forest materials like deerskins, sandalwood, sappanwood, camphor, lac, and a whole compendium of medicinal herbs.

Yet might there not have been a priest aboard these aromatic cargoes, an artist, a poet, a writer, a researcher?

Cloud stains (a post-Nuagiste critique)

In Cloud stains, a post-Nuagiste critique I invited cool scrutiny of Rene Laubies's procedural affinity to tropicalism. First was his affection for 'exploiting materials accessible to the site be they old or new.' Second was seeing his visual expression as a narratology more of his staining bricolage than of any post-gestrual antecedents. Third was to disengage his burnished end-products from the structuruation of systemic unity finely controlled through the layering of error over grazed equivocations in specific regard to the dissipation of existing modes of aesthetic perception. The fourth rebuffed all colonial messages as textual 'kitsch, if only for their sheer romantic inappropriateness.'

(Reliance on J.H. Bay, "Tropicalism," 1999, private correspondence).

See: Harris, Nuagisme, 12.6.09; and Varnelis, Poll: unless a cultural artifact is first and foremost cool, styling it as high is now a form of kitsch, 28 April, 2009.

Eurasian artist René Laubiès (a draft note)

In many ways the product of South-South trade and culture exchange, African-Asian capital flows, and peripheral forms of hybridizaiton (Verges 2003) at a time when steam ships ruled the sea.

"I'm Colonial French," Laubies explained. "I'm not French."

Yet René Laubiès was also not white, but a very French leaning Creole-Afro-Eurasian, the product of an overseas "Creole" French jurist and a Catholic Mandarin mother. Laubies only "became" French, 'officially' speaking, sometime in his teens on the eve of emigrating out of Asia, when a passport and other required documents had to be procured,  his "master key to the Suez Canal," as Ezra Pound would later remark. He was leaving to study in France at the time, which Morocco then stood as, another hot country. He may have been forced to fib about his date of birth. Perhaps this accounts for discrepancies found in his later professional bio blurbs, where his date of birth is variously stated as 1922 and 1924. Just for the record: The date of birth written in his final passport is February 27, 1922. We have a photo copy.

Laubies was born in Cochin China, a dethroned kingdom bundled together with a diverse group of neighbouring monarchic realms that included Cambodia, Laos, Tonkin, and Annam, plus a scrape of land that was leased from China. This is what comprised French Indochina, L'Indochine française, a monumental exercise in "geographical construction" (Fletcher 2003: 4:3). Cochin China was the economic and administrative centre of this noosed together peripheral sphere of "greater" (Oriental) France. Today this former entity has virtually dissolved in the modern constructed state of Vietnam.

Even in his old age Laubies always carried a picture of his mother. He showed it to me once when I visited his rooftop room at Bay View Hotel in Puri, India in 1983. "She was beautiful," he said. He handed me the photo. I looked at the small, rather aged monochrome print. "She looks very nice," I concurred. Was she Vietnamese?" I asked him. "In part" he said. He paused reflecting. He gave the impression that he rarely ever thought in such terms.

"We didn't call them Vietnamese," he later told me, "but Annamite, Indochinese, or Cochinchinoise. There were Malabar people there too," he added, "the same as these people." We were living in Kerala at the time. This must have been December 1986.

The terms Vietnam and Vietnamese only came into widespread usage at the endof the centry-long French colonial period, from 1948 when they officially replaced Annam and Annamese. Vietnamese, as a modern expression, is best understood as a historically constructed ethnonym for the majority Viet inhabitants of the land (Proschan 2002: 614, n. 12).


References

Fletcher, Simpson. 2003. Review of, Vichy in the Tropics: Pétain's National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe, and Indochina, 1940-44. By Eric T. Jennings. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001, in Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 4:3.

Proschan, Frank. 2002. "Syphilis, Opiomania, and Pederasty": Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese (and French) Social Diseases. Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. (Oct.): 610-636.

Verges, Francoise. 2003. "Writing on Water: Peripheries, Flows, Capital, and Struggles in the Indian Ocean," in Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique - Volume 11, Number 1, (Spring): 241-257

Laubies on Nuagiste procedure


Rene Laubies, 1961, oil on coated paper mounted on stretched Belgian linen 

 "When a Chinese painter of the ancient high period began to paint, he first burned incense, calmed and stilled his mind, collected his spirit and meditated. He let life's troubles and sordid propaganda gradually depart. With his spirit opened, he created an inner emptiness and thereby communed with the vital force that impels the universe. In harmony with Nature, it was THAT which directed his brush... This is how I meditate and paint myself, in India and les îles de la Sonde, in the nature that I love, tropical and dense, or in the pure luminosity of the desert." (Laubies)

Rene Laubies: tracing the non-figurative

I came across Pan Da'an's (潘大安) valuable essay "Tracing the traceless antelope: Toward an interartistic semiotics of the Chinese sister arts" (College Literature, Feb 1996) while researching the theoretical underpinnings of the colonial French non-figurative painter Rene Laubies. This project requires an historical grasp of the Dhyana/Chan/Taoist contribution as stems from ancient Chinese players, with particular attention to Guo Xi (郭熙, ca. 1020-1090). I have tentatively applied Professor Pan's art-historical analysis of the fabled Chinese Chan/Zen narrative in a way that would hopefully bring into relief and support my own developing take on the "underpinnings of Zen philosophy" as largely retrofittings constrained by the neo-Buddhist fondness for the fabulous. I would also like to lay bare the following point: to effectively decode the neo-Buddhist Zen-myth one needs simultaneously to perceive the persona of Bodhidharma as essentially a Hindu theatrical device and to infer the heritage of Chan itself as of basically healthy Taoist stock.

Art Informel

In its 1950s French art critical context, Art Informel (alternately spelled Art informal) indicated little in the sense of "informal art," the proposition of a casual, loosened or relaxed art handling or simple diminution of formal-ness. Art Informel was actually concerned with the non-appearance of form itself, with the un-formal, the un-form-ulated. Nuanced more profoundly, its cardinal aim was the non-allowance – indeed the non-substantiation of any conception or structuration that granted validity to the Continent's fixation on the dissimulative myth of intentionality.

See The reification of dawn's resolve

Rene Laubies: Aesthetic matters: likes & dislikes

Rene Laubies, it occurs to me, kept mysteriously silent on matters of aesthetics, formal or informal, vis-à-vis his literal performance (écriture). I don't remember much from private talks either. His concerns fixed always on matters ontic: method, procedure, spirit of the place, "his rhythm in the doing it." Or as he wrote in the preface of one of Robert Creeley's early books, "because it's made of ourselves, our emotions, our angers, our love for the sumptuous ... and our asceticisms." 

He spoke more pointedly on things he detested, primarily the French, their gallery owners in particular.


And the things he liked? (It's a very short list): Turner; the natural simplicity of the Chinese painters of the Golden period who 'dipped their hardened hair or their beards in ink, and spat - all to reject habitual technique and become a simple medium of the "vital breath"; post war artist Akira Kanayama; Italian collectors; India.

Laubies, Aphorism No. 6

The conservators in France are like all the French, they detest the painting and the painters that live. Deaths reassure them, but be on guard because the "second death" of official artists may prove definitive and these conservators will in the final analysis pass for idiots, which is in fact their secret terror. The zeal of these petty functionaries of art makes me laugh. They are as quickly dismissed as promoted. They take themselves for Louis XIV and end up like Louis XVI.
Les conservateurs en France sont comme tous les français, ils détestent la peinture et les peintres vivants. Les morts les rassurent, mais il faut prendre garde car la "seconde mort" des artistes officiels peut être définitive et ces conservateurs passeront en fin de compte pour des idiots, ce qui est en fait leur terreur secrète. Le zèle des petits fonctionnaires de l'art me fait rire. Ils sont aussi vite limoges que promus. Ils se prennent pour Louis XIV et finissent comme Louis XVI.
René Laubiès. 2001. "Aphorismes," in Ritratti e Aforismi / Portraits et Aphorismes. [Bilingual, Italian and French], Morgana Edizioni, Firenze.

Rene Laubies, new bio blurb

Rene Laubies was a painter, translator, traveler and writer. He was born in Cholon in the Imperial French Colony of Cochin-china to a well-off family around 1917. His father was Réunionnaise French-Colonial, while his mother was of solid Sinitic roots from the upland Phu-Ly Dynasty of Annamese Mandarins. He died in the pauper's ward of the Government Hospital in Mangalore India on 13 November 2006.

He is associated with Tachisme and Art Informel, but particularly linked to Nuagisme, or the "Cloudist" group of painters.

Proviso

My area of focus may be cautiously expressed as ascetic-arts research methodology with a strong infiltrative-cum-ethnographic data acquisitional bias. My work is rigorously non-institutional aside from the fact that the range of South, Southeast and Far-East Asian ascetic-arts traditions I study are invariably institutional in and of themselves.

Rene's last walk to the beach

And passed through the palm groves, tall golden grasses
bent by the breeze bordered everything
bathed in diaphanous sunbeams
morning mists and smoke from the cottages

- Malabar

Pound, Laubies, Alvard, Facchetti

1. Someone had written me inquiring about the Colonial French nonfigurative painter Rene Laubies who presumably passed away sometime at the end of 2006 on the Malabar Coast of southern India. The question concerned Rene's translation of the The Cantos by Ezra Pound.

Yes, Rene Laubies is also esteemed as the first translator of the work of Ezra Pound into French. In 1983, in Puri (Orissa), Rene related the events to me personally. It was after consulting with Pound himself that Rene decided to translate a "selection" of Cantos. This was back in the early 1950s during that scandalous twelve-year period from 1946 to 1958 when Pound was incarcerated at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washinton D.C., a Federal mental institution. In the 1950s, Rene was also living in the United States in close association with Black Mountain Collage, a place that attracted many the 20th century's most influential artists. He also taught a stint at the University Alabama, 1956-57. Rene was thus able to repeatedly meet and consult with Pound who closely mentored the project throughout. But I have actually never seen the volume myself, cataloged in French as Cantos et poèmes choisis / Ezra Pound; traduction de Rene Laubies, Paris: P.J. Oswald, 1958. 77 p.

2. Of immense importance to Rene's career is Julien Alvard (d. 1974) who initially launched a modern art movement that he baptized "nuagism," as based on the paintings of Rene Laubies, Frédéric Benrath, René Duvillier, Fernando Lerin, et al. This important young emerging body of work had first been shown at the Paris gallery of Paul Facchetti, who was remarkably also the first to have exposed Jackson Pollock in France. Some important 50s period details have recently been published by Guy Cloutier (2007). These relate to the Cochin-china-born Laubies's natural affinity to ancient Chinese landscape painting and the assimilation into his practice of its discursive relation between the void and the full, its frontal perspective, non-theatricality, and pervading atmospheric evocation of an ontological allusiveness.

Interrogé par Gérard Xuriguera (Les Années 50, éditions Arted), Laubiès dit lui avoir fait découvrir la peinture chinoise ancienne, "le vide et le plein, la frontalité, l'absence complète de l'expression et du théâtre, l'atmosphère, le suggéré, l'allusif". Des termes qui s'appliquent aussi à son propre travail. Sur ces bases, Alvard lance un mouvement baptisé "nuagisme", d'abord recueilli par la galerie de Paul Facchetti, le premier à avoir exposé Pollock en France (Cloutier).
In a 1954 Paris group photo (here) we see Paul Facchetti and Rene Laubies stainding second and third from the left, respectively. The now retired Facchetti was himself an established painter and photographer of some importantc and figures in the following set of images.

Question: Does anyone have any clear idea on how to contact Paul Facchetti? (Though the fact that the man was born in 1912 might be a hint.)

3. I find it quite inexplicable that after nearly six month I have not been able to gain direct communication with a single person who knew Rene Laubies—especially those who were with Laubies in Paris just prior to his final departure for India, presumably late October 2006.

See also

Fautrier, Seibel, Facchetti, Le Noci, Magliano
Nuagisme
Assembling notes around Paul Facchetti


Independent Ascetic-Arts Curation

I deplore being drawn into association with any form religious ideology or dogma, their attendant obsessions for the consolidation of legitimacy and concerns for genealogical purity. This is how I came to ascetic-arts curation.

Generally in the arts one enjoys an environment conducive to the birth of theoretical affinities and the development of schools expressing these. And yet a school, as opposed to the sect, let us say, is distinguished by its liberty to undermine completely its own foundations.

Pound's portrait

Laubies' portrait [of Ezra Pound] only underscores what he told me personally (ca 1989) about visiting Pound at the facility for the criminally insane in the late 50's. He remarked that Pound – having been there for about ten years – was 'not at all affected by the environment. He got on well with a supervising official and all sorts of people were able to visit him.' He characterized Pound as 'a large, strong and virile man.' "He spoke French very well", Laubies remarked, and French was their language of communication. 'Pound was always curious about ancient cultures and always researching something new. Even in his late years he studied Egyptian hieroglyphs... In the end he grew tired of living and died in Venice...' In 1989 after staying in his 6th-floor walk up at 3 Rue des Beaux-arts, Paris, I met Laubies in Venice. We visited Pound’s grave in San Michele Cemetery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Ref. http://helvena.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/from-troy/

Ezra Pound

I do not remember having had any difficulties returning to visit Pound at St. Elisabeth's Asylum. I asked him whether the surroundings bothered him: "Not at all, these are the only acceptable Americans." It was a pleasant irony of fate at the time that he became both famous and celebrated. He had the Bollingen Prize and a Pound newsletter telling of his works being translated into 14 languages, academic papers and books. The room was a mass of accumulated books and letters stacked on tables and chairs... there was a pretty woman too (very bad painter), a former Admiral, several sinologists and admirers. He gave me an enormous list of people to see that included Robert Creeley. He always loved to gather, give advice and connect everyone as the time he sought dollars from John Quinn for Joyce, was "il miglior fabbro" of Eliott, would militate for Vorticism, Brancusi or Gaudier-Breska. When I told him that I was born in Saigon: "Ah, that's why! Only Europeans with a master key to the Suez Canal are worth something...." In '58 he was still a force of nature. What a contrast fifteen years later, tea cup, tired, he kept mute and let Domenica de Roux do the talking and turn his bust by Arno Brecker. He died in Venice silent as always, on his tomb a laurel shrub inclines toward the offerings, flowers and seeds of young American poets.

Je ne me souviens pas avoir eu de difficultés à rendre visite à Pound à l'Asile de Sainte-Elisabeth. Comme je lui demandais si ce voisinage le gênait : "Mais non, ce sont les seuls américains acceptables". Par une agréable ironie du sort, c'est a ce moment la qu'il est devenu célèbre et célébré. Il avait eu le prix Bollingen. Une Pound's news letter donnait les nouvelles de ses traductions en 14 langues, des thèses et ouvrages sur lui. Dans cette chambre, accumulations de livres et de lettres sur les chaises et les tables… il y avait aussi une jolie femme (très mauvais peintre) un ex-amiral, plusieurs sinologues et admirateurs. Il me donna une liste énorme de gens à voir dont Robert Creeley. Il aimait toujours rassembler, conseiller, orienter les uns et les autres comme au temps au il demandait des dollars à John Quinn pour Joyce, était "il miglior fabbro" di Eliott, militait pour le Vorticisme, Brancusi ou Gaudier-Breska. Quand je lui dis que j'étais ne à Saigon : "Ah, c'est pour cela ! Seuls les européens qui ont passe le Canal de Suez valent quelque chose...". Il était encore en '58 une force de la nature. Quel contraste quinze ans après, tasse, lasse, il restait muet laissant parler Dominique de Roux qui tournait autour de son buste par Arno Brecker. Il est mort à Venise toujours silencieux, sur sa tombe un arbuste s'incline sur les offrandes, fleurs et graines de jeunes poètes américains.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, (from the forward) 2001.

Laubies on Nuagiste procedure

When a Chinese painter of the ancient high period began to paint, he first burned incense and gathered his thoughts in the calm of silence, concentrated his mind and meditated. He let life's annoyances slowly fade. His spirit free, he created space and communicated with the vital force that impels the universe. In harmony with Nature, it was She who guided his brush... This is how I meditate and paint myself, in India and the Sunda Islands, in the nature that I love, tropical and dense, or in the pure luminosity of the desert.

Quand un peintre chinois des Hautes-Epoques se mettait à peindre, il brûlait de l'encens, se recueillait dans le calme et le silence, concentrait son esprit et méditait. Il laissait les ennuis et le sordide quotidien s'évanouir peu à peu. Son esprit libéré, il faisait le vide en lui et communiait ainsi avec l'élan vital qui meut l'univers. Alors, en harmonie avec la Nature, c'est Elle qui guidait son pinceau... C'est ainsi que je médite et peins moi-même, dans les Indes, les îles de la Sonde, dans la nature que j'aime tropicale et dense ou dans la pure lumière du désert.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, (from the forward) 2001. 

Laubies, Aphorism No. 8

Pre-war abstract and geometric painting (Mondrian, Kandinsky, Circle and Square, De Stilj) has no great diffusion. It's only after 1950 that abstract painting starts to be recognized, and at the same time attacked. It is Lyrical abstraction, Tachiste, informele, Nuagiste that carries. And this is why I think that abstract art is still in its infancy. It should return to nature (which is abstract) and be renewed by that.

La peinture abstraite et géométrique avant-guerre (Mondrian, Kandinsky, Cercle et Carré, De Stilj) n'a pas une grande diffusion. Ce n'est qu'après 50 que la peinture abstraite commence à être reconnue, et du même coup attaquée. C'est l'abstraction lyrique, tachiste, informelle, nuagiste, qui l'emporte. Et c'est pour cela que je pense que l'art abstrait n'en est qu'à ses débuts. Il doit rejoindre la nature (qui est abstraite) et se renouveler par là.

René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Jean Fautrier

Passing through "la Vallée-aux-Loups", one arrived toMessagier's house. Fautrier had filled it with old furniture, dolls, Indian wall paper. Fautrier received sumptuously: glasses from Venice, old dishes and the ferocious machine-gunning of his contemporaries. Especially Dubuffet, César and others. There were always many writers and pretty women (at a given moment, a veritable harem: arriving one day I saw an enormous mulatto on the knees of an old shriveled critic). There was Paulhan, Ungaretti, Palma Bucarelli, Alvard, Iris Clert, jealous of Iolas and Tarika. Fautrier then retorted: "But my poor Iris, you have no money, you...." He discovered me and helped me win the Fénéon Prize in 1954. A critic of art, of which I made a career (what I made was an enemy, what could be more natural); each time I exhibit I am sent a dwarf, Japanese by preference, mulching at regular intervals "Fautrier, Fautrier." So if Fautrier were the father of something (he hardly liked paternity), it would be the materialists like Tapies, Leroy and others...

En passant par "la Vallée aux Loups", on arrivait à la maison de Messagier. Fautrier l'avait remplie de meubles anciens, poupées, papier peint à l'indienne. Fautrier recevait somptueusement : verres de Venise, vaisselle ancienne et mitraillage féroce de ses contemporains. Surtout Dubuffet, César et autres. Il y avait toujours beaucoup d'écrivains et de jolies femmes (à un moment donne, un véritable harem: arrivant un jour j'aperçus une énorme mulâtresse sur les genoux du critique rabougri). Il y avait Paulhan, Ungaretti, Palma Bucarelli, Alvard, Iris Clert, jalouse de Iolas et de Tarika. Fautrier lui rétorquait alors: "Mais ma pauvre Iris, tu n'as pas d'argent, toi…". Il m'avait découvert quand il ma fait donner le Prix Fénéon en 1954. Un critique d'art dont j'ai fait la carrière (ce qui m'en a fait un ennemi, quoi de plus naturel), chaque fois que j'expose m'envoie une naine, japonaise de préférence, paillant à intervalles réguliers "Fautrier, Fautrier". Alors que si Fautrier est le père de quelque chose (il n'aimait guère la paternité), ce serait des matiéristes comme Tapies, Leroy et autres…
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Mark Tobey

Faithful to the characters of Henry James he descended upon the Hotel Albany: gilt candelabras and cuddly toys 1900. He arrived from Basel where for the first time in his life he said "I have a house thanks to Beyeler." With Julien Alvard whom he loved much (and who had had an accident while going to see him in California) we went to dinner at George Salles' house. Mark Tobey brought his paintings on paper and leaned them against the walls of the dining room, between Picasso, Masson and my paintings on the floor. "All that holds and is held" said George Salles. Thus today I see a very beautiful red Tobey in the French museum.

Fidèle aux personnages d'Henry James il descendait à l'Hôtel d'Albany : candélabres dorés, peluches 1900. Il venait de Bâle où pour la première fois de sa vie disait-il "J'ai une maison grâce à Bayeler". Avec Julien Alvard qu'il aimait beaucoup (et qui avait eu un accident en allant le voir en Californie) nous allions dîner chez Salles. Mark Tobey apportait ses peintures sur papier et les alignait contre les murs de la salle à manger, entre les Picasso, Masson et mes tableaux par terre. "Tout cela tient et se soutient" disait Georges Salles. C'est ainsi que je vis un très beau Tobey rouge, aujourd'hui dans les musée français.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Jean-Pierre Wilhelm

When I was tired of swallowing the snakes on which Paris nourishes its painters, I left either for Italo Magliano's place in Milan, or for Jean-Pierre Wilhelm's place in Düsseldorf. As I had known him in Paris as one who had translated all that was difficult – Malraux, Michaux, etc. – when he returned to Germany I advised him to open a gallery. He and [Rolf] Järling, in Wüppertal, brought a touch of something "other" to a Germany turned in on itself. This gallery [Gallery 22] served as springboard for the talent of Manfred de la Motte. He brought to light our German painter friends: Hoehme, Gaul, Schultze as well as the painters of Julien Alvard and Fautrier.

Quand j'étais fatigue d'avaler les couleuvres dont Paris nourrit ses peintres, je partais soit à Milan chez Italo Magliano, soit chez Jean-Pierre Wilhelm à Düsseldorf. Je l'avais connu à Paris, alors qu'il traduisait tout ce qui était difficile : Malraux, Michaux, etc. quand il retourna en Allemagne je lui conseillai d'ouvrir une galerie. Lui et Järling, à Wüppertal, apportèrent une note "autre", dans une Allemagne repliée sur elle-même. Cette galerie servit de tremplin au talent de Manfred de la Motte. Il y fit connaitre nos amis peintres allemands : Hoehme, Gaul, Schultze, ainsi qui les peintres de Julien Alvard et Fautrier.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.
Note: Jean-Pierre Wilhelm (1912–68) was a collector, art historian and later the founder of Gallery 22 in Düsseldorf. He made contacts with gallery owners, especially in Paris, and with artists from abroad. Rolf Järling owned Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal.

Alexandre Iolas

His room at the Hotel Crillon was the cave of Ali-Baba: Greek marble, Egyptian statues, Matisse and Braque, small Max Ernst and Brauner, large Matta; all of that is now [with the Menil Collection] in Huston and at his villa in Athens all out of gold. His taste for and refinements to definitively established surrealism. Aesthete, he played with pink and yellow diamonds in his pocket, and paid us with dollars in boxes of chocolates. Former dancer he lived in and by beauty.

Sa chambre à l'Hôtel Crillon était la caverne d'Alì-Baba: marbre grec, statues égyptiennes, Matisse et Braque, petits Max Ernst et Brauner, grands Matta; tout cela maintenant est au Musée de Huston et dans sa villa à Athènes tout en or. Son goût sûr et raffiné à établi définitivement le surréalisme. Esthète, il jouait avec des diamants roses et jaunes dans sa poche, et nous payait avec des dollars dans des boîtes de chocolats. Ancien danseur il a vécu dans et par la beauté.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Colette Allendy

Petite and replete, she reigned in her own Hotel de Passy where Artaud had put together "The Cenci." She was surrounded by the "Artauds": Blin, Marthe Robert, Adamov, Mrs Jouve and Paule Thévenin. Not having any prejudice, she accepted me among Picabia and Bryen and some "Café Society Americans."

Petite et replète, elle régnait dans son hôtel de Passy où Artaud avait monté les "Cenci". Il y avait autour d'elle les " Artaud" : Blin, Marthe Robert, Adamov, madame Jouve et Paule Thévenin. N'ayant aucun préjugé elle m'accepta entre Picabia et Bryen et quelques "Café society américaines".
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Matta

At Matta's, one fills the swimming pool: "This pipe is me, all the money that I make sets out again immediately. My women, my families, my house, and this swindler who exploits me (our merchant)..."

Chez Matta, on remplit la piscine: "Ce tuyau c'est moi, tout l'argent que je fais repart immédiatement. Mes femmes, mes familles, mes maison, et cet escroc la qui m'exploite (notre marchand)…"
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Laubies, Aphorism No. 6

The conservators in France are like all the French, they detest the painting and the painters that live. Deaths reassure them, but be on guard because the "second death" of official artists may prove definitive and these conservators will in the final analysis pass for idiots, which is in fact their secret terror. The zeal of these petty functionaries of art makes me laugh. They are as quickly dismissed as promoted. They take themselves for Louis XIV and end up like Louis XVI.

Les conservateurs en France sont comme tous les français, ils détestent la peinture et les peintres vivants. Les morts les rassurent, mais il faut prendre garde car la "seconde mort" des artistes officiels peut être définitive et ces conservateurs passeront en fin de compte pour des idiots, ce qui est en fait leur terreur secrète. Le zèle des petits fonctionnaires de l'art me fait rire. Ils sont aussi vite limogés que promus. Ils se prennent pour Louis XIV et finissent comme Louis XVI.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Nina Kandinsky

Nina, forever young at 80 years, walked through Gastaat with all of her diamonds on day and night. One night she was strangled by and for her diamond reverie, but then one found of them in quantities hidden behind the radiators. She lived just for that, as her friends the old billionaires who held the New York galleries in the 50s and 60s (before the tsar Castelli) lived just for whisky. A little babyish but managing Kandinsky's funds very well, like every painter's widow, she only had a liking for "her" period, forsaking Kandinsky's own best painting — that of Munich — created under the reign of a mistress — there's another.

Nina, toujours jeune a 80 ans, se promenait à Gastaat avec tous ses diamants en plein jour, en pleine nuit. Une nuit elle a été étranglée par et pour sa rivière de diamants, mais on en a trouvé des quantités cachés derrière les radiateurs. Elle ne vivait que pour cela, comme ses amies les vieilles milliardaires comme ses amies les vieilles milliardaires qui tenaient les galeries de New-York en 50-60 avant le tzar Castelli) ne vivaient que pour le whisky. Un peu bébête mais gérant très bien le fonds Kandinsky, elle n'avait comme toutes les veuves de peintres que " sa " période, délaissant la meilleure période de Kandinsky – celle de Munich, mais faite sous le règne d'une maitresse – à une autre.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Peggy Guggenheim

I knew Peggy Guggenheim from Facchetti's place. She had recommended a painter to me with whom I became friends, and although very beautiful he was not a gigolo; also Peggy no longer knew who he was when I spoke to her about him! Her collection is important and boring; it is the Ebbing Craft of painting: everything is there, very well indexed, but has no soul.

J'ai connu Peggy Guggenheim chez Facchetti. Elle m'avait recommandé un peintre dont je suis devenu l'ami, mais quoique très beau il n'était pas gigolo; aussi Peggy ne savait plus qui il était quand je lui en parlais ! Sa collection est importante et ennuyeuse, c'est le Craft Ebbing de la peinture : tout y est, très bien répertorié, mais sans âme.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

My third winter season in Palakunnu

Palakunnu village is especially nice this year. And to think that I nearly decided not to come! I arrived to Cochin by flight from Kuala Lumpur on January 6th. I caught the Malabar Express that same night and arrived the next morning. Palakunnu village is the closest thing I have to a home. I can rent a room and pay for all I need. Costs are still exceptionally modest here. My room is more spacious and fresher this year. Yoga and paint, sleep and write is just about all I do in there. It's nearly 2 kilometres from Kappil Beach to where I walk most mornings around half past seven. It's a splendid shore with nobody on it but a few sand poachers and infrequent passers-by. Interesting sea debris collects along the high tide line near shade-bearing palms and casuarinas. Fishing boats very rarely land there....

Sometimes I like to take a morning train about 50 minutes north to Manjeshwar village. On an unpaved lane there's a vegetarian eating place run by a shirtless Brahmin with a flower behind his ear. It's tiny, poorly lit and very traditional. I have a small breakfast then head for the sea. The coast is actually better than at Kappil Beach, being far more isolated and immensely longer. I always walk north in the direction of Kanwatirtha village and choose a pleasant spot to bathe and sun my body. The only other person I'm likely to see is Jogi Manju who sets simple nets and lines in the surf and always manages to catch a fish. I sometimes walk beyond Kanwatirtha; that gets pretty close to the Kerala-Karnataka state border. Mangalore city is not far away; around 20 minutes by bus.

The only other western "tourist" this year is Alfred Windig, a long time German-Italian friend of René's. They met in Morocco in 1984. I first saw Alfred in Varkala, in January 1985. He could hardly speak a word of English then. He manages quite well now.

I'll be back in Malaysia on Feb 17th. I'll have to make Malacca my provisional base as I don't have a place to stay in Singapore. It's a perplexing dilemma. I need to start essential new research at the National Library and care for some other important things. What's the solution?

See also: The work place, On Indian soil, Rene's last walk to the beach, On Laubies's work, Assembling notes around Paul Facchetti.

Laubies show at Galerie Alain Margaron (Paris)

There is currently a showing of Laubies' works at Gallery Alain Margaron in Paris featuring forty works – oils, inks, and watercolours. It runs until March 13, 2010. No fee. Some translated press remarks here and here.

Alain Margaron has done a wonderful job in gathering, preserving and making René Laubies' work accessible to the public. He's the champion Laubies collector, hands down, and we should recognise that and learn from him. Everyone gains through cooperation; but by estranging ourselves we only lose.

When viewing Laubies' oils on coated paper, mounted, or glued on stretched Belgian linen (maroufle sur toile), one should try (if allowed) to examine the backs in order to the see their manner of construction – it's very revealing. The general procedure is known as marouflage. In the past two years I have personally done at least fifty specifically "oil on coated paper" paintings, but I haven't mounted a single work. I'm doubtful if anyone could do it here (in Singapore or Malaysia), which urges me to learn how to do it myself (from who?), or win someone else's expert services. But there's another problem with mounting works. The storage space requirement increases fifty fold. So I keep them in rolls, around ten to a tube.

When painted paper is glued and pressed on tightly stretched canvas (i.e. canvas stretched on a stretcher or wooden frame) it acquires an altogether firmer support. In 1985 in Kerala, India, René disclosed a few important points to me. "The paintings look different after mounting", he explained, "after that, I sometimes work on them more." He said, "The finished paintings are as tight as a drum" and he grinned like a child as he flicked his finger enjoying the imagined timbre evoked.... So, perhaps one can imagine how charmed I was some twenty years later on a cold, wet February day in Paris when I held Laubies' well-mounted works in my hands and examined them carefully—front, sides and back. For until that day at Margaron's place, I had hardly seen a single finished Laubies product, only uncropped papers in the semi-finished state, though witnessed on-site where he painted them in Puri and Varkala in India. Each stretched frame, then, has to be built exactly to the size of the painting it supports. Outcomes demonstrate very flush borders.

In René's later period (to my knowledge, at least), the framing and mounting were skilfully performed by Jean Claude Scribe in Paris. In glaring contrast, some early paintings from the 50s and 60s were clumsily mounted and have not withstood the test of time. But don't be surprised when you view the current show and see very early—even pre-Cloudist paintings—in stunningly healthy and fit condition. Thank you Alain Margaron!

If I had a place to stay there, I would contemplate flying...

Laubies, Aphorism No. 1

In the life of a painter, the only happy moment is when he paints. Painting finished the annoyances begin. He has to show the painting, submit it to the critics, the merchants and the amateurs, sell it, repurchase it, save it in auction rooms in extremis. Every painting returns ten times. Like migratory birds they pass from Paris to Milan, from Düsseldorf to New York or Huston, re-traversing the Atlantic where they are bought for nothing and resold very expensively according to the crises, speculation, the art market.

Dans la vie d'un peintre, le seul moment heureux est quand il peint. Le tableau fini les ennuis commencent. Il faut exposer ce tableau, le soumettre aux critiques, marchands, amateurs, le vendre, le racheter, le sauver in-extremis de la salle des ventes. Chaque tableau à été rendu dix fois, comme les oiseaux migrateurs ils passent de Paris à Milan, de Düsseldorf à New York ou Huston, retraversent l'Atlantique, sont achetés pour rien et revendus très cher suivant les crises, la spéculation, le marche de l'art...
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, (from the forward) 2001.

Laubies, Aphorism No. 4

Hostility always stimulates me. With nothing to lose, I have the taste to displease. It is not out of pride; but seeing what they like, one is delighted most by being detested.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Laubies, Aphorism No. 5

The French never love painting and are always dupes: Louis XIV preferred Le Brun to Poussin, and in 1900 one bought L'art pompier and not the impressionists; in 1930 Matisse is on the same footing as Kisling, Derain and others... They prefer Picasso to Braque and Bonnard. If there were a French art, it's thanks to foreign collectors.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

Laubies, Aphorism No. 10

French critics would want that the dripping of Pollock comes from Masson, whereas it is known that the Chinese of the high time had dipped their hardened hair or their beards in ink, and that they spat. All to reject habitual technique, in wanting to be a simple medium of the "vital breath." It is this simplicity that made great Chinese painting. Ma Yuan (1190) and Bada Shanren* (1630) are the pure abstract ones, because the stain held their interest, not the rock or the boat that the stain may have suggested. The Occident needed to wait for this abstraction, to recover this attitude, this freedom, this "brilliant carelessness", this chance exploit.

Les critiques français voudraient que le dripping de Pollock vienne de Masson, alors que l'on sait que les Chinois de la haute époque ont trempé leurs cheveux ou leur barbe dans l'encre, qu'ils ont recrachée. Tout cela pour rejeter l'habilité technique, en se voulant le simple medium du "souffle vital". C'est cette simplicité qui à fait la grande peinture chinoise. Ma YUAN (1190) ou Pan Tan Chan Gen* (1630) sont de purs abstraits, car c'est la tache qui les intéresse et non le rocher ou la barque qu'elle peut suggérer. Il à fallu attendre l'abstraction en Occident pour retrouver cette attitude, cette liberté, ce "laisser-aller génial", ce hasard exploite.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.

* I have changed Laubies' original spelling Pan Tan Chan Gen for the more standard Bada Shanren.

Laubies, Aphorism No. 11

From 1950 to 1960 there was not a day in Paris without quarrels, excommunications, insults between critics, galleries and painters. Julien Alvard  having written an article in Art d'Aujourd'hui (Art Today) about Pollock, me and some other disgracefuls, had to leave the review (that's how Cimaise was born). Charles Estienne and Claude Rivière in Combat, defended the Tachistes, the Nuagistes, every Monday. The abstract geometrics saw threats in the "insignificance of informel", and Nina Kandinsky says to Alvard: "But this painting is affrrreux, affrrreux" to the tapping of her diamonds. The deplorable posterity and darling of Monet of the Nymphs overrode [l'emporta sur la suite] the protestant continuation of Mondrian. This will be followed by something no less deplorable than Marcel Duchamp.

En 50-60 il n'y avait pas un jour à Paris sans querelles, excommunications, injures entres critiques, galeries et peintres. Julien Alvard ayant écrit un article dans Art d'Aujourd'hui sur Pollock, moi et quelques autres scandaleux, dût quitter la revue (c'est ainsi que Cimaise est née). Charles Estienne et Claude Rivière dans Combat, défendaient les tachistes, les nuagistes, tous les lundis. Les abstraits géométriques se voyaient menaces par les "insignifiants de l'informel", dont Nina Kandinsky disait à Alvard : "Mais cette peinture c'est affrrreux, affrrreux" en tapotant ses diamants. La postérité déplorable et chérie du Monet des Nymphéas l'emporta sur la suite protestante de Mondrian. Cette postérité sera suivie par cella non moins déplorable de Marcel Duchamp.
René Laubies, Portraits et Aphorismes, 2001.