Dolby Chadwick Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition of new work by the French painter Lou Ros, SOMEWHERE, starting on July 7 and continuing through August 27.
Raised in La Rochelle in western France, Ros started painting at 17, first as a graffiti artist, working on large works on the walls of abandoned buildings. The paintings took several days to paint and the work technically wasn’t against the law, since the buildings were slated for demolition. Four years later, Ros began working on canvas. His new works evoke the freedom and spontaneity of graffiti art but show the maturity of years spent painting in his Paris atelier.
Ros’s work for SOMEWHERE encompasses three areas: portraits that evoke movement and transition, even as they capture the subject; haunting, mysterious scenes based on historical photos that Ros collects; and two landscapes that represent a new direction for the artist.
In “SR”, Ros creates an intimate portrait of a tantalizing, barely glimpsed woman. We see the glow of her skin, mostly hidden by a curtain of white and gold hair. It’s a scene we want to enter and be a part of, but we are left to just keep looking, trying to glimpse a bit more of this enigmatic woman who promises to have something to tell us. Two brilliant slashes of blue punctuate the canvas and propel the painting from traditional portraiture to something modern.
Lucky for us, we get to know more about this subject, with “SR2”, which reveals the visage of the woman we studied from the side. She regards us with a detachment that entices us to stare, trying to understand her giacondesque mien. Where in “SR”, you can see the weave of her sweater and the subtle highlights in her hair, this portrait has her floating above a wash of white that we can understand as a garment, but it doesn’t distract us from the intensity of her face. The canvas moves from the expressive paint strokes of her face to her hands, which move from realism to line drawings that express more in their sparseness than a fully rendered hand would do.
Ros paints his friends and fellow artists and then names the canvases with their initials.
“Portraits are intuitive,” Ros says. “It’s like a study. That’s why I always make portraits in real scale – it’s approximately life size. I won’t do a two-meter portrait.” He destroys many of the portraits he paints, seeing the process of creating and destroying as a key part of his artistic method. “When I’m trying to paint one, I can make three or four portraits and destroy one or two and just let go the two that are good … or the one, or sometimes none of them.”
For Ros, what’s left undone on the canvas is as important as what he paints.
“Through the colors, brush strokes, composition, background and rhythm of the painting, I attempt to create works which truly represent bodies in a space without distortion,” Ros says. ”Without having a clear idea of the final result, I stop my work before it seems finished. The moment where little is enough to suggest the structure interests me, leaving the spectator’s imagination open at the moment the scene is starting to appear.”
In “INC6”, Ros draws from one of the historical photos he collects from the 1930s and 40s. Mystery pervades “INC6”. Is it a magician like Harry Houdini calmly waiting to free himself from his bonds and burst free? Is the man sleeping? Are those ropes tying him or are they allegorical bonds? Is he dreaming or dead? Ros likes the mystery, leaving it to the viewer to interpret the scene. “I like that people see really different things in it,” Ros says. “You don’t know if it’s a real scene. You can’t say exactly what it is.”
In “The Doctor”, a physician appears to be examining a woman, but what’s really happening and why is the scene so unsettling? Ros has done several works of doctors, barbers and tattoo artists. “These are persons that are suddenly really close to your body,” he says. “Sometimes I paint that kind of subject to see it differently and maybe to be more comfortable with it.”
The two landscapes in the show are a departure for Ros.
“At the base, it’s an exercise to make a painting without anyone in it. It’s different from much of my work because there’s always a human presence in it. It was to improve my capacity to not make a focus on the human body,” Ros says. “This place doesn’t exist. Call it somewhere. Because we don’t know where it is. It’s not reality. It’s something I invented. It’s not exactly hyper-realistic. It’s something that is changed from reality. The painting action modifies the figurative image.”
The conundrum in “No Man’s Land #4” stems from the craggy ground and the dark, twisted trees shrouded in clouds … but there is a whisper of light – of hope? – in the distance that roots you in front of the painting. For the second landscape, ”No Man’s Land #4”, Ros infused a natural scene with light, glaring, bouncing, permeating the scene and creating an electricity on the canvas. The shock of white, snow-covered banks contrasts with the black tree trunks and the creek winding through the scene. Violet haze brings a dreamy quality to the canvas, sharply contrasting with the darkness of the companion landscape.
Ros says when he looked back at his earlier works, he realized they were better partway through the process, when they were more raw and less finished. “But it was difficult for me to put that in front of viewers,” Ros says. “And then I realized that people will be able to see the same thing as me. They will be able to catch the good part and the unfinished part of the painting because the human brain is really good when you see just two lines. You are able to imagine something. If everything is said in the painting, it blocks the spectator from dreaming on it and letting it go somewhere else.”
Lou Ros was born in La Rochelle, France, in 1984, and currently lives and works in Paris, France. He has shown across Europe and has been reviewed in MISC and ARTBOX magazines. This will be his first solo exhibition at the Dolby Chadwick gallery.
Dolby Chadwick gallery, San Francisco.