“Self-portrait in still life”, canvas dust

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Still travel, it’s seasonal, “Around silent things”, Self-portrait in still life will have made us wander (future future, the grammatical time of ghosts, according to Jean-Paul Iommi-Amunatégui) in front of deserted tables, mummies in the frock of the Capuchin crypt in Palermo or the empty rooms in a row of the Danish painter Hammershøi. The writer presents himself on the threshold of the book as an apostle of idleness, invokes the two great figures of withdrawal in literature: the Oblomov of Gontcharov and the Bartleby of Melville, then, returning to the autobiographical detail, dismisses the suspicions of pose, strips naked, convinced of his sincerity. “It is a charm, a real magic, when, after many twists and turns, our nature, let’s call it that, finds its territory, its dark forest, its empty land, its wasteland, even if the circumstances that have permit this return are fortuitous, suffered, painful or even heartbreaking. ”

These circumstances, we guess partially. In 2016, Jean-Paul Iommi-Amunatégui, Chilean by birth, published the Long Forgotten, reviving the memory of his suicide partner, Sabine de La Touche. The young woman also haunts this book, as do the still lifes (Morandi, Manet, Matisse, Van Gogh, Goya …), described and not reproduced, and the cohort of beloved writers, whom Iommi-Amunatégui quotes extensively, so disorderly, in the course of its own text, as one paints an apple next to a jug.

Thus Kafka, in his correspondence with Milena: “To write letters is to get naked in front of ghosts; they eagerly await this moment. The written kisses do not reach their destination, the ghosts drink them on the way. It’s thanks to this hearty food that they multiply so fabulously. ” Or Baudelaire: “I am an old boudoir full of faded roses.”

One day, not so far away, the author bought tubes or pots of colors, brushes, and began to paint his canvas like a Sunday dauber. He recognizes that he is drawing “Pretty bad”, should we believe it? The result of his work is no more reproduced than the famous paintings on which he writes. But sticking to painting sharpens his thinking, still rooted in the same literary scholarship. Why so many lemons, he wonders, for example, in “Still-leven” baroque? And to explain the fragmentation of colors, the role of spots, the unification by the play of light. And here comes the citrus to the acidity queen. “The lone yellow of a lemon is an exception. It is the only primary color that the painter could extend to thank you without even the pale touches of a reflection interrupting its entirety. “

He also objects to the way the inclusion of “Vanities”, of bleached skulls, in still lifes, force interpretation. Because for him, these memento mori have only a marginal place. “By giving it an obligatory and unique meaning, vanity diverts the meaning of inert objects, the proper thing of which is not to have them and possibly accept all those that we can attribute to it for no other reason than ours which does not belong to it no more than that of others. “ Instead, let our ghosts go, it seems to suggest.

Frédérique Fanchette

Jean-Paul Iommi-Amunatégui Self-portrait in still life Ecuador, 112 pp., € 15 (ebook: € 9.99).

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