Matter has been Jean-Paul Riopelle’s exclamation, as expression of itself and as affirmation of man’s relationship with nature. Be it the strength of a stroke on canvas, the alchemical viscosity of paint, or the delicate trace of a fishing net, for Riopelle, matter itself has been the focus of his life’s work. And nowhere in his work does matter affirm itself with more power than in the enamelled lava pieces produced between 1984 and 1985.
Extracted from Auvergne volcanoes, these slabs of lava are treated by Riopelle with the same powerful vision as his drawings, his paintings or his sculptures. Yet here, the lighter gesture of Riopelle’s later work is placed in stark contrast with the primacy of lava, always in movement, delicate and volatile. They seem to float, pinned lightly to the surface and bearing the same virtuosity as his work with ink, watercolor and gouache.
This unique and rare collection – of which only 23 works exist, including the 11 shown here – has last been shown in 1993, at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the “Earth and Fire: Enamelled Lava” exhibition. They have been preserved in a private collection since, and are now being offered for exhibition or sale by their collector.