Rehabilitating painting

In 1954 I went to Paris in search of artistic truth, but I discovered that an enormous confusion reigned there. So far as I could see, the thread linking pictorial values had been broken in about 1918 by the Dada movement, after which nothing genuinely new had emerged, thinking had stopped there.
Nevertheless, there was no doubt as to the existence, not so much of a genuine development, but of a growing academicism.
Was there nothing after Dada? Had art definitively come to an end? And apart from these questions: What is art?, What is it for?, What is painting?, What force had driven us to reach this total nihilism? This was the sort of problem I had to confront and find an answer to.
Analysing the course taken by modern painting, I came to the conclusion that this force, this truth, this ordering thread, was no more than a doctrine, the realist doctrine, which, in this cycle, had now reached its final object: reality.
Having established this fact and in the search for a possible way out, I decided to undo the journey in the opposite direction. To do this, I myself had to become real, that is I had to destroy myself, return to zero and wipe out any intellectual component within me. I could only conserve the emotion of my deepest being; I had to reintegrate myself totally in nature, forming a single unit with it, and thus be reborn. Finding myself in a world in which realism made no sense, I was not to think in the old way, but feel. In other words, turn the hour-glass over again and replace the realist doctrine with the idealist doctrine.
Subsequently, I had to start again pictorially from scratch, taking as my point of departure the chiaroscuro, which I was to confront using only black and white. Refusing all matter. That was how my first creative period started, confused with what some people were later to call nuagisme.
In 1958, when I achieved a complete mastery of the structuring of chiaroscuro, I added colour to my painting, but only the primary colours, mixed in by simple transparency. In 1959, I introduced the gestural sings as a new pictorial expression, without confronting any problem of signification.
In 1962, I needed to definitively incorporate into my painting a new element, the "subject", a human evocation of nature in which I first made use of its metaphysical objectivity, "the myth", inspiring myself later in its dramas and tragedies, which are the motivation for its pictorial language, through what I called pictorial literature.
Later, as a way of making known and confirming these ideas, I organised, with the Galerie Breteau, various exhibitions de choc, which we called exhibitions for reflection. There the palpable existence of the academicism I mention was demonstrated, the final, definitive fruit of the realist doctrine.
Manuel Duque
Paris, 1965