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Michel Grillet

Montagnes-Ciel , 2006
series of 5 watercolours on Arches paper
5.0 x 26.0 cm each
Delicately superimposing layers of water-diluted colours, Michel Grillet conjures up with striking precision whole chains of mountains, their crests dissolving in hazy skies. The curving shapes he produces alternately suggest musical notes dancing on a score, the graphic record of a beating heart, the overlapping of several banks of clouds, or the shimmering vibration of the atmosphere. Bathed in a harmony of blues that are occasionally heightened by a hint of pink, these refined panoramas stretch to the horizon. In this play of transparent washes, the forms tend towards abstraction.

Part of a tradition of Alpine painting that is particular to Swiss culture, Grillet’s watercolours evoke a mountain that is archetypal yet sublimated through a contemplative, poetic dimension. With the constancy of his approach, the infinite repetition of the same subjects, and the slow rhythm of the gestures he performs in creating a piece, what Grillet proposes is an art of meditation. Christoph Vögele explains the artist’s process in these terms, “Memories motivate and interiorise his art and are associated with the depiction of the uninterrupted flow of time, which is indeed expressed by the succession of similar motifs over many years. The slow elaboration of the art and the contemplation become a spiritual exercise…”

Imbued with an astounding delicacy of technique, his panoramic views waver between memories and apparitions. Along with his work in watercolour on paper, Grillet works with another support, viz., small tablets of blue pigment, like those found in paint boxes. Applying small dabs of white paint to them, he patiently creates starry Lilliputian landscapes, miniature firmaments and silent night skies in a shift of scale that condenses the immensity of nature into a few nuances of colour, for a timeless work of art.
Michel Grillet, Montagnes-Ciel , 2006