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Olivier Mosset

Sans titre, 1969
acrylic on canvas
100.0 x 100.0 cm
From the very start of his career, Olivier Mosset’s approach has been characterised by its radicalness, his attitude toward art standing out as that of an iconoclastic rebel who opposed the established pictorial tradition. In 1965 his first pictures display the letter A painted in black on a white background; subsequently the letter becomes a black dot, then in 1966, a black ring on a white background makes its appearance at the centre of a square that invariably measures one square metre.

By repeating this same pictorial gesture over eight years, until 1974, Mosset expresses his intention to free himself of subjective contingencies. His painting is supposed to be painting and only painting, devoid of any outside references, illusionism, interpretation or possible aesthetic appreciation, and above all emotion. The strategy was therefore that of maximum neutrality. Through a mechanical, impersonal execution and a well-established protocol, the artist worked to ward off any symbolic allusion that might go beyond the material limits of the painting. The motif expresses nothing more than itself; it is all about “a line that tells us only of itself and that it exists, a line without a secret without beauty without ugliness”, to borrow Michel Parmentier’s expression.

In Mosset’s desire to make a clean sweep of a certain history of painting and rewrite its origins, his approach was also part of a political commitment in synch with the Parisian context of the 1960s. Thus, for him, repeating the same black circle against a white background over two hundred times means “cutting yourself off from the problems of the past and the future, ceasing to view the production of a painting as progress or regression, and therefore avoiding value judgements and the notion of progress – an old capitalist notion.

Taking a stand within the painting scene. Removing from the work of art its unique character, not giving into the pressure of the market. Cutting yourself off from what makes the value of a painting, symbolic or aesthetic value and economic value.” By shaking up the pictorial matters that are rooted in the question of composition, style, content and form, Olivier Mosset stretches the limits of painting and put himself at the frontier of what constitutes the medium.
Olivier Mosset, Sans titre, 1969