January 15, 2006

Antoine Gaber and the Contemporary exploration of curative art by Adriana Herrera Téllez

Adriana Herrera Téllez

Journalist, and Art Critic, Miami, Florida

15 January 2006

Translated from Spanish, unedited quote

Canadian artist Antoine Gaber revisits the impressionism of the French Masters in appropriation- common in Contemporary Art- of an important era of Art History.

However, Gaber differs from other artists who assimilate into their works classical illustrations to transform them into icons; he goes back to scenes or images preserved in memory (Monet’s Nympheas), a tribute to enduring works that have dramatically transformed the conception of art.

In his work, there is something more than sheer references to paintings of 19th century artists who refuse to copy the mimetic form of reality in order to capture the impression sketched by the projection of daylight on objects: Antoine Gaber is looking to incite a transformation for the viewer who relies on the power of contemplation.

We all know that impressionism broke the notion of art as an objective representation of reality. The idea of a still world shifts to seize the impression that it stimulates in the viewer’s eye. The brushes capture the forms through the ever-changing sifter of light trying to freeze the perception of pure instant of any distinct landscape scene of any place on earth subject to the passing of hours.

Gaber stretches this shifting of axis of the representation accomplished by the impressionists as the painting crosses the eye of the onlooker and places itself at the visual threshold of the inner transformation. His painting includes the notion that contact with what is seen has the power to alter the inner state of the viewer who absorbs the painting like the Zen artist who paints a scenery on the wall of his cell and thinks he can escape by going through it.

Speaking of this perspective, we can see a characteristic of his creative development, which is also a growing tendency in Contemporary Art: the desire to purify, (cure, relieve) the spectator. Being consumed by what we see is the preamble to all cures by an art that emerges from light projected over all existing things.

The terminology Healing Art is still a difficult concept to handle as his meaning goes beyond that of art, a term also used to define the well being felt by someone through art. Another thing is Antoine Gaber’s creative process that leads to an art conceived to cure those who discover its virtue.

Whether it’s “The Scream” of Munch, the powerful figures of a hallucinated and desperate Basquiat in Manhattan, or the canvases of Andrés Serrano stained by his own bodily fluids; just to mention a few, we come to realize that there is a strong tendency in Contemporary Art to mirror an insane world. This other Art that doesn’t look to reflect today’s ills but to cure the soul (and the body) of anyone caring is more unusual and deserves our attention. The creative process that makes use of the curative function is less known and never had the benefit of a theoretical approach. Thus, the significance of this artist is something to be reckoned with.

In his childhood, Antoine Gaber watched his uncle paint with amazement. He was also fascinated by photography. He couldn’t get over the fact that some sort of magic process could fix an image of the world for eternity. This would incite him to take numerous photos and put up a dark room that he transformed into a studio where he would shot artistic portraits and developed photos of scenery that were already for him a reason for peace.

“Infiltrate nature gave me the impression that time had stopped and allowed me to communicate with God, and appreciate the beauty of the created world around me”.

“Infiltrate nature gave me the impression that time had stopped and allowed me to communicate with God, and appreciate the beauty of the created world around me”.

Even though some decades went by before this experience opened on painting, Gaber had captured the intensity of the moment when his eyes “see” a mixture of colors in the scenery which is, in his own way, the perfect reflection of the impression whenever the soul reaches the precious instant that condenses eternity.

It’s been 12 years now since he started painting as a self-made artist, studying the works of the Masters impressionists, the ecstasies of the light reflected on a scale ranging from red to purple. On his canvas, black is absent, but there are plays of light and shadows, and his painting keep expressing the liberation that all beautiful things are produced in the soul.

If the impressionist movement inspired freedom of style and shares with expressionism the connection between the pictorial process and the inner feeling; Gaber adds to the mix the volition of obvious contemporary artists like Lygia Clark as he is trying to get the viewer’s attention. Even though he’s not into building sculptures or “creatures” like this Brazilian who confers the status of Art to curative processes and who invited the spectator to interact with her works; Gaber paints sceneries to gain access to the spectator’s inner self.

His art is provocative but at the other end of the transgression – so characteristic of an art that emerges from a disintegrated society like ours- as his intention is not to perturb the perception but to mix colors and forms to appease the spectator who is also, in his own way, a patient. This function is not unlike those works that have altered the limits of art like the unforgettable performances of Joseph Beuys presenting his own personal healing process, although Gaber’s style refers to an ancient artistic tradition.

But never has it been understood like now that the power of re-actualization has everything to do with the use of the artistic object. The impressionist sceneries a la Monet are in a way “found objects” that Gaber uses as a new function linked to his agenda: healing. “Liberate people is the soul of art”, said Beuys.

As a cancer researcher dedicated to the evolution of new medicines, Antoine Gaber knows what human suffering is and especially suffering caused by destructive cells. It’s almost that natural in tone with the pharmaceutical research and the fascination radiating from Monet’s style, he tries to use the vast concentration of light and enthusiasm to paint sceneries which invite the spectator to a distinct reality from that of his troubled body: spaces reminding him that somewhere in the world (and inside him) there is absolute peace and there are colors executing the subtle dance of harmony.

After the meticulous technical study in the making of Degas’ L’orchestre, Gaber revisited Le modèle, one of the best-known works of Tamara de Lempika, the famous Art Deco artist. Although it was the first time he ventured out of impressionism, this pictorial work- helping the launch of a new drug against cancer reveals the deep sense of his art: the shared compassion of human suffering.

The woman covers part of her face with her arm and unlike the perfectly nude breast of the original; the astute eye will note that on Gaber’s model, a surgery has modified her size, that the arm is longer than normal, collateral effect of this kind of operation. The barely visible mutilation of the body produces an emotional charge in the woman who feels the stigma of the disease. Gaber knew how to capture the deep sense of this drama.

This same feeling of compassion linked to aesthetic considerations presided over the philanthropic program “Passion for Life” that Gaber launched in 2004 to finance cancer research with the sale of his works. The “Lorenzo il Magnifico” award for his social contribution and his artistic initiative not only meant personal recognition but the adhesion of 13, 000 artists from all over the world, willing to support this initiative patronized by the Biennale of Florence.

Gaber likes touring the Seine River around Giverny and bring his oils to where Monet and other impressionists had painted their vision of the world; he knows he’s back home on the same premises that have inspired his Masters. He also has the certitude to convey this antidote against suffering which is the connection with the infinite instant when the light illuminates the scenery.

The golden hue casts a veil over “Forest Path” creating a kingdom that the spectator would never want to leave, but also a series of twilights and moments like “Daydreaming Young Girl in the Garden “provoke, by the subtlety of the brush strokes, hues that capture the light to the point of creating the illusion of the sun on the skin. The experience of communion with beauty is basically the return of the lost unity.

Antoine Gaber has a generous agenda: create in the midst of a turbulent world; a threshold where one would feel hypnotized enough to escape, not to get lost, but to find his own self. The gripping experience of a patient crying in front of his sceneries and that the mere fact of looking at them could be part of his healing process and to feel united with the universe is hard to describe. In the inner self of the researcher and the artist- there’s a coexistence here- there is an intention: reestablish the beauty of the universe.

“I don’t try to out do Monet. I mention Monet and his style to create serenity and to re-establish an emotional balance”. Confronted to his work, the spectator’s experience is closely linked to the sacred. There’s a door in his painting leading to that “other shore”, that we can only see from the rationally indemonstrable poetic experience. The possibility to cure the soul of civilization implies the long forgotten expression of the modern blindness: recreate the beauty of the universe made by God through an art that draws its strength from the mystery that binds all things.

Antoine Gaber with his convex art work design painting titled Field of Wild Mauve Irises presented during the Florence Biennale Internazionale dell’Arte Contemporanea 2005

Antoine Gaber also paints flower sceneries. Some say that they are the only things left from the paradise. Trying to recreate it is the artist’s supreme task.

Adriana Herrera Téllez, Miami, Florida

Adriana Herrera Téllez

Journalist, and Art Critic