Exposition Art Blog: Jean-Paul Riopelle

Jean-Paul Riopelle

Jean-Paul Riopelle was a Canadian Abstract Expressionist best known for his non-representational landscape paintings. Riopelle squeezed paint straight from the tube and applied it liberally with a palette knife to craft his mosaic-like works. “When I begin a painting I always hope to complete it in a few strokes, starting with the first colors I daub down anywhere and anyhow,” he once said of his practice. “But it never works, so I add more, without realizing it.”
Riopelle's style in the 1940s changed quickly from Surrealism to Lyrical Abstraction (related to abstract expressionism), in which he used myriad tumultuous cubes and triangles of multicolored elements, facetted with a palette knife, spatula, or trowel, on often large canvases to create powerful atmospheres.The presence of long filaments of paint in his painting from 1948 through the early 1950s has often been seen as resulting from a dripping technique like that of Jackson Pollock. Rather, the creation of such effects came from the act of throwing, with a palette knife or brush, large quantities of paint onto the stretched canvas (positioned vertically).Riopelle's voluminous impasto became just as important as color. His oil painting technique allowed him to paint thick layers, producing peaks and troughs as copious amounts of paint were applied to the surface of the canvas.A third element, range of gloss, in addition to color and volume, plays a crucial role in Riopelle's oil paintings. Paints are juxtaposed so that light is reflected off the surface not just in different directions but with varying intensity, depending on the naturally occurring gloss finish (he did not varnish his paintings). These three elements; color, volume, and range of gloss, would form the basis of his oil painting technique throughout his long and prolific career.

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