Gilles Mascarell’s work is quite simply an act of attention, an attempt to see what is. In the existential moment, he grapples with the inner struggles of fear, limitation, and contradiction, as well as the beauties of life. There are no givens in his works. There is no working through a set procedure, no determined commitment to a particular type of mark-making, group of lines or colors. Each piece is an articulated expression of a mental impression or moment. The one true given in his work is namely Mascarell himself, and the sophistication, knowledge, and playfulness he brings to his artwork. Unlike many of today’s postmodernist artists who reject associations with modernist formalism, privilege more conceptual or mimetic forms of representation, or resort to cold, collage effects in an effort to validate abstract art, Mascarell’s real strength is his incessant formal invention, the incredible variety of gestural markings in his work and his gift for urging these lines into unlikely, formally witty relationships. He reveals what the eye cannot see literally, compounding the meaning and expanding the possibilities of that which is recognizable in everyday life but nonetheless frequently left unnoticed or cognitively neglected. In this way, his works offer to the viewer some of the most elusive perceptual challenges and rewards of the present.
Mascarell’s works, primarily employing the use of acrylics, pastels, chalk and pencil on paper and wood, are rich, nuanced, elegant, and spare. Nothing in his work is hard. Nothing is secure. He frequently destroys the symmetry and effect of a stable allover pattern by generating a tension between linear markings and plane that is never resolved. Through discontinuous, contradictory spatial
ambiguities, tangled areas of drawing, and graphic details that are juxtaposed and interweaving, Mascarell contrives to keep the viewer off-balance while at the same time drawing the viewer into close visual and psychological proximity with his work. Although he shares some of the gestural risk-taking and energy of artists such as Klee, Miro, Tapies, Twombly, and Basquiat, Mascarell, relying on transitory experience and observation, demands of the viewer to slow down, look, and savor the moment through a style that is completely his own.
Simple, organic, shapes and gestures provide the visual grammar and syntax within which Mascarell has fashioned his own language. A variety of biomorphic forms and improvisations direct our attention to the quiet elegance and intricacies of shapes, the subtle gradations in tone and texture of the materials, and the startling vitality and variety of color in his works. Vivid colors or a more subdued palette achieve a strange lushness in his works creating an effect that lies between the natural and the artificial. Intricate fluctuations of sensuous forms, sometimes scrawled, smudged, or allowed to run down a surface at times resemble landscapes or anthropological signs. While many shapes in his work may reflect aspects of the natural world, these associations often remain in the background, never impeding the fluid play of forms. Since Mascarell allows chance to play a significant role in his work, it may be an utter misreading, even an affront, to discern specific pictorial suggestions in the work. One guesses at their presence.
Mascarell’s intensely felt life experiences infuse his formal development with a powerful spiritual quest. A self-taught artist, he is inspired by direct experience of art and place. His temperament is touched by “home.” This sense of home has changed according to various stages in his life. A childlike sensibility and connection with the soil is drawn from his life in France, his birthplace. As an adolescent in France, Venezuela and New York City, Mascarell’s continuing affinity for the terra, as well as a kind of brashness evident in his sometimes forceful application of line, were nourished by and infused into his character. Manhattan in the early development of his adult life provided an environment in which he was able to cultivate his artistic sensibility, critical eye, and distinctive style. Although Mascarell’s works are deeply personal, he invites viewers to see the world through his eyes while encouraging them to trust their own reactions to his evocative works.
Born in Toulouse, France in 1961, Gilles Mascarell traveled frequently with his family to follow his father’s career in sports journalism. Living for a time in Caracas, Venezuela and Paris, the Mascarells eventually settled in New York City. Gilles graduated from the Lycee Francais while there and attended New York University.
Gilles credits his years in Manhattan for his initial appreciation of art and photography. He began working as an artist by constructing mobiles from found bits of scrap metal and wood, such as bottle caps and antique fence posts. He progressed by drawing on cardboard and paper and finally taught himself to craft wooden boxes in lieu of canvases.
Gilles has called Manhattan; San Francisco; New Orleans; Mobile, Alabama; Austin, Texas and Baltimore, Maryland home. But he credits his father’s native Valencia, Spain for the passion, confidence and spirituality that inspire his artwork.
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