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GEORGES CARREY 1902-1953

biography

Born in Paris on March 27,1902,Carrey settled in Brussels 20 years later, where he got married in 1941.In 1947 he returned to Paris in order to paint .He died of a heart attack at the age of 51,as he was preparing an exhibition of his work at the " Galerie ARIEL" in Paris. The artist left us with works of an exceptional quality, mostly kept in private collections in Paris and Brussels. In 1954,one year after his death poet and novelist Hubert Juin wrote a 20-page book about him, titled: " Carrey ou l' Impossible Perfection". In 1957,in his "Dictionary of Abstract Paintings", Michel Seuphor included an entry about the painter. Twenty -four years later, canvasses by Carrey were exhibited in Charleroi during a retrospective exhibition about the "GROUPE ART ABSTRAIT", of which he was a founding member. Since then, a number of exhibitions have been organized and Carrey' s paintings have been regularly presented at Contemporary Art fairs.

-His works on paper have never been shown, his gouaches, watercolors and oils on paper have been kept in portfolios for more than 40 years. They are nonetheless an essential element in the body of work of this demanding painter who worked over and over again on the same composition. He wrote about his creative process in his letters to his wife Louise Carrey:

"It is important not to rush to the canvass; it is best to first accumulate many drawings, choose the right one, work it again, and finally try to do a canvass" (April, 12,1949)

-In the beginning of his life in Brussels, Carrey drew caricatures of cinema and theatre actors, for magazines. He designed posters and sets for the theater. For a while he was a commercial artist for an advertising company. His sense of observation was keen, enabling him to capture any character with a few strokes. Henry Van de Velde (famous Belgian architect) noticed his posters and asked him to sit on the jury of the class of advertising of the Institute of Decorative arts in Brussels (1), which he did from 1930 to 1937.
-He also painted still lives, landscapes, and mostly portraits, the latter earning him a rapid success. His technique was expert and assured, his palette was bright. He exhibited this works together with a group of painters, whose works stood on the fringe of surrealism and abstraction, described by Paul Haesaerts as "Animist"(2). It is at this period that he befriended Jean milo's older brother Roger Van Gindertael, who later gave up painting to become an art critic.

-The turmoil of the war brought about Carrey a crisis of conscience. He and his wife were spending time with poets, musicians, writers and actors, all engaged in contemporary creation. He was no longer satisfied with his success as a portraitist he looked for a different form of expression, a new language. He wanted to go beyond appearance. He first started by doing research on simplification, designing geometrical plans of nudes and musical instruments.

-Abstraction in painting had gained ground, causing artists to question their works and redirect their reflection. Bissiere was in his sixties when he tackled the form;
Esteve was 43, Hossiasson 49, and Schneider48. Poliakoff, after painting a great number of nudes between 1930 and 1938,gradually came to abstraction.

-As noted by
Hubert Juin in his writings, Carrey endeavored to produce works that were essential-works in which no element could been added or removed. It is with an extreme discipline that he strove, from one painting to the next, to pursue his pictorial ideal. He saw art as a daily work, one he had to stick to without fail. He worked without showing any of his compositions until 1946,when he presented canvasses in which the subject, reduced to his essence, was no longer identifiable. What remained was a composition of lines and colours.
The small format paintings he exhibited at Lou Cosyn's gallery a year later were a blend of colors and interlace.

-But Carrey felt very much alone in his artistic pursuit. The Belgian public was quite unfavorable to non-figurative art. Nonetheless a few artists embarked on this adventure and some groups were formed. July 1945 marked the official birth of
"La jeune peinture Belge". Heralding this spirit of abstraction.

-However it was in Paris that post-war abstract art took shape, thanks to the creation of new "salons”. Numerous gallery exhibitions and the enthusiasm of such critics as
Leon Degand and Charles Estienne.The "Salon de Mai" was created in 1945 and the" Salon des Realites Nouvelles", exclusively dedicated to abstract art, was organized in 1946 by Fredo Sides.
In 1949.
Andre Bloc, Leon Degand, Pillet and Del Marle launched "Art d'Aujourd'hui", the first review entirely devoted to this form of expression.

-Carrey decided to return to the city where he was born: Paris. He did not aim to do abstract painting per se, but rather to free himself from the shackles of figurative painting: what would remain would be painting only-a composition of surfaces and colors. The artist abandoned outside appearances in order to reach the essential.
In Paris, Carrey worked relentlessly, always on the lookout for anything that might feed his artistic undertaking. In November of 1948,he signed up for lessons with
Andre Lhote, a painter belonging to the Cubist movement who had founded an academy of Arts on rue D'Odessa and who played an important role as a pedagogue and a critic. But Carrey quickly found out that his own artistic path had brought him farther than the Cubist technique. Lhote himself recognized that his pupil had no need for him, that he had already mastered his art.

-Carrey continued his work alone. He would walk on the banks of the Seine; sketchbook in hand, in order to find new forms and colors. The harmonies of gray on the old walls of the 'Temple' neighborhood had a determining effect on his palette.
At home he would draw with India ink, his artistic research was purely graphic: pure forms combined with pure lines.

- He met
Nicolas de Stael at the house of friend Roger Van Gindertael, a fervent champion of non-figurative art. The two artists were brought together by a common sensibility and a high esteem for one another. They discussed their work and their research, plastic and technical. Carrey and de Stael were both interested in the material matter, as directly linked to the action of painting.
Carrey worked with more zeal than ever. Like de Stael, he now used a palette knife to paint his rigorously constructed canvasses. He used a small scale of colors and cold tones, livened up by a few strokes of bright colors.
-At the same time he became friends with other artists:
Poliakoff, Schneider, Chapoval.
In his letters to his wife, Carrey evoked some other artists whose works he liked:
Bram Van Velde, Soulages, Vieira da Silva, and Tal coat, Marta Pan, Hadju, Gilioli.
In 1951,during a trip to Italy, Carrey saw the mosaics of Ravenna. The interplay of the muted tones with light reflected trough the molten glass, the fragmentation of the composition into small squares of equal size would influence his subsequent work. With his palette knife, he started juxtaposing small patches of red and blue, more or less square in shape.
The paintings he exhibited in April 1952 at the "
Galerie Arnaud" looked like pointillist paintings seen trough an extremely powerful magnifying glass.
-Carrey came back to Brussels regularly to visit his young daughter and wife, who worked in order to allow him to paint. In 1952,he founded the group "
ART ABSTRAIT" there together with Burssens, Pol Bury, Plomteux, Saverys, soon joined by Collignon and a pair of artists who signed by the name Heuror. The group was in no way a "school”. Even though these artists had gathered to defend, Abstraction, they had nothing in common: neither age, training, nor character. It was agreed that each one of them would maintain the freedom that his individual work demanded.
No single trend was favored at the expense of another (e.g. geometrical abstraction vs. lyrical abstraction). The goal of these artists was to rally in order to impose an art form that was rejected both by the public and a majority of critics. Carrey participated in all of the group's exhibitions, and these caused a great deal of curiosity. The group was in contact with artists abroad, particularly in Paris. Its aim was to involve Belgium in the vast reformist movement of non-figurative art.
Outside of these exhibitions, the group published an album where each of its members was represented trough lithographs, linocuts, woodcuts, or serigraphs. (Example at the office)
Even trough the group would later break up in 1956;it was the catalyst for a true friendship between Bury and Carrey.

-Carrey multiplied his activities; gallery directors began showing interest in his work. In 1952,he participated in the "Salon doctored"( related by Charles Estienne, the big priest of " Tachisme ") with artists who had became to non figuration around 1950,such as Messagier, Nallard.
This "salon” was in direct competition with the "Salon de Mai" dominated by painters of the French tradition, and with the "Salon des Realites Nouvelles", reserved to cold abstraction. In its first year, 88 artists exhibited at the "Salon d'Octobre". Among the most famous today were:
Alechinsky, Bissiere, Constant, Doucet, Lapicque, Messagier & Zao wou-ki.

-Then Carrey met Monsieur
Polac, owner of the "Galerie Ariel” who took an instant liking to his work. At the time Carrey was doing a great many oils on paper. He worked using his palette knife, his favourite colour was blackwash he never pushed to its full sensorial intensity. His blacks were infinitely varied thanks to the solidity of the pictorial structure as well as the relationships and contrasts between the various elements in the picture. An exhibition organized in 1948 at the "Galerie Maeght", titled Le Noir Est Une Couleur (Black is a color) had emphasized the possible use of black as a colour- one that is sufficiently rich to allow for infinity of compositions. A white sheet and the color black, applied with the knife: Carrey’s compositions are each time different and extremely powerful-a game involving space, rhythm matter and the grain of the paper. The area painted is bordered by a line drawn in pencil.
Darker lines form the structure, not only framing the color, but also supporting it. The colour achieves more brightness thanks to the contrast with black.

-The painter later began spreading thick layers of bright colors to cover this black,
letting it merge only here and there.

-Until his death, Carrey continued to do both sketches and paintings at the same time. Drawing was essential for him: it gave him great freedom.
From 1953 on, gradually he replaced the bright colors by lighter ones. Carrey’s compositions became dominated by whites of all shades, and the artist tackled large format canvasses. The structure remained present, black lines appeared, dominated by white and gray areas, very light and bluish, and brightened up by a few touches of red or orange. His canvasses became light, luminous and joyful. The year he died, Carrey was on the road to success. He had an art dealer,
Monsieur Polac, who was preparing an exhibition of his works. The exhibition took place two months after artist's early demise.

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