Hélène Esquier,"In search of the lost star" in L'Homme Nouveau(Paris, France, 16 January 2000) p.18
In search of the lost star
Poised at the dawnof the year 2000, Guy Levrier brings together realism and the virtual universe. How? Via Internet. With his roots in figurative art, he uses an Internetgallery to better express reality through the abstract.
So we all awoke the next day after "the great transition" to the year 2000 and asked ourselves if the world had really changed by magic overnight. Had we all become geniuses? Had the world become "an enchanted garden"? Had art and science somehow fused together in a galaxy ofwonderful creations?
Alas, as we raised our eyes to the mirror on that morning of the 1st january 2000, we realised that we were all too palpably our same old selves, and perhaps even a little jaded from lack of sleep, or from worries about the terrible storm which had swept France in the night, destroying nature, flattening forests, sweeping away roofs and even lives...
I suppose you might say that the artists in our community had done their best to make us forget the ravages of the weather. The scintillating magic of the fireworks crackled above our heads, but somehow our hearts weren't in it and as they turned in front of the crowds, the big wheels on the Champs-Elyséesseemed cold and metallic despite the brave efforts of the acrobats.
It seemed that the twentieth century had lost a star. Had "progress" destroyed the star of beauty?
Well! The only way to be sure was to take the fastest, hippest track that technology had to offer. Yes, of course, it was the Internet. And by doing so, to discover Guy Levrier's approach, he who has just opened his fourteenth gallery.
This painter, whom we have already talked about in these columns, continues to amaze us with the nature of his quest. Guy Levrier is a pioneer. Not only is his pictural approach highly original, because he believes in a form of totally gratuitous art which has forced him to break with a very considerable career as a popular gallery painter, but he has dared to create art capable of breathing life into a tool as technical as Internet, in the same way that stained glass brings light and transcendance to cathedral walls. What a wonder of technique, what a joyous abundance of art!
What is more, fascinated by science, this nonetheless thoroughgoing artist discovered through quantum physics that beauty, while it is the finality of the artist, at the same time constitutes a criterion of choice "the symmetrical axis between art and science" for the philosophers. It is no longer matter, but conscience which is the basis of all being, for if we contemplate reality, what we retain is its beauty rather than its matter. We are therefore "more certain about beauty than we are about matter". And the most extraordinary thing is that his humble, but absolute searchings tie in with the conclusions of eminent thinkers, without any premeditation on his part, it should be added.
From all this, one might suppose that Guy Levrier's painting is so erudite and philosophical as to be little more than the "installations" of minimalist or conceptual artists.
No... just look, contemplate these works. That which Guy Levrier paints is precisely the beauty of reality. One might almost say the beauty of the infinite facets of particular realities. Although, as is shown by one of his Internet galleries, he is as figurative as one could wish, Guy Levrier understood that if he wanted to retain the truth of his art, he had to make the leap to abstraction, like Saint Peter walking on water, his eyes held by Christ's gaze. At that point, the trunks of the silver birch trees, the azure of the sky, the autumn light, are stripped of their differences to become the "essence" of their own beauty. At that moment, color is enhanced,it deepens and is enriched by a beating human heart. Ever rising, the strokes of warm colour, touched by notes of precious blue, like jewels, extend their full power to the sky, in an offering of aspiration and harmony. The clear, often immaculate white backgrounds both reveal and refine them.
One can see in them great aerial sweeps, the flight of woodland birds, faces now swept away, the crosses of pain and resurrection. Or one can see nothing at all.
But the star of beauty which the lone pilot has seen in the sky is born from the embers and the silence of these tones and rhythms.
Patrick Le Fur, "Guy, peintre internaute, pratique le "bénévol'art" " in Climats (Bordeaux, France, June 1997) p.1013
Guy, the internaut painter, and "art for free"
Elegant,sparkling, lively and cultivated, this near-seventy year old is on top form. Research, art, science and spirituality are his "raisons d'être". Daily sessions of cross-country running help to keep him in trim. Guy Levrier, whom we visited at his home in the Valley of Chevreuse, lost no time in telling us "What I'm into here is not so much a third age as a third career". Just imagine! Here is someone who, while busily employed as an aeronautics consultant, decided to start a career as a painter. Then, in order to show his work on the Internet, he began to learn computing "as I went along". His gallery is virtual, his works of art interactive and his approach, which is original to say the least, is based on the "no charge" principle. He exhibits his work everywhere and for everybody on the network where he has created his own sites. But all this is a long story, with much to be learned, and well worth telling.
"If you want to paint, then paint!"
We are in 1951, with his diploma from ESSEC in his pocket, Guy Levrier at 23, became a fighter pilot. Up until 1956 his career literally took off but an accident during manoeuvres put paid to a promising future in the French Air Force. The aviator was grounded; he became an aeronautics and space consultant for major French and foreign aerospace manufacturers.
At the same time, he cultivated the pleasures of life. He loves music, which he plays—and painting, in particular the works collected by his grandfather, an admirer of the Barbizon school. Until one day, a conversation with a colleague about art changed his life. Guy was saying how he regretted that he didn't know how to paint, when his friend threw down the challenge: "So you want to paint? Well then go ahead and paint!"; for, as far as his colleague was concerned, the desire to paint was fuel enough to launch an artistic career. The very next day, Guy Levrier bought a canvas, some brushes and tubes of paint; he placed a flower in a vase, sat down in front of it and painted it. We are in 1972, Guy Levrier is 45 years old and a great adventure is about to begin.
"I don't want to become a photocopy machine!"
For the next ten years, Guy throws himself into painting in his spare time. He tries portraiture, but finds his true calling in landscapes. It is nature which interests him, the nature he finds in the forest near his home. His oils, often created with a palette knife, belong to the post-impressionist school. His canvases begin to mount up and he enters painting competitions. Guy Levrier now pursues two careers: that of an aeronautics expert and an amateur painter who has almost become a professional. While most artists look for any way to market their works, Guy doesn't like to sell his: he feels there is a contradiction between money and his conception of art. Although he refuses to exhibit in a gallery, he nevertheless is in search of his own public. He occasionally agrees to sell a few pictures, but only to those friends who insist on acquiring one of his works.
He takes part in an exhibition of French artists at the Grand Palais in Paris and a well known gallery owner notices his work. Interested, he proposes a contract, but Guy is not happy with the idea as he feels he will be obliged to produce a certain type of painting to satisfy the demand for "a Levrier". It's not his style to get stuck in the Levrier style! "If I had worked for that gallery owner, I would have become a photocopy machine!" he says. After that episode, Guy puts himself on the line. "In order to avoid getting into a rut—always doing the same landscapes—I decided to work 'just anyhow' that's to say to spontaneously spread the paint on the canvas without any concern for immediately perceivable representation."
From abstraction to communication
He now went straight from post-impressionism to abstraction, guided both by an aesthetic quest and the desire to translate an emotion. When describing this stage in his career, Guy Levrier acknowledges his masters: Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, or again Maria Elena Vieira da Silva, all great contemporary abstract painters.
"In the shows where I exhibited, he says, I used to stand next to the people who were looking at my work, to listen to their comments. But there was no real communication. They were looking at too many different kinds of paintings all piled up next to each other in the same room..." Guy Levrier was looking for another way of working and of exhibiting his paintings. This is where his approach as a painter crossed the path of the new technologies. In 1994, his daughter gave him some documentation about the Internet. Right away, he found a virtual museum on the Web, run by the University of North Carolina, and realised that artists the world over could disseminate their work in this way.
Internet was obviously the easiest and most universal way of "offering beauty, giving a sense to the idea of seeing".
From artistic technique to technology
In order to show his paintings on the Internet however, Guy Levrier has twice as much work to do "I do two paintings each time: one on the easel, the other on the screen!" Dressed in his blue overalls, in front of the white canvas stretched like a flag, brush or palette knife in hand, in a gesture of contained energy, Guy Levrier applies his colours as arrows, columns, layers, as he paints the ineffable. Then another type of creation begins as he converts this material work into a virtual work. He has it photographed, digitized and engraved on a CD-ROM. After the fine art, the art of the scanner!
Once the representation of his canvas appears on his computer screen, the painter still has to modify it, using image processing software (like that used in the publicity industry). He can change color and shape and add text.
The work is on the net
Once he's done this, the work can be released onto the Internet, to be seen by whoever wants to and modified by whoever wants to, using the same image processing tools. And so a dialogue begins, in line with the principles of interactivity and conviviality of the network. Guy Levrier has created his own Web sites for the benefit of "lookers" (his own word) all over the world. His first canvases were exhibited in this way on the 4th September 1995. This year he is offering 140 of them to art lovers. To art lovers of course, but also to lovers of science and spirituality, as Guy, fascinated by science has long been interested in the relationship between these three disciplines and has been invited to create an Internet site on this theme by the Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT) Press. Guy is in contact with a number of American and other English-speaking universities on this subject.
Pavel Ivanov, a Russian atomic scientist, got to know Guy in this way, by looking at his paintings, and then working directly on the images and the texts. For over a year now, without having met each other, the scientist and the painter have maintained an impassioned and abundant e-mail correspondence.
As for computer skills, Guy has had to get into programming, but for maintenance he uses the services of a professional. On the first floor of his villa, in the room next to the studio-library-music room, stand computer, modem, speakers, printer in an obedient line, opposite the classical piano, which he somehow finds time to play admirably.
A benevolent professional
Generous but vigilant (his unsigned but copyright protected works are "given away but not saleable", Guy Levrier can state in all humility: "I am a professional painter but I do it for free!" In his original conception of artistic creation, in the exchange between beauty and ideas, this artist of today is already a man of tomorrow.