The Quintessence of painting

Magali Leonard and the quintessence of painting

In spite of her state agrégation (highest degree for art teaching in France), Magali Leonard was always reluctant to be this contemporary art visual artist that the post-68 French Ministry of Culture wanted her to be. Deep in her body and soul the very essence of painting was still alive and kicking.

Like abstract expressionists, Magali Leonard considers the canvas as an arena that she refuses to lock up because she has the vivid memory that dripping, before Pollock, was born in Paris in the hands of Masson and Max Ernst. Instead of the abstract cosmetic gesture, she experiences a cosmogenic gesture. Breaking with schizoid personal mythologies of contemporary art, her microcosm struggles with the macrocosm and its unreached ether.

The canvas according to Magali Leonard is not a playground for lyricism, for pure geometry, suprematism or neo-plasticism, but works as a mediator with the four elements: Fire, Earth (red earth of the Roussillon where Magali Leonard was born), and above all Water that lets the light shine in to save art from abstraction. The vertical line of Barnett Newman, the famous “zip” who both divides the canvas and ties the two parts together, is struck by Magali Leonard’s use of light that converts action painting into an Asian martial art.

Under those assaults, the canvas itself becomes a tanned-skinned, “Corps et graphie”, Choregraphy, rising from a C, like Crick or – starting from the twirling essence of Barocco – like Cave, Plato’s Cave waiting for ideal light. When the flood comes, Magali Leonard leads our Icarian eyes from the violent half-light of the da sotto in su as Bernini would have put it. The abstract grid is fading away. “The more I forget, the more I remove, the more I gain: with the water flow, dissolved acrylic, I gained light!” Magali Leonard says. The result is breathtaking: Cosmogonies, Drifts, Macrocosms, Morning dew, Earth of Roussilon, Gusts, Lights,  Eden garden, Torrential, Flow, Fireworks… these could be the hidden titles of Magali Leonard’s paintings behind the mysterious Untitled.

According to Michel Tapié, informal art is amorphic. Far from such manifesto, Magali Leonard goes beyond abstract expressionism, tachism and lyric abstraction; paving the way for a natural expressionism as if sustainable development – the very spirit of our time – could have an artistic expression, free from land art clichés and deeply rooted in the quintessence of painting.

Michel Leter