… “Here, no Rousseau, no soothing nor romantic concept of Nature, but on the contrary, the detailed  statement of the exhausting and always new struggle between Nature, fighting to exist, and the human kingdom… A Nature at war, ready for anything to stay upright, and who will always win”.

Wild grasses and brambles rushing down the embankments in the greatest confusion, trees swaying in the wind: besides the great talent they reveal, these images disturb us, as they seem to maintain subtle links with the human spirit subject to various forces, impulses and currents, which often elude it. Their perpetual effervescence, their tumultuous jumble, their tenacity too, which Claire Illouz explains to be a personal lesson, tell in their own way, oh so eloquently, the meanders, stages, twists and turns of creation”.

…  Claire Illouz makes an art rich in aesthetic inventions and open to the world; which, because it knows how to keep track of the imbalances, questions, visions and contrary currents that cross it and threaten to engulf everything,… comes out stronger. Her images not only make us dream by their beauty, composition and power, even their violence sometimes, they also lead us into an abyss of reflection.”

Laurence Paton, Asphalt Jungle, or Nature and violence, in « Claire Illouz, les abords du paysage » Louis Senlecq
Museum exhibition catalogue, Ed. Liénart, 2022

“We are in great need of painters to cleanse our sight, to lead us back to infinities of the visible. And we need them now more than ever, with our eyes, like our highways, under total control: surveillance, exit only, no passing, lights flashing day and night. Every step, every vision, mapped out from childhood on.

Here, with instruction both ardent and gentle, comes the hand of a painter to free us from this vapid, programmed blindness. It gestures toward denizens of the roadside, cracks concrete so that we can see the grass grow through it—see surging there, suddenly newly alive, every useless thing we’ve ever abandoned, which, under the painter’s attentive gaze, regains its dignity. The gesture reveals, among anonymous passersby, those who walk truly and thus evade prescribed paths.

In these works, an exquisite unease, humbly audacious, joins earth and sky, the intimate unknown and the city suddenly looming with disquieting strangeness. From black to infinite shades of gray, with this hand applying just enough pressure and anguish, we consent to lose ourselves, to slip into the chaos of time, things, life. We lose ourselves for a moment, but to breathe more freely: only after we have left this distant city under a widening sky can it hold out promise.”

Pascal Riou
(translated by Marsha Pomerantz)

“Could it be that we go by without ever looking at what surrounds us? Claire Illouz’s eye captures the mystery of things in their unexpected reality, offering us what Proust calls “a better knowledge of this far away reality we live with.” Here begins her visual adventure, rooted in a contemplation which precedes a fervent gesture. Whatever the format, monumentality claims a presence through the use of the infinitely small. Her close views isolate a fragment of nature, with a disconcerting inversion of scale, as if seen through a magnifying-glass. Etching, used by the artist with excellence, has been mastered by many years of practice. It gave her a taste for soft and flexible lines, quivering as well on a metal plate as on a paper sheet. Charcoal, ink wash, red chalk, and watercolour, all take part in the drawing. The line can write out the rustling of leaves, or a nettle bush along the roadside, while also suggesting the air blowing around these jarring herbaceous plants, transfigured by light. We discover here the unexpected marvelling power of a familiar world.

This rustic poem is the result of slow and careful observation, with pencil and notebook in hand, which becomes a meditation on the intimacy of things… Activity starts from chaos, to reach order, striding along space for a renewed reading of the model, searching again and again…The bending body adjusts itself to the centring, just like the pencil lies in wait for perception. Claire Illouz’s language develops several themes: for instance objects found in attics and piles of books. The questioning is the same whatever the subject: an attempt to capture the image as well as what it conceals. Drawing and painting are here to help us see and interpret. Claire Illouz knows this and questions the rising of shapes and their relation to space, through the blanks of paper, or neutral grounds of canvas, giving a special vibration to light with highly sensitive tones. The black texture of crushed charcoal, the powdery grain of red chalk on the surface of paper, together with washed colours, all match to reconstruct the fleeting, yet permanent impression of our first gaze on some infinite and secret beauty. Claire Illouz’s drawings and paintings are close to revelation.”

Lydia Harambourg, La Gazette de l’hôtel Drouot – 8 octobre 2010

“The farther the object is thrown from the scope of thought, the better it can be selected as a privileged motive within a corpus identifying her work. Accumulations of books, leftover objects, clay pots, ward off chaos through strange gatherings (collections, combinations) that give them a different image. The eye must adjust as well when it bumps against the road edge and its heaps of grass blades and foliage. Her pencil keeps coming back, insisting on each stem as well as on the fragmented shapes of a shard. Nothing has changed, but everything is different.”

Lydia Harambourg, La Gazette de l’hôtel Drouot – 16 janvier 2009

“Anybody can see that Claire Illouz’s “still lives” are deeply rooted in this major tradition of European painting…Following its customs, she takes the objects through a surprising itinerary: she places them outside, in an open space… A strange choir indeed, they sing words of our times, some premonitory…”

François Hilsum

AFFIDAVIT, Nov. 28, 2001

. Objects in clusters or tight rivulets which draw in the space and then redistribute it.
– much white or at least empty… potent dialogue vides–pleins….
. STRONG (and very varied) sense of human presence …
. A welcome banalization, evisceration, casse of technology: technology here is the detritus par excellence – its shiny promise dimmed…
. Anti-Morandi, anti-Braque (but both are references). A refusal to let the objects relate both whole and serenely…
. Joyce’s Finnigans wake, viewed two/three generations later…
. Key : “Bourrasque féconde”, “fracas”, = to “enfin le juste souffle du vivant étonné…”.

Henry Pillbury

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