Blaise Drummond’s title for his third exhibition in our gallery immediately provides a significant insight into the overall conception of the show. Great Nature® as a registered trademark aptly describes the potential for conflict and the contradictions within the debate about the environment. For many years now, Drummond has been fascinated by the complex set of relations which situates nature, as an essential part of human existence, somewhere between desire and profit.
The titles of Drummond’s earlier works likewise reveal valuable information about meaningful references to philosophical, literary and art-historical sources. We discover connections to pioneers of American land art, such as Robert Smithson (1938–1973), to historians, such as Lewis Mumford (1895–1990), or writers like Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) or Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910). What these individuals have in common is the endeavour to create a self-determined living environment free from or beyond the constraints of a materialistic society
The illustration presents a current canvas by Drummond, entitled When The Cathedrals Were White (illustr. bottom right). Drummond is alluding to a seminal text by Le Corbusier »Quand les cathédrales étaient blanches. Voyage au pays des timides.1937« in his interpretation of Corot’s Chartres Cathedral from 1830. Corot’s work was painted during the French Revolution when the artist was forced to flee Paris and take up residence temporarily in the country. The work bears distinct traces of his trip to Italy; the light in the painting and the stringent composition coincide with a typically generic choice of motif for Corot. What is interesting and illuminating here is the visual analogy that Drummond succeeds in drawing: he replaces Corot’s pictorial motifs with elements from his own and modernism’s vernacular, creating an almost surreal pictorial world with specific references to the present.
Well-versed in the utopian dimensions of modernism, articulated nowhere more boldly than in the architecture of the twentieth century, Drummond’s paintings oscillate between the failure of these ideals and the desire for a new beginning. Frank Lloyd Wright’s principle of dispensing with walls in favour of an open plan affording more light and space, finds consummate expression in his house »Fallingwater«, built between 1935 and 1939 in Pennsylvania, USA. Drummond’s compositions follow this logic when he knits together motif fragments and the white surface of the canvas in such a way that the gaps themselves create spaces, functioning as potential centres of energy. The buildings in Drummond’s works not only quote icons of modernism, but also primitive dwellings as the topoi of human civilisation.
Although architecture is juxtaposed with nature in Blaise Drummond’s paintings, it is also fragmentary in its representation. Sections of landscape, such as groups of trees are made up of drippings or decalcomania. Upon closer inspection, it is possible to pick out precisely drawn or painted, miniature birds or plants.
The empty sections create space and scope for things and simultaneously situate the heterogeneous pictorial elements. Each individual element appears to be floating in a precarious equilibrium on the white surface of the canvas, as though they had found their ideal resting place, albeit briefly. The sense of harmony created in the composition has a fleeting quality similar to that of a natural phenomenon, recalling the poetic form of haiku. The German Haiku Society provides the following definition: »Fragmentary, incomplete and open-ended textual elements, which can only be completed through the individual reader’s personal experience, are also a characteristic feature [of haiku]. Not everything is said in the test, feelings are only seldom named, as they are supposed to accessed through the presentation of specific things and the overall context.« Here is an example by the great master, Matsuo Bashô (1644–1694): »an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water.«