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Charles-Henry Sommelette

Curator : Yoko Uhoda

17Îlot Saint-Michel

More subversive then he appears to be. Banal or trivial are two adjectives that could be used to describe the marked trails, undergrowth, hedges and other garden spots dear to Charles-Henry Sommelette. There is no question that the painter draws inspiration from the ordinary things in his most immediate environment (to the extent that he is one among few to have depicted them). These favourite subjects are not necessarily beautiful, fascinating, unusual or picturesque (which etymologically signifies something that deserves to be painted). However, the technical mastery he demonstrates in their depiction, the originality of viewpoint which he adopts and the balance of the composition make these inconsequential places – anyone who was to wander through them would rapidly forget them – subjects in their own right. This is indeed the considerable feat achieved by Charles-Henry : the ability to transform the insipid into artistic beauty.

Certain analysts such as the philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who criticised modern art for appropriating banality, trash and mediocrity and not doing anything better with it as well as annihilating any possibility of illusion and imagination, would be forced to eat their words on observing the works of Charles-Henry Sommelette. Using non-places, devoid of any human presence, he manages to stoke the imagination, contributes to reinventing the landscape painting genre and brings splendour back into fashion without becoming banal or trivial.

Thibault Cassart