Georges Noël was born in Béziers, France in 1924. He began his education as an engineering student and then studied both painting and sculpture in Pau from 1939-1945. Influenced greatly by the art informal and Noveau Réalisme movements that emerged at this time, Georges Noël believes in gesture, objects and the accident. The imagery within each oh his paintings is inspired by primitive and archaic symbols, graffiti art and musical scores.
After moving to Paris in 1955, his artistic career began to flourish, and it continued to accelerate when he relocated to the United States. Beginning in the 1950s and continuing through 2000 Georges Noël produced both canvases and works on hand-made papers, which were based on palimpsests. Palimpsests are old manuscript pages often made of parchment or vellum that have been written on, scraped off and then used again. During this process, the old writing would not be completely erased and would often still be visible. Georges Noël takes the concept of palimpsest pages and builds upon his canvasses with sculptural materials such as sand, crushed flint, and raw pigments bringing three dimensionality and vigor to each work. Georges Noël was a professor at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1969 and lived in New York from 1969-1983. He returned to Paris in 1983.
The artwork of Georges Noël has been exhibited internationally and is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bibliothèque Nationale and F.N.A.C. in Paris, and the Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
In the 1990's Georges Noel turned his creativity towards the imagery of the sky and the sea, the two seemingly infinite parallel bands of air and water. The Skylight marks the beginning of this journey and the starting point for this creative departure. In this work Noel is literally looking through the skylight in his studio. However, there the literal both begins and ends almost immediately. While Noel moves away from the finite, it is his imagination that move us the viewer into the limitless possibilities of the universe and its expression. Noël's works have always traditionally placed a primary importance on the use of materials that could offer resistance and thus reflect the texture of the surface of the canvas. While first appearing as random markings, upon closer inspection these incised scratchings are more deliberate, highly worked symbols or letterings that overlap to create a surface that is dense with signs and smudges reminiscent of ancient palimpsests orpages of manuscripts from the 6th century that were sometimes written on animal hides or skins and other times on sturdy parchment or vellum. These "palimpsestes" contained writings that were often scraped off or erased and thus were capable of being used again. In a similar fashion the etched markings representing celestial stars, novas, planets or perhaps their movements through the firmament above us are sometimes lightly traced by Noël, then erased and worked over only to appear occasionally somewhere else on the canvas. Other times the markings are more fully cut into the canvas. They may appear to be freely scribbled in a style similar to that of Cy Twombly but in reality they are deliberately created to meet and to formulate a carefully fashioned grid of squares and diamond shapes, a device that Noel had employed in previous works. However, in this picture the grid appears to extend beyond the actual confines of the canvas in an almost free suspension, mimicking the infinite reaches of the sky. Noel uses these calligraphic symbols against a field of off-white canvas interrupted by smudged areas of tans and grays with punctuations of brilliant yellow to heighten the impact of this, his personal kind of graffiti. Touches of color in yellow that appear where his lines intersect generate a sense of movement across and around the canvas, perhaps echoing the swift movements of light or objects across the sky. The resulting composition evokes a richness and a universal beauty wrapped in the timeless language that speaks of art's and hence life's mysteries. As the viewer we are unsure if Noel records the light and celestial inhabitants or purely the movement he perceives.Neither can we be sure if Noel the painter is recording the experience of the lights in the sky or if the experience lies in the multi-faceted and layered surface mosaic of his canvas. Noel's quest for being expressed through his painting begins to find expression in the need to explore the faraway and to draw up a new cartography. Noël now dreams of etherealness.
Acquired directly from the artist, July 2009
Ludwigshafen, Freiburg, Dresden, 1993-94 (reproduced in catalogue, p. 25)