Born to a bourgeois family in Flanders, Wemaere began painting in 1933 in a figurative mode. Beginning in 1936, under the tutelage of Léger and working in his studio, Wemaere adopted his teacher’s tendency toward simplified, geometricized forms. In 1937 he collaborated with fellow pupil Asger Jorn, who would become his close friend, to realize a commission for the International Exhibition in Paris. Not only did they work together on numerous projects under their teacher, but they also extended their collaboration to later include monumental works of their own, including both paintings and tapestries. The two exhibited together for the first time in Copenhagen in 1938, and their friendship would last until Jorn’s death in 1973.
Wemaere’s style bears the distict marks of Nordic inspiration combined with French temperament. Finding Léger’s linearity and mechanical style unsuited to his own work, Wemaere turned instead to the surrealist work of Miró and the abstractions of Paul Klee for inspiration. Floating elements, winding lines, and composite abstract and figurative forms are revealed through Wemaere’s mastery of color. Stylistically similar to the Abstract Expressionists, Wemaere utilized impasto and a bold palette to transpose forms that were simultaneously impetuous and restrained. He was inscribed into the canon of the avant-gardes after exhibiting at the 1939 show Réalités Nouvelles at the Galerie Charpentier. In the midst of World War II, Wemaere was invited to New York City by Solomon Guggenheim in 1940, but was forced to decline the invitation after being sent to the front; his experience in the war would monumentally alter the nature of his work. Afterwards, he exhibited regularly in prestigious spaces throughout Europe, alongside artists including Jorn, Dubuffet, and Fontana.
“It is my hand that paints. Guided by what? I do not know. I am not an intellectual, I can not analyze. All this happens without my asking questions.”
This piece is the second in Pierre Wemaere’s Les Cousines series, executed in 1998. A renowned Lyrical Abstractionist and close friend of Asger Jorn, Wemaere enjoyed a highly successful career, and by the 1990s was exhibiting regularly at prestigious venues throughout France and Denmark. From the late ‘80s and through the ‘90s he executed works on paper in gouache, acrylic, and ink; he felt that these media allowed for the creation of a graphic art of extreme freedom, and considered them not as preparatory sketches for works on canvas but rather as autonomous compositions unto themselves. With its vibrant palette and gestural black strokes, Les Cousines no. 2 exudes energy and spontaneity. The abstraction reads as highly organic, as if it were the canopy of a flowering tree with a dark, twisting trunk. As Christian Dotremont, the Belgian poet who compiled the catalog for Wemaere’s 1957 exhibition at Galerie Paul Facchetti, writes:
"He starts from a sort of fixed form and trial in trial adds all possible “imperfections,” the gestures of life, the hesitations of light and the trembling of the leaves… This Approach is not paradoxical. It is the natural process of someone who carries within him a project and realizes it in the comings and goings of reality."
—Christian Dotremont, 1957
Kouros Gallery, CT