By Atsushi Takeda (art critic)
The first time I saw the works of Patrick Gerola, a new sense of pleasure came over me. Essentially, his works made me feel something I had never felt before. To put it simply, the primary cause of this sensation was the vividness and intensity of the colors. His sense of color is mysterious because even though the colors are so intense, his moist and sleek colors are extremely relaxing and seemingly com- forting my eyes. Second was the aesthetic beauty within his brush strokes. In some, but not all of his works, I can see the lively lines created by his arms that move and jump around lightly at times, while at other times they seem to be heavy. Looking at these lines makes me feel good for no logical reason whatsoever. The third cause behind this sense of pleasure was the mysterious world hidden in the canvases. I want to take a closer look at these three elements that intrigued me, but before I start, we need to briefly cover the life and career of this artist. Patrick Gerola was born in Brussels, Belgium. He came to Japan in 1983 at the age of 24, and since then he has lived and worked as an artist in Japan. I have to mention the fact that the foundation of his success has been the support of his wife, a vocalist whom he met and married shortly after he came to Japan. Although he is called a painter, in addition to painting he is also actively involved in other artistic pursuits, including the creation of sculptures, graphical works, decorative works, and installations. He always seizes the opportunities that come his way. However, when forced to choose, he would still call himself a painter. Japan is his base of activities, but as he has gradually started to exhibit his works outside Japan, more people have begun to shown an interest in his individualistic sensitivity. As stated in his biography, his mother was a painter and his brother was also aspiring to become a painter. However, his beautiful mother passed away when he was a child. His brother has been living in Italy for a long time and building up his career as a painter. He was brought up in an environment that naturally led him to have an affinity for the arts. He studied at the Brussels Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture, and beginning in 1981, he did stage art work for two years. I imagine that his work with a choreographer who was the artistic director at the dance school run by Maurice Bejart, which is well known in Japan, also turned out to be extremely beneficial and valuable for him in pursuing a career as a painter later in life. It seems to have helped him unconsciously developed his sense of color, space, movement, and structure, while at the same time making him more aware of stage effects. All his works, both three-dimensional and two-dimensional pieces, are al- ways created based on a three-dimensional inspiration. I feel that he always keeps a third-person perspective in the bottom of his mind. He’s constantly contemplating how to put his works together, the space in which they exist, and that third-person perspective. He does not compromise in this artistic exploration. There is no doubt that his involvement in stage art work caused him to appreciate the importance of staging in his artworks, and it is something that he has been putting it into practice throughout his career. Going back to the first of the three characteristic I mentioned in the opening, I learned that the secret be- hind his vivid colors is that he makes his own paints. He mixes resin into pigments, an invention of his that seems to be based on the fresco painting technique. These paints produce a graceful impression and luster in paintings when they are applied on the canvas. They somehow remind me of the colors seen in Italian de- signs. It has also something to do with the control of illumination intensity during painting. For example, not only is he unsatisfied with the intensity of colors created in flat brightness such as broad daylight, but he is in fact skeptical about it. Instead, he prefers subdued forms of light so that he can notice the effect that emerges in three dimensions. Creating works in this kind of environment enables him to create colors with a distinct fresh- ness that rules the canvas. I describe this phenomenon as magical colors reflected in the “light called darkness.” As for the aesthetic beauty of his strokes, I suppose it’s probably a reflection of the sensation he received from the physical dynamism he saw during his work with modern dance, which I mentioned earlier. In modern dance, the free and aesthetic physical movements in a three dimensional space are expressed rhythmically within two dimensions that remain intact. The choreographic strokes combined with the vivid and bright colors transform the canvas into a live stage. As for his mysterious world, the third characteristic, I am sure that anyone who gazes at one of his paintings long enough can experience this world. In the beginning, what we see is indeed a flat and graphical work. However, in a little while, we begin to feel our eyes and minds being lured into the world beyond the canvas. You find yourself drawn to the other side of a landscape you have never seen, despite the fact that this landscape is something surreal: a face of the hill covered by a carpet of vibrant flowers in contrast to the utterly plain sky painted in solid colors, or a realistic landscape that can be seen behind the plain trees that look as if they were pasted there. To me these bold, direct, and simple expressions are extremely individualistic. At the same time, the mysterious aura radiating from the canvas is somehow similar to the stylish surprise and sense of humor that form the undercurrent of the world represented by the well-known Belgian artists that preceded him, such as Magritte and Delvaux. This is probably one of the charms that fans of his work really enjoy. Patrick Gerola catches everything he senses and every idea that floods into his mind, and never lets go of them. He absorbs all the colors he sees and all the sounds he hears in the daily life into his body. All the natural elements surrounding him are reborn in his works. There are many instances in which he is moved by the traditions, scenery, and customs of Japan, the country where he lives. It seems that his inspiration, in other words the sentiments aroused by what inspired the mind of the artist, are embodied as lines and colors in his works. The same thing happens with his own culture. The Manneken-Pis works, the statues in Brussels all Japanese people know, were reborn in Japan as gigantic Manneken-Pis works that are more than 2-meter highs. These are, as a matter of course, his objets d'art. In addition, these gigantic Manneken-Pis are completely covered by Gerola's paintings and enjoying their second life. Born in Japan, these paintings are the most natural form of cultural exchange between Belgium and Japan. Getting back to the topic of “light,” Gerola says that the thing he is most conscious when creating a piece of art is “light.” Perhaps the imagined light seen in his imaginary scene on the canvas is one form of light on his mind. When it comes to Belgian artists, he says his favorite is Pieter Bruegel. He supposedly visited villages in Belgium in search of the scenes that appear in Bruegel's paintings. Although the world and light expressed in Bruegel's paintings are attractive, what impressed me most during my first trip to Brussels was the lighting in the city. It was more of a type of illumination than light. They were pin pricks of red street lamps that caught my eye when the car drove into the city from the airport late at night. This was the very moment that I felt deep down that I understood the culture and climate hanging over these fantastic lights and the mysterious painters of Belgium. That is why I thought I’d be prone to view Gerola's paintings through my own take on Belgian lights.
June, 2016 in Tokyo.
door A.L.J. Van de Walle, emeritus hoogleraar van de Rijksuniversiteit Gent
Patrick Gerola is geboren te Brussel in 1959. Hij behaalt er een graduaat aan de Academie voor Schone Kunsten. Hij gaat vervolgens naar de Mudraschool onder leiding van artistiek directeur Micha Van Hoecke, omdat hij gefascineeerd is door Maurice Béjart, dé grote vernieuwer van de danswereld die niet onberoerd bleef voor de Oosterse wortels van de dans. In 1983 verlaat Patrick Gerola Brussel om in Japan te gaan leven en werken. Hij ontmoet er zijn latere levensgezellin Tomomi Hida. De kunst van Gerola toont hoe hij zowel het oude continent als zijn nieuwe gastland cultureel schatplichtig is, maar getuigt ook van zijn brede vorming en ruime interesses. Zijn liefde voor de choreografie komt tot uiting in zijn elegante lijnenspel. Daarnaast refereert zijn stijl onmiskenbaar aan het penseelgebruik van de Japanse kalligrafen. Wat de kleuren betreft, komt Gerola tot een unieke synthese van vorm en kleur. Een detail volstaat om ons te overtuigen, zoals deze toets warme en felle kleuren die een intens licht doorlaten. Daar de kunstenaar zijn kleuren zelf maakt volgens de oude en beproefde ‘al fresco’ methode, krijgt zijn oeuvre een heel apart karakter. De titels van de werken verraden de voorliefde van de kunstenaar voor felle kleuren: “Bleu et Couleurs”, “Formes et Couleurs”, maar ook “Jardin”. Andere titels getuigen dan weer van zijn grote inspiratiebron, de muziek, als essentieel deel van zijn leven. “Nocturne” slaat dus niet zozeer op de nacht, dan wel op een divertimento voor muziekinstrumenten. De titel “Harmonie” refereert aan aangename klanken, maar evenzo aan delen van een geheel die samen een groot muzikaal gegeven vormen. “Percussion” doet denken aan slagwerkinstrumenten die men ofwel op een barokke manier, ofwel modern, zoals de Hongaarse componist Bartok, kan bespelen. “Kamakura” is daarentegen een ode aan een plek in Japan die een heel belangrijke plaats inneemt in het leven van de kunstenaar. Tenslotte is er ook nog “Paysage d’Asie”, waarin de kunstenaar ons als het ware uitnodigt samen met hem de grenzen te verkennen van het immense Aziatische continent. Zowel de persoonlijkheid als het leven van Patrick Gerola komen op een fascinerende wijze tot uiting in zijn picturaal werk. Onlangs is Gerola zich op vraag van de industrie ook intens is gaan toeleggen op textielontwerp. Zijn werk werd bijzonder goed onthaald. Dank zij het grote succes in de wereld van het industriële design kan Patrick Gerola voortaan dus ook heel nieuwe wegen bewandelen. Hij treedt hierbij in de voetsporen van enkele grote meesters, waaronder Matisse, die een bijzonder gevoel aan de dag legde voor alles wat textiel betrof.