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At the crossroads of art and science

“ The universe is more “abstract” than we think and “abstract” painters are less so than what is said about them. ”

Jean Guichard-Meili, 1960

 
On the occasion of a lecture delivered in the fall of 2011 at Laval University and entitled “Science, art and imagination”, the astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Luminet noted that, just as scientists, artists are passionate about space and its mysteries. With this exhibition, the scientist Éric Dupont somehow reverses the proposal. As circumstances dictated a process initiated fifteen years ago and following an instinctive necessity to which he was unable to resist, he came to share the adventure of many artists of yesterday and today in the exploration of the elusive.

Through his paintings, we see Éric Dupont search for and find himself in both the micro and the macro. Beyond certain dependencies or affiliations, his production deserves the credit for authenticity. It is the sign of the discovery of a part of self and a quest for what eludes us in the universe. Each painting constitutes indeed a pictorial territory that requires attention, demanding to be observed both from a distance and closer, and that in the end commands that we agree to get lost in the meandering miles of the pigments spread on the canvas.

That said the artist cannot determine how his work will be read or interpreted. After all, everyone looks at the universe in its own unique way depending on his experience. The painter could try to explain his interest for the infinitely large or infinitely small, some visitors will nevertheless be satisfied with simply enjoying the fragmented splendor of his paintings. Hence, it would not be surprising that visitors to the exhibition would observe here and there similarities or affinities with the art of a Jean-Paul Riopelle, for example.

Let’s be reminded that in the 1950s, Riopelle has been able to create new pictorial spaces that commentators of contemporary art have sometimes associated with new ways to explore the universe. I’m thinking of, among others, Jean Guichard-Meili, who in his book Regarder la peinture (Watching Paintings, 1960) made a surprising bridge between a Riopelle painting created with a spatula and an aerial photo of the French countryside. Alongside this visual and evocative demonstration, he added quite correctly that there is no single or unique system for reporting the visible:

“ The prodigious means of investigation of contemporary technology,” he wrote, “now allow us to dive into the two infinities, at the heart of the mysteries of the world! Do the photographs automatically taken by rockets sent hundreds of kilometers into the sky (…) not reveal a wonderful aspect of reality? And the electronic telescope, able to eliminate millions of light-years, to make us contemplate the universe of galaxies? In contrast, is the tree any less real when, thanks to the micro-section of its timber, it is proposed to us as the architecture of cells that makes it up?  ”

 
Later in his book, Guichard-Meili adds comments that have lost none of their relevance relatively to the pictorial proposals submitted to us today by Éric Dupont :


Dupont : Discovering the infinitely large and infinitely small

> Consult the book


“ Who can claim with certainty to have invented a form or an entirely new color scheme? This is giving insufficient credit to nature, which always appears richer as one reaches to probe it further. Aspects that are revealed, for example through ever more sophisticated science exploration methods, take an even more “abstract” character from the molecular or atomic point of view that plant cells or crystal formations already offer to the simple microscopic observation. Thus it may sometimes happen that the artist finds, after a difficult and original research, such a structure existing without his knowledge, at the heart of a rock or a rare metal, and on a completely different scale, invisible until the physicist in his laboratory has isolated it. What is there to conclude if not that – again – reality is infinitely larger than some “realistics” as well as “abstracts” believe and that there are many ways to comprehend it? ”

 
With his head in the stars or its eye on the microscope, Éric Dupont invites us to enter his secret garden, which is a kind of crossroads where art and science meet. For a scientist of his caliber, it is undoubtedly a risky venture into another world, but it fits perfectly with the insatiable curiosity that drives him as an explorer beyond what surpasses and eludes us in the worlds of the infinitely large and infinitely small.
John R. Porter