For Frieze Masters 2022, Waddington Custot exhibits iconic paintings by six artists working in France in the wake of the Second World War: Jean Fautrier, Hans Hartung, Serge Poliakoff, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Pierre Soulages and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva. Grappling with the shadow of war in Europe, artistic movements sprung up all across the country and Paris once again became a capital for the avant-garde. Representation was discarded in a bid to present something universal about life, and abstraction truly moved to the forefront of art.
Amongst this Parisian ménage these artists pioneered new visual idioms for their age, proposing different approaches to abstraction but all concerned with edge and colour. Exhibited paintings by Hans Hartung repeat his obsession with the line, both calligraphic mark-making and incisions into the surface of the work. Visionary Poliakoff adopted a blocky aesthetic to build up harmony of colour and form; his pared back paintings are oases of abstract contemplation within the frenetic chaos of the world. In the shattered surfaces of Riopelle’s mosaic-like canvases, dripping and smeared thick, glistening paint records the artistic gesture and the immediacy of the artist’s hand.
Meanwhile, the bold, sweeping bands of black paint Soulages’ paintings reveal an intense involvement with both paint and light. Finally, Vieira da Silva’s pixelated canvases create strange, impossible spaces; perspectival illusions that hint at the occupied world yet remain inscrutably labyrinthine.