Pierre Soulages, Alchemist of Light

Issue #4

Art is Inspiration: Pierre Soulages

At 94 years old, Pierre Soulages is one of France’s most renowned painters and considered a key figure in the development of post-war abstraction (A side note: Soulages’s take on such academic pretensions: “all those terms—abstract, nonfigurative, et cetera—they’re just words, they’re labels, and labels are meant to be destroyed”). In essence, he is an alchemist of light. He paints in one color: black. His technique involves carving textured patterns from thick black paint, and in a serendipitous accident he considered a failure at the time, Soulages discovered something wondrous: la lumière vient du noir“: Light comes from the black. His paintings transform the light, modifying and throwing it into a dance as you walk around the canvas, giving the impression of movement and life. Soulage’s creations are a looking glass into a world that exists Outrenoir,the term he discovered for that which is “beyond black.”

Black is the absence of light, yet Soulages creates light from the very color which defines it’s absence.


“Painting is a play of opacities and transparencies”



“Light comes from the color that is the absence of light”


“I don’t paint with black anymore. I paint with the light reflected off the black surface”


“Black is for anarchy, for revolt, it’s for mourning, but it’s also for partying…”


“I am against limitations like perspective. Perspective is illusion, it’s the opposite of presence, and art is presence”


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