DESSON (Chiasson, Denis)

Available Works

About the artist

Drawn from Life
– Denis Desson’s Art as Process

For Denis Desson the act of painting is like drawing. The artist Denis Desson takes it further line by line, brush stroke by brush stroke. Many of Desson’s colourful paintings reflect a humanist spirit. With their bold dark outlining, and love of life, Desson’s paintings recall Raoul Dufy’s woodcut illustrations for Guillaume Apollinaire’s Le bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée.

Very human feelings fill these paintings and are transposed with a simplicity that is hard to find in today’s intricate and complex world. The women who populate Desson’s paintings exist in a variety of states of composure. Whether is a state of repose, or reflection, posturing or introspection, they populate an idealized place, and are themselves idealized. The tableau is an island they these women, these painterly scenarios all exist on, and we appreciate their repose at a dream-like distance. The spirit is classical, with hints of Paul Cezanne, of Pablo Picasso, or of Marc Chagall.

These paintings are full of atmospheres that are not atmospheric. These places are conceived, and as conceptions they are ideal, exist in no particular place. Yet they are very solid, decorative, like a lost language, written in the spirit of a 1950s Henry Miller novel, but done for our times, an that is less natural in its expression, even de-naturized. Like images of art and industry from the post-war era, these paintings by Desson build an ideology, for they grab their subjects in a populist, stylized, and decorative way.

In the space of a single painting, every conceivable area is filled with details. The painting becomes a space that represents an inner world, a world that the artist fills up internally with sometimes melancholy, other times joyous reveries that are drawn from the ordinary world, and this is extraordinary. This is what links Desson’s painting with the Beats, with Jack Kerouac, for there is a certain sadness to the dream-like quality of these paintings as if we were all on the road but never quite sure where we will end up. Each painting is pulled like a rabbit out of a hat, from an ongoing stream of unconscious associative elements that are always there. The women, the interiors, the animals…. The elements in a Desson painting can be drawn from nature as witnessed by the birds, wolves, cats or pigeons, or from the artist’s studio life as with the easel, or from travel, or numerous other aspects of life.

It is as if all these women, and the accoutrements were integrated into a theatrical wheel of life, and the reverie co-exists with the ordinary. Life as Desson presents it, could be a dream or it could be real, or both. And the beatific women are beautiful and omnipresent, even more than in real life. As idealized embodiments of abstract desire, sometimes real, other times dreams, they are there on paper or canvas. Desson’s paintings represent a desire that exists in the collective imagination, that is tangibly intangible, and these dreams are colourful, joyful, voluptuous, sad, vivid. A certain enduring naiveté persists here, and a very folksy spontaneity.

With Desson’s latest studies, the life of the model and the life of the artist meet in the studio. When Desson first engaged models simply to work on his drawing and painting technique they actually transformed his approach to, and artistic process. In searching for a greater depth and meaning in his painting, his drawing, he inadvertently discovered a deeper appreciation of life. And this was the exchange that occurred as if by surprise when these models began to spur on the artist’s imagination….. His drawing process improved, but the model’s visit brought much more. In the words of the singer Georges Moustaki, “Non je ne suis jamais seule avec ma solitude.” In the words of Desson, “ My solitude disappears and finally I find myself creating together with my models.” Models bring light for Denis Desson. All the world may come and go speaking of Michelangelo, but for Desson the models who come and go have so much to offer, and that includes their own artistic predisposition whether it be in dance, literature, painting, music composition or photography. Desson learns as he draws from life, draws from the models who bring life to his studio, and to his life. And he will often draw them while they are engaged in these interests… As he says, “ To draw someone who is drawing is a very special experience. My paintings and drawings are ultimately homages to these women, the models I work with.” These women are the ultimate source of mystery for Denis Desson. “Somewhat bohemian, they bring a lot to my life.” And to his art which is a part of life, and vice versa!

– John K. Grande