It was never the shiny surface that interested the loner from North France, he simply wanted to paint, according to his résumé. The process or the reality of painting was a basic existential state in which Eugène Leroy operated throughout his life. Painting was not automatically a picture for him, and he certainly made no distinction between the representational and the abstract. He is rather an independent artist at heart, who seeks, as he put it himself, “balance between the demands of the visual and those of painting”.
Eugène Leroy was born in the Flemish north of France in 1910, where he also lived all his life and passed away in 2000. This also meant he could not be assigned to the classic trends in French modernism. What happened in Paris and the south of France was less decisive for this man from the north than, for example, the Flemish and Dutch masters were. His life in the solitude of the north also led to an almost anarchic lack of convention, which from a traditional viewpoint makes him appear just as suspicious as it does from that of modernism. The liberation of the material from the independence of the image results in his case in the masses of colour that cover his canvases and superficially speaking characterise his art. To believe that here two- dimensionality turns into three-dimensionality, and that the sculptural aspect is important, leads us in the wrong direction. Rather, Leroy was also at pains to argue his point within the painting. Nudes, portraits, landscapes were the preferred motifs, besides still-lifes and vegetable forms. Thus the subject concerned escapes from obviousness, yet remains indispensably present. We can imagine both – the process of the momentary creation, but also the far-off memory.
Colour and light – above all that of the north – provided Leroy’s basic inspirations for painting. Through painting the artist appropriates a reality which time and again ends in the painting, yet only in a succinct way. The layering of colour, which appears exaggerated, does not aim at the material’s sensuousness, rather it emphasises the evolutionary character of its painting. In continuous processes, the artist applies the material, often over periods stretching years, expanding it to a cosmos that seen from close-up merges to a tectonic crater landscape, freeing up legible structures only from afar. And so these are deliberately emphasised features, which the artist puts on the canvas in a calculated way. Never is he driven by the emotional eruption of the informal gesture. Although Leroy’s goal was the ease and light-heartedness within the painting, speed was a permissible means for him only in the late years. (Text excerpt from Günther Holler-Schuster’s essay written about the exhibition)