Themes

Social Drama

The social drama has its parallels in a composition,¬† “Red with Black Horizontals.” The feelings are defused at first but, upon reflection, describe a complex of light and dark values which move in and out but are unified by the strong horizontal black planes. A complex and dynamic ensemble with unity out of multiplicity has been created. Do these analogies not resemble our life in relation to all things which infringe upon it simultaneously, of that which entices and fails? It is a moment of a painter’s life as well as a moment of our civilization, with the constraints, dangers and hopes which it brings us.

Red with Black Horizontals. Acrylic on Canvas 1962

Form and Color

While he is working, the artist’s choice of shapes and color and their unifying pattern is presumably determined by the complex emotions and thoughts stimulating him to point in a particular way at that moment.

It is a mistake to pin the meaning down, but some viewers, cannot help but read into a painting his own particular associations. In contrast Willi Baumeister’s and Paul Klee’s forms found their meaning through pictographs and ideograms. These primitive images have power to evoke echos in man’s consciousness today because fundamental sentiments have not changed. These symbols convey the artist’s feelings and ideas. Fontaine felt he did not need ideograms or symbols to convey meaning.

Even his titles, “Composition,” “Diagonal” and names of colors are unpretentious, direct and arc literary inventions born after the painting.The German writer, Egon Vietta, who planned to write a book on Fontaine, but died, said, “His painting by his excellent, orderly, floating spatial forms, when he wishes, follows somewhat in the tracks of Willi Baumeister.” Art critic Will Grohman said Paul’s forms resemble outer spacescapes.

Paul was surprised by this interpretation of form for he did not consciously think of outer space while composing his paintings. Yet it is known that the subconscious creative energies of a poet and painter produce startling new images filled with predictions of the future.

New lithe forms were added to his plastic language and his style became a freer, painterly expression as his inspiration became more intense after 1950. There are themes of dark organic vertical shapes like prison bars, which separate the viewer from the sunlight, a bright hope, behind the screen. Is this not an inner revolt of man, his wish to find freedom of expression, a will to live? This interpretation allows us to share in the artist’s inner life when he otherwise consciously cuts himself off from life around him. What is shown more directly is the impressive variety and diversity of form as well as content which became the same.

Rhythm and Lyricism

The only relation to the classical scheme in Fontaine’s motifs is the memory that certain shapes satisfy us long after the iconographical meaning has been forgotten. Thus he uses constructions of identifiable geometrical shapes which overlap in plane upon plane or unfold with no pattern or rule to follow other than a harmonious rhythm all their own.

For example, the “Cliffs” rhythmic classic counterpart was both in the suggested diagonal lines of force of Greek heroes and the overlapping of folds of drapery. What appeals to us is the feeling of infinite possibility through the implied future in movement. The painting wears well because of the subtle variety of color tones and shapes of planes which move in and out in shallow depth.

Fontaine’s lyricism finds response in our imagination and his use of the Chinese brushstrokes creates a basic sensual sweeping motion which gives his paintings authority and momentum.

The lyricism is not as unbounded as Dionysus’s irrational element in human nature. Fontaine’s fundamental rhythms may suggest the vital forces breaking through the earth’s crust, the symbols of rebirth or resurrection.

Color and Notan are the elements that excited Fontaine the most. Fontaine instinctively used color to its fullest potential. Fontaine said the color defines the “spiritual intent”- – sometimes in a sensual Romantic way, but always controlling it so that the balance of the composition is not destroyed. His control of color also controls our response to it.

Untitled (Cliffs) 1969

Untitled (Cliffs) 1969

Holistic Significance

These works were also shared, understood and appreciated by famous art critics and important writers. Professor Will Grohman, who wrote a book on Paul Klee, said Paul Fontaine (in comparing him with Cavael) is expansive and bursts with large forms whereas Rolf Cavael, a miniaturest, is introverted. Both artists hold their compositions together with rhythm and music. Grohman further stated that Fontaine, a symphony, relies on the creative impluse; Cavael, on the calculated. Non-objective art is formed just as individually by the realistic approach, dependent upon’ personal experience, if not about an object, at least about a theme. Cavael’s pictures are “small worlds” after the example of Kandinsky. Fontaine’s paintings are rather outer spacescapes. Each one enjoys the paintings for their own reasons and are valid for that reason alone.

Beyond the human and social sense, Fontaine’s art has a cosmic significance. It reflects the dynamics of the unstable balance between the known and unknown, and between what is dominated by man and what still dominates him.

Fontaine’s abstract art expresses universal dynamism. His forms of energy float free and aspiring within his cosmos. The shapes are unbound while giving a feeling of growing, evolving and changing which is symbolic of all nature. Subtle motion is achieved through color And implied direction of shapes. He works close to the spirit of nature of which he feels a part. He loves the out-of-doors, camping in the woods or watching a bird in flight.

In analyzing Fontaine’s works in their holistic significance, each work must be regarded as an extension of his personality at the time of the painting’s conception. All the paintings sum up his total personality, full of forceful creative imagination but which is controlled by the conscious. The variety of feelings range from lyrical to poetic or dynamic. In studying Fontaine’s art one sees a general pattern emerging which places more un-holistic¬† compositions expressing anxiety, vulnerability, and resentment in his earlier works. This pattern seems to climax with his compositions during World War II and the period immediately thereafter. As time passed and Fontaine apparently regained a balance to his life and a rebirth of confidence, his compositions began to express the whole-istic ideal qualities of appealing energy, beauty and idea. In some of Fontaine’s latest Mexican works he also has not risen above the temptation of using objective frames of reference. Evident are structures of manlike figures and natural forms, yet removed from any conscious possible illustrative intention (see Mexico).¬† This source of power is questioned today by many.’ Fontaine relies upon his own subconscious as his source of spiritual power.