Pierre: the Painter
Pierre: the Painter
Pierre Wittmann is born in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 7th, 1943. His father is a writer, and his mother a painter. He studies architecture at Geneva University and receives his diploma in 1970. In 1971, he creates a Graphic Arts and Publishing Company that he runs until 1976, when he leaves Geneva and settles in Musièges, Haute-Savoie, a small village in France. There he devotes most of his time to painting, but practices also architecture, sculpture and design. He undertakes several study trips to the United States, to South America and to the Far-East, before to settle in 1982 in Paradise Valley, Arizona. He discovers French Polynesia in 1983 and decides a few months later to live in Tahiti. To pursue the study and practice of Buddhism, which he has discovered in Tahiti, he moves to Thailand in 1988. He lives first in Bangkok, then from 1992 to 1997 in Hua Hin, along the Gulf of Siam and, since 1997, in Chiang Mai, in the North of Thailand. Since he left Europe in 1992, PW has spend nearly all Summers in France, first in Musièges, and, from 2007 to 2019, in Provence, at Cabrières d'Aigues, on the South of Luberon.
PW's painting can be divided into two distinct periods, which however overlap, a figurative period, from 1976 to 1988, and an abstract period, which, even if it already appeared from time to time in the figurative paintings, settles in progressively during the stay in Tahiti and imposes itself really after the installation in Thailand.
During his figurative period, PW paints contemporary subjects, visions of the world he is living in, the Pedestrian Way in Lyon, the Golfs of Divonne and Aix-les-Bains, Creys-Malville and its nuclear power plant, and later the canyons and desert landscapes of Arizona. He paints also the memories and experiences that he brings back from his travels, the solitude of man in the streets of New York, the gentle nonchalance of a holyday in Venice, Italy, the baroque perspectives of the sidewalks in Buenos Aires, the evolution of the crowd in front of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the sunny beaches of Copacabana and Alexandria, the vogue of skating in Venice, California, the geometrical structures of the skyscrapers in Denver or Dallas. In Tahiti, the subjects reflect his meeting with the people of the Pacific, his discovery of their art and in particular their dances, and also the architectural visions that fascinate him during his travels, in Peru, Australia, Korea, Japan.
In 1885, after a long stay in Korea to study Chinese calligraphy, the Color Calligraphies are the first paintings that abandon the figurative subject to replace it with symbols, the Chinese ideograms. They will be followed, during the Polynesian years, by Letters, Sacred Geometries, Sacred Texts, Alphabets and Learning Thai. In Bangkok, the paintings are becoming even more abstract and their main source of inspiration is Buddhism, with subjects like Impermanence, Glimpse on Emptiness, Dependant Origination, The Four Noble Truths, Buddha Nature, Rainbow Light, Tibetan Mantras and Clear Light.
In Hua Hin, Buddhism is no more preponderant, other spiritual subjects appear, the I Ching, the Enneagram, and series of Multicoloured Compositions and Light Patterns, where even the support of symbols and spiritual themes vanishes. In Chiang Mai, it is the light that becomes the essential theme, with Beams of Light, Shadow and Light, Fragments of Light. In 1996, PW starts to be interested in alternative medicines, studies reiki and other healing techniques, and, in 2000, the Light Paintings become Healing Paintings. Since 2006, the Tantric Paintings reflect the new orientation of his spiritual quest, following his meeting with Éric Baret and the Tantric Yoga of Cachemire in 2002.
PW's figurative painting is close to New Figuration and the Hyperrealists, however, if his message emerges of a very personal framing of the world's vision, his subjects are also the starting point of an aesthetic composition and a colour research. PW uses acrylic painting, which fits very well his simple graphism, where forms defined by a single stoke are treated in flat surfaces of bright colours. The freshness and vividness of his style are found also in the numerous silkscreens he prints in Switzerland and in the United States.
While moving to abstract painting, PW abandons not only the support of figurative subjects and forms, but also the systematic use of well delimited forms and flat colours. The coloured surfaces become more finely shaded and start to get over the drawing strokes. In the Light Paintings and the Healing Paintings, the drawing is even disappearing completely, leaving only colour patches. But the structures, the lines, the geometry, dear to the architect, are often subjacent and reappear by moments.
What has not changed however, through all these periods and all these subjects, are the colours, always vivid and luminous, their plays, their harmonies, their contrasts, which reflect a cheerful and colourful vision of the world, be it internal or external, and the joy of painting. It is this light that PW has constantly pursued in his travels and his research of his living places, Arizona, Tahiti, Thailand, and now Provence, where every morning, in front of his windows, the Sainte Victoire mountain winks at him…