Selected extracts

  « François Aubrun was just as far from the traditional Post-Cubist painters (in the line of Mondrian or of Bauhaus) as he was from those who sought a lyrical or a gestural language to express body or soul, or from those followers of Malevitch who wanted a work of art to express a conceptual rather than a sensual process, in the manner of Kossuth. François Aubrun escaped from all that. And it would be in vain to try to associate him, based on his early works, with any school of Expressionism and its prototype the Cobra group (with Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Alechinsky and Corneille); and equally with any of the American schools that dealt in movement or in pop art. Nevertheless, François Aubrun would admit to a number of different ancestors – among them Bissière, Vieira da Silva, or Nicolas de Staël – at least from the time before those artists began to reintroduce figurative themes into the process of pictorial abstraction. For, there again, once he had chosen the abstract (which he did very early on in his career) François Aubrun would never go back on his choice. His asceticism was indeed radical.

  In this way, he was able to escape all those with whom people tried to associate him; for without doubt his canvases translate the gestures of the painter that are so visible in the strokes of a large brush into an internal construction: one that the eye perceives as a rigourous composition of lines, held within all the sensuality of those thickly painted textures and solids that form strong reliefs, almost like sculptures. »

Denis Coutagne, “L’atelier du silence”, 2012

« One could say that Aubrun’s painting is Realist, , in as much as it “represents” ” the reality of transparency: of the shifting mists in the lower regions of the sky, for example. But this Realism represents nothing other than nature itself, even if one can see windows in his works. These windows may well be metaphorical ones; indeed, he says of his larger works: «They create an opening, just like opening shutters.» Whether or not there are windows in his work, Aubrun shows only the hidden and inexpressible reality of nature, and that is why his Naturalism is not exactly figurative.

  As a Naturalist painter, he is part of a tradition. He can claim an affiliation with William Turner, or Claude Lorrain, and with most of the Impressionists. He has a passion for Ingres and for that painter’s lack of fussiness, a quality he discerns also in Manet. But above all, Aubrun believes in painting. Although he lives at a time when all so-called traditional painting is being destroyed by contemporary art, he is not tempted to take part in that destruction. He does not make videos, neither installations; he does not rely on references or quotes: he simply paints. Painting is all he does, and he never stopped painting for sixty years; ever an honour to his vocation. »

Frédéric Pajak, “Un peintre, un homme”, 2012

« We are nearing the end: it is time to understand. Our blindness is wiped away; the painting is now a vibrating space and we can see, as the light at last reveals itself to our eyes, that the obscurity is in fact nothing other than a revelation: we poor skeptics, unable to see how strongly the light is glowing within this excess of whiteness, need the black to point it out to us. Thus, the shapes appear, unveil themselves and emerge into the light of day; infinities graze together, cling to each other, and blend into each other. The black is like the substance that reveals the invisible writing; and at last we can grasp that first day of creation, when the universe both separates and reunites in a single movement, and when earth and sky find eternal life in one and the same painting; the day, indeed, when painting tears apart the night. François Aubrun: a painter of absolute painting.”

Nicolas Raboud, “L’absolue peinture”, February 2009

« François Aubrun may belong to no one school of painting but he is neither the first nor the only painter to choose the path of asceticism. What is it, though, that drives a painter to both rigorously and obstinately diminish not only all motifs but in this case all colour and movement as well? Why should he wish to erase it all, this man who has always been drawn to all that is visible, and who has no time for concepts and even less for airy theories? The first thing these canvases invite us to do is to breathe very slowly, at their rhythm, and to overcome our inattention in order to enter a time of silent contemplation, of the empty interior of images; or rather, to enter into time – that which infinitely links the same to the other. And it is right, I think, that these paintings should now be down by the River Saône, whose waters’ ceaseless rhythm is one of constant erasure and renewal.»

Pascal Riou, August 2001

« From one exhibition to another the paintings of François Aubrun seem to progress inexorably towards monochrome. Should we see in his latest predilection for grey tonalities a tendency to seriousness, to melancholy even? This ever more rigorous abstraction is not a sign that he is abandoning his dialogue with nature. In his studio at Tholonet, as at The Bay of the Somme, François Aubrun is seeking to capture light and shadow, the vibrations and the breath of space, movement and immobility.

  In thrall to an inner drive that appears to astonish even him, he presents to us - with a provocative ingenuity - his ever-tighter frames, his ever-denser layers of colour. Each one of his canvases involves the viewer in a search, in an expectation, in a questioning. Little by little, the eye can start to make out there in the depths of his paintings a moving shape, an imminent event, a new day beginning (or even the nightfall that erases all). These furtive events, disappearances, appearances, these empty yet full canvasses, make up a world that cannot be mistaken for any other. »

Jacques Le Rider, March 2001

« The work of Aubrun consists in fixing onto various surfaces that which cannot be fixed, cannot be captured, is forever slipping away, elusive: light, with its thrilling life, its advances and retreats, its shimmering iridescence. This calls for acuity and perseverance: one has to forget oneself, become lost in the work. One has to go over it again and again, covering it, uncovering it, retouching it, putting on new washes and covering it again; and thus, step by step, approaching – ever unsatisfied – the moment when it finally becomes evident that, delivered up to the gaze of others, the precious fruit has at last reached the final point, when the perfect accord is achieved between the iridescent glory of the studio and the sensitivity of the artist. »

Georges Duby, Summer 1993

« It is understandable that François Aubrun needed large formats. Small canvasses are all very well when it comes to singling objects out, studying their forms and their balance, and working out by means of our thought and skill our own perspective on the world. If, on the other hand, we wish to show the ever-impenetrable suspense of the world, our ambition is perforce to portray it by means of the largest surfaces we can. There, on a lonely horizon, lies nothing but «the admirable trembling of time» : the delight and the despair of the painter. »

Georges Raillard, “L’épreuve du paysage”, May 1985

« Piet Mondrian said that Man was born with eyes but it takes years of education to teach him to use them… When it comes to creativity, the process of exchange is sometimes a lengthy one. François Aubrun may often bombard us with joy, anguish or dreams through his canvasses, but he does not reveal himself easily. His sensibility and his great modesty, as he hides himself deep within his art, if they are to exert their charm on the observer, sometimes require that observer to let himself go a little if this «skin of dreams» is to appear as lifelike to him, and as natural as day and night. »

Jacques Gandelin, architect - painter, February 1977

 « At the end of his life, Edgar Degas said: «if I’d looked at things more closely, I’d have painted in black and white. » 
Mont Sainte-Victoire seen from Aubrun’s studio

PHOTOS BY Magali Koenig 2003

Aubrun seated Brushes and jars Small canvasses by Aubrun The pines of Aix Window of the studio with small canvasses Light from the window on the pines Aubrun large canvasses at church François Aubrun’s studio François Aubrun’s studio Standing portrait of Aubrun