In Pursuit of Significant Language — Mont Saint-Victoire

Rasheed Araeen. Mon St V, 1985
Acrylic on wood
Courtesy of the artist

This painterly construction is a homage to Paul Cezanne, its title an abbreviation of Mont Saint-Victoire, a mountain in Aix-en-Provence that is featured in a number of paintings by the French post-impressionist. Araeen was aware of Cezanne’s work almost from the beginning, as his early landscapes, painted in Karachi, betray an influence. In many ways, the homage is justified by the understanding of the conceptual lineage of the work: Cezanne was the first painter of the 20th century to employ what is often called a ‘constructive brushstroke’. This means that Cezanne formed the shapes with equally sized brushstrokes of different color, similar to a lattice, instead of using quick brushstrokes, as Impressionist painters did, or reducing the size of the stroke in accordance with perspective depth. With Cezanne, writes art historian Richard Shiff, ‘each stroke tended to remain visibly distinct from its neighbors, causing viewers to become conscious of the painting as a contructive process, perhaps at the expence of its appearing as a coherent, fixed image’. Araeen’s homage is a rare example of the lattice structure becoming the groundwork for a figurative image.