About Charles Belle’s canvases : "entrusted to the forest"


Le fusain de Charles Belle JPEG


In the winter of 2015, Charles Belle returned to the heart of the forest of his childhood. There, he found a remote place, and stretched out a canvas between two trees.
Using a long piece of wood and a block of charcoal, he made a tool. With it, he began to draw branches on the canvas. Conditions were difficult. The canvas, eight meters long and three meters high, became disfigured, encumbered by tree branches. The snow was deep. And yet, his gestures were ample, dazzling. Intense black, with vibrant lines: the drawing emerged. With this particular energy, Charles Belle produced a second drawing on the other side of the canvas. It was even darker, even more impenetrable. The drawings seemed to contain all the mystery of a soul.

Then Charles Belle left, abandoning the drawings in the forest.
During several long months, wind, snow, rain, and tree branches scratched, scraped, and mangled the canvas.

One year later, in the beginning of the fall of 2016, Charles Belle returned. The canvas had been invaded by vegetation, like an intruder confiscated by the forest. In one murderous gesture, Charles Belle covered the first drawing with black. His skin, his eyes, and his flesh became entrenched with coal dust. The gesture seemed to erase the trace of the drawing’s existence and to return it to the forest. The drawings became a part of himself that he left to this memory. He supposed he would never visit them again.

He once again abandoned the black monolith in the forest, surrendering it to time.

No one knew about these two drawings. They existed in silence. Ravaged by the power of the elements, they entered into the rhythm of the forest. It seemed they might disappear, or get torn by a storm or by a falling tree.

It was not until the following autumn that Charles Belle returned, this time with his friends from Cirque Plume. They discovered the drawings together, which, by then, had become fossils of the forest, abraded by trees, storms, rain, the sun, and all the moons. As the days wore on, the lines of the first drawing reappeared under the black. These lines contained all the force of what it means to exist, to be present in the world. Melancholy took over the land around them.

For Bernard Kudlak, the story of these drawings had to continue, and had to keep being written.
And so he returned with the entire Cirque Plume troupe for “the event.” Music, dance, and instruments resonated throughout the forest. The troupe performed an intense ritual as Charles Belle picked up the canvas. All together, they carried the canvas, holding it like the body of a precious person.

The two drawings — charged with seven seasons, with all their memories, and with the trembling of being — accompanied the troupe throughout its last season. Beating to the rhythm of the performances, the drawings themselves will continue to be nourished, as they feed off the poetry of Cirque Plume.

Noémie Belle-Paya, 2017

Le fusain de Charles Belle JPEG

To watch François Royet’s movie about the story of this painting : https://vimeo.com/38696207