For our recurring feature Material, exploring the physical matter of art-making, filmmaker Pablo Tapia-Plá visited the New York studio of Nicolas Party and the historic Maison du Pastel atelier in Paris to watch the transformation of a single, humble material that is central to the artist’s work.
Over the last decade, Party, born in Lausanne in 1980, has achieved critical admiration for his familiar yet unsettling reevaluation of the genres of landscape, portraiture and still life, through which he simultaneously celebrates and challenges conventions of representational painting.
Soft pastel is a fragile and ultimately temporal medium that experienced its brief golden age in eighteenth-century France and a revival in the latter part of the nineteenth century, brought about by artists like Degas, Bonnard and Cassatt. Much of Party’s work is created in this somewhat idiosyncratic choice of medium for a 21st-century artist.
“It’s a very different way to work with colors,” says Party. “If you work with paint, you kind of imagine a color or you work a color while you’re doing it. You have to make it to see it. In pastel, it’s right there.” The material allows for exceptional degrees of intensity and fluidity in the artist’s depictions of scenes natural, manmade and imagined.
Nicolas Party’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong, “Red Forest,” was on view at Hauser & Wirth from 30 June – 24 September 2022.