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About Nervures, Claude de Soria, 1998

In 1995, I received a small parcel sent by the Secours Populaire Français, a secular charity. It contained a scrap of primed and stretched, white canvas. Such canvases had been sent in large numbers to all sorts of different artists as a means of commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of this charity. Being a sculptor and not a painter, I called the office and said I was returning their canvas. I was told I didn’t need to paint it: I could just scribble a broken heart or inscribe it with a poem. They were fairly insistent.

So I agreed. And then I thought I might as well pour cement – the only material I use – over this canvas. The effect was pleasant. The cement adhered to the white surface. I brought my parcel in to the Secours Populaire. They seemed delighted and thanked me warmly.

A few months later, I recalled what I had done and decided to buy some canvas primed for painting – exactly the same as before. In the centre, I thought I might pour some cement and spread it out. The result might be hung on a wall. So I primed some canvas, laid it on my table, poured the cement, laid a thick plastic sheet over the cement and through the plastic sheet pressed the cement with my hands so that it might form an irregular rectangle. One hour later, as I was about to leave my studio, I was surprised to notice that the surface of the plastic was thoroughly wrinkled, with vein patterns running every which way. The next day, they were still there and when the plastic was removed, I found that the ridges had left a very interesting trace of their presence: those parts that were raised had come out dark; and where the plastic had stuck to the surface without creating vein patterns, the surface was smoother and paler. So what I had obtained was an unlikely graphic effect that I found very interesting.

I experimented with this several times and each time the vein patterns reappeared, a strange tracery, always in the same style. The vein patterning is caused by the amount of air squeezing through primed canvas, despite the white primer that coats it, and through the cement, that causes a swelling in some parts of the plastic cover. These parts are often miraculously selected, so that every time the ridged plastic is removed, much to my surprise, a different but related graphic appears.

Part of the current exhibition shows the results of this miraculous experiment.

November 1998