REFLECTION: Pierrette Bloch


I’m so pleased to have been put in touch with this artist. I’ve spent some time researching her work in the book ‘Pierrette Bloch’ edited by Musee Jenisch Vevey. The edition contains essays by Julie Enckell Julliard, Pamela M. Lee, Nicolas Muller, Philippe Piguet and Catherine de Zegher as well as a complete biography by Laurence Schmidt. Discovering her at this time is exciting as it ties in with my other research on Abstraction. There is something about Bloch’s work which resonates with me.

In my research I’ve also discovered the work of other abstract artists working at this time …Karel Malich, Jiro Yoshihara, Pierre Soulages, Robert Ryman, Vera Molnar, Gertrude Goldschmidt (Geco).

Points from the book which I want to refer back to:

  • “Gesture as an everlasting new beginning. Gesture as the possibility of conquering new spaces.” Everything in Pierrette Bloch’s work proceeds from gesture.”
  • “fertile, dense place of semi-darkness where creation is woven, rather quite the opposite, giving the viewer the freedom to appropriate and test it out, PB often stands aloof…”
  • kept aloof – rejected the use of words to accompany her work –retained a form of weightlessness, escaping the laws of time. Keeping a distance…
  • In 1930s influenced by seeing Etienne Decroux, Les Enfants du paradis – a stage director who worked without text and who invented a new body language based on improvisation…expressive power of movement, decomposing and analyzing each stage. Bloch copied the lines of the gestures, using charcoal, drawing rapidly…evidence of her early interest in abstraction…similar to the lines of Kandinsky. This time had a lasting influence and would dominate her work.. “ a capacity for the synthesis and abstraction of forms, a liking for improvisation and the importance of gesture.
  • Influence of Pierre Soulages
    Etching No. 2 1952 Pierre Soulages born 1919 Purchased 1985

    Etching No. 2 1952 Pierre Soulages born 1919 Purchased 1985

    gestural abstract forms, heavy brushstrokes of black paint against a light background – Tate – “Abstraction is a means of exploring his imagination and inner experience. In 1950 he explained: “I work, guided by inner impulse, a longing for certain forms, colours and materials and it is not until they are on the canvas that they tell me what I want.” At the same time the abstract Expressionists were emerging in the US.

  • Bloch’s first paintings show that she was experimenting with gesture and abstraction…gesture became the main subject of her work. Exploring the substance of materials…influence of Robert Ryman
    Robert Ryman - Untitled 1958

    Robert Ryman – Untitled 1958

    …sensitive response to paper… At the same period, the Japanese Gatai movement…Jiro Yoshihara…

    Jiro Yoshihara - Gatai movement- 'Red Circle on Black'

    Jiro Yoshihara – Gatai movement- ‘Red Circle on Black’

  • Ink drawings – black dots of ink placed on a white page. Though aloof herself, she drew on the contemporary work, observing and absorbing the artistic development of her time. First two decades of her career, influenced by the vitality of gesture, the elaboration of an abstract language and a strong feeling for paper. Influenced by Hans Arp, she tore up her pieces before rearranging them in new work. Other artists combining seriality with individual use of gesture: Agnes Martin, Marcia Hafif, Hanne Darboven. The works show the passing of time in making them along with the fragility of the gesture. Pierre Soulages: “Every work of art is located in the world of the imagination, and our experience of space, the space we live in and experience very day, is included.” Between 1981 and 1990 Vera Molnar
    Vera Molnar

    Vera Molnar

    Vera Molnar 'Lettres de ma mere'

    Vera Molnar ‘Lettres de ma mere’

  • Work has a form of timelessness or weightlessness.
  • Horsehair drawings:
    Pierrette Bloch - Fils de crin

    Pierrette Bloch – Fils de crin

    Pierrette Bloch - Fils de Crin

    Pierrette Bloch – Fils de Crin

    “The viewer is free to follow the thread as they like, the length of the thread is up to me: because I can make choices, be surprised, find something unknown or new in it and meet time. The longer the thread is, the more unforeseeable things it offers. It’s because I’m always surprised that I carry on.’ Stretched between two nails on the wall, a transparent nylon thread has spiraling knotted horsehair all along its four metre length…draw on the long strips of paper with black ink marks. Draws with every object she finds, making no distinction between them…”there’s a stage when I give nothing a name. They are there…”

  • “I chose horsehair for its linearity, sharpness and shadow.”
  • Correspond with Richard Tuttle’s WIRE PIECES
    Richard Tuttle

    Richard Tuttle

    “How can I keep myself out of the work…” I can know exactly where the pencil will be, but I never know what the wire will do. .. And then I really have no idea of what the shadow will do, none at all.”…’To overcome identity” page 90   *****

  • For Bloch, the simple act of tying a knot is an adventure in unlimited space.
  • Malich’s wire works, are conceived as pure energy in a differently imagined time- space…

    Karel Malich

    Karel Malich

  • Gertrude Goldschmidt 1912 – 1994 known as Gego – saw herself as an artist working with line. Intricate ‘ drawings without paper’ are small sculptures whose shadows create secondary drawings on the wall on which they hung. The larger suspended works not only seduce with their form but leave unanswered questions about whether one should look at the lines they create or the empty spaces they leave.
    Gertrude Goldschmidt - Gego

    Gertrude Goldschmidt – Gego

    Gego - Drawing without paper

    Gego – Drawing without paper

  • Both Bloch and Tuttle’s line drawing “loosens them from themselves and their formations rather than asserting an individually formed personality and the general character of a culture.” …they ‘listen’ to the materials.
  • rather than describing life as constituted in organic form, it incarnates life as rhythmic creative impulse – as permanent genesis, in the world and in art…Maiolina page 93
  • 1960s and 1970s artists returned line to its essence, releasing it into space and effectively liberating the line of thought itself. Embodied in unconventional materials – readymade, animate, discarded, taken from the daily environment – line now ranged widely in space. And in the present.
  • ‘Fils de crin’ …Anni Albers “Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the material.”   Excellent par on page 93 last par.
  • The line leaving the paper plane in ‘Fils de crin’ ventured in space to return to the surface.
  • Olivier Kaeppelin on Bloch’s work(page 131) “as a viewer I have the feeling of following a form thrown in the air. I follow it, then I see it falling, not through exhaustion, but reborn in a new joy brought in be a different figure, a different sequence.”


  • Why is Bloch described as using ‘poor materials’?
  • Bloch’s work is all about materials. In the book it describes how she hardly differentiates between the materials she is using, as she becomes absorbed in the work. She may use (Dessin 2001) chalk, charcoal, lead pencil, soft pencil, medium pencil, Chinese paintbrushes, Japanese paintbrushes, calabash, stamping, folding, paper, canvas, earth, powered colour, ink, graphite, dip pen, goose quill, brush, water , watercolour, sepia, cut-out paper, water coating, fingers, hands, styluses, mice, squiggles, the mouth, string, sponge , leaf, blow pipe and recently turpentine.” The materials dictate. She writes: “I chose horsehair for its linearity, sharpness and shadow.” She came across the material in the Le Crin Shop (horsehair shop) and loved it for “its flexibility, its suitability for lines that disappear, for the knots that occur and its sometimes anarchic aspect.” (Nov 19 2011 wrote to Catherine de Zegher) I think she chooses these so-called ‘poor materials’ because they lend an unpredictability to her process. She said: “The viewer is free to follow the thread as they like, the length of the thread is up to me: because I can make choices, be surprised, find something unknown or new in it, and make time. The longer the thread is, the unforeseeable things it offers. It’s because I’m always surprised that I carry on…”


  • What do you think her materials lend to her subject matter?
  • The more I read about Pierrette Bloch, the more convinced I became that the materials are her subject matter in that there is no separation between the two. There is an absence of personality – individuality, yes, but not person. The work is the identity and the simplicity of the materials adds to this sense. So much of the work is also about time and the ordinariness of the materials lend a feeling of infinity –  they have been around forever and will continue to do so. There is also a quietness about the materials and I feel this is an expression of the individual. She allows the materials to speak, she doesn’t use words. She works in silence, there is just the materials and the artist.


  • To what extent would you say that this piece, ‘Spider’, is a drawing?
Louise Bourgeois - The Spider

Louise Bourgeois – The Spider

  • Having done research into Pierrette Bloch and other artists who impacted on her work, I feel to have developed a wider sense of what ‘drawing’ is. In Bloch’s horsehair works, the line left the surface of the page and found a place in external space. Louise Bourgeois ‘Fabric Works’ 2002 and 2010 – calls them drawings though they are sewn together with textiles …domestic textiles, tablecloths, napkins, bed linen, clothing. For me, the ‘Spider” is also a drawing – because it is not attached to the wall and in a frame does not mean that it is not a drawing. So many of these artists including Louise Bourgeois were exploring line and were looking for means to explore space. Pierrette Bloch said : “I wanted something in space, something that would be detached from the walls.” This represented a transition into the sculptural field in which the two dimensional line becomes the three-dimensional line. I see this in the work of Bourgeois. But surely this is simply a matter of the meaning of artistic categories. The line and its movement into real space are the essential elements.
  • Louise Bourgeois

    Louise Bourgeois

    Louise Bourgeois - fabric book

    Louise Bourgeois – fabric book







About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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