Taught by French Poetic Realist painter Raymond Legueult in the late 1960s, Claude Viallat has adopted a process of radical, repetitive abstraction based on a geometric
technique called ‘All-Over’, where neutral forms, such as fingerprints, are repeated on unstretched canvas, their loose state determining the composition of the work. Through these investigations and an interest in questioning social norms and values, Viallat became a founding member of the prominent ‘Supports/Surfaces’ movement who deconstructed the concept of the stretcher (the support) and the canvas (the surface), in an attempt to counter received conventions of painting. In the 1960’s his own period of intense experimentation in the south of France involved installing works in non-institutional spaces such as farms, beaches and riverbeds. As a contentious defender of modernism he has remained dedicated to the idea that repeated patterns is a refusal of the idea of subject matter, subsequently eschewing stretchers or frames. The repetition of shapes is Viallat's painterly trademark while his chosen surfaces have included rugs, tents, curtains, clothing and found fabrics, wherein innovation comes directly from the form of the support. One of Viallat’s emblematic shapes is a form that evokes both a net and a flat knot: applied with a brush and stencil, this shape is a signature of sorts, (his work is never signed), freeing himself from the limits of composition to focus on the combination of color and optical effect. Along with his experimentation in painting, Viallat has also pursued work on found solid objects such as wood and rope employing combinatory processes such as braiding and knotting.
Claude Viallat, born in 1936 in Nîmes France, studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier from 1955 to 1959 and at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris from 1962 to 63. He has been an Art School teacher in Nice, Limoges, Marseille, Nimes (becoming director for many years), and at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. He still lives in Nimes. In recognition of ‘Supports/Surfaces’, the group was given shows at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1971), the Pompidou Centre and at the Venice Biennale in the 80s. Viallat’s work can be found in numerous museum collections including Musée National d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Fondation Cartier Paris, CAPC Bordeaux, Museum of Modern Art New York, Kunstmuseum Basel and the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal.