An Endless Stream of Artistic Energy
For more than 20 years Vallarta was fortunate to have Patrick Denoun as a resident artist. Originally from France but more a citizen of the world, Patrick provided us with art that was continually evolving and fascinating, for Patrick was not one to be complacent and just paint what he knew would sell. Patrick was a man consumed by fresh ideas crying out to be expressed.
Sometimes his ability to deliver was limited by the fact that he could only paint so fast, connecting what was in his head to canvas as rapidly as the perfectionist he was only could. But at other times it became more complicated; he would actually have to learn new ways of expressing himself, not just with the paintbrush or pencil but also in other media, in order to produce that which raged in his mind. Such was the case when he first was introduced to digital photography and Photoshop - he saw these as the tools needed to produce what he saw. To do so he turned away from painting for a while, until his skill with the camera and computer matched that with his paintbrush. When it all came together, the results were simply amazing, sometimes provocative but always well worth the wait!
When he made these transitions the change was often dramatic, a major paradigm shift where the new art often looked like it could’ve come from another artist. This is how he challenged himself - all the time. And the end results were simply fascinating to see and, if you were fortunate, to watch evolve. For Patrick, an exhibition was an opportunity to show the world what he had discovered. He never painted for us, his audience; he painted to release his endless stream of artistic energy. Fortunately for us all, we still have his art to remember him by. But I certainly will miss next season’s exhibit, as will many.
Patrick died in a motorcycle accident near his Vallarta home on April 8, 2007. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and his two children, Max and Sasha. His art continues to be exhibited at Galería Pacífico.
First Anniversary Tribute to Patrick Denoun
An exclusive evening in honor of the talented artist Patrick Denoun, will be held on March 13, 2008, at 8:00 p.m. This is a unique and special opportunity, to obtain one of the few remaining original paintings from the Denoun family collection that have previously been unavailable for purchase. For the first time ever, his family will be offering selected paintings for your consideration. In addition, one of the anticipated highlights of the evening, will be a special drawing with the lucky winner going home with their choice of two original Denoun paintings!
A special full course gourmet dinner will be held in the garden at Café des Artistes. Only 100 tickets will be sold to this special event, at a price of $500. USD per person. The price of the ticket includes, admission to this exclusive event, your ticket for the draw to win an original Denoun painting and the exquisite gourmet dinner. Beverages will be available for purchase.
The proceeds of this special tribute to Patrick Denoun, will be used to establish an educational fund for his two children, Sasha and Max.
Patrick Denoun painted many different subjects in several different styles during his career as an artist, a career that tragically ended with a fatal motorcycle accident on Easter Sunday 2007. Patrick was an incredibly energetic and dynamic person, animated to the extreme when explaining his newest interests, both artistic and personal, but especially relating to his art. He wanted to keep re-inventing himself as a painter to stimulate his creativity and test his abilities, but also to avoid being typecast or limited.
He tapped his early training as a sculptor, as well as his world-class ability in photography, to augment his perspectives and possibilities. Being an international traveler and an admirer of the indigenous cultures he encountered expanded his sensitivity and vision, and when he embraced computers, digital cameras and powerful photo editing programs, a whole panorama of creative opportunities opened up to him.
It was hard to limit the selection to just a few paintings for this tribute. These were chosen because it was hoped they emphasize most of the styles he worked in and show his transitions, which were not always sequential but always related to his roots and dreams. Sometimes, there were so many different styles and subjects that a couple of his shows looked as if they might be collective exhibits of five or six artists. He even commented once that several tourists attending his show asked him who the other featured painters were, so they could meet them. I hope this selection will show the talent and grace of a man with whom it was my privilege to work and have as a friend for over 12 years.
A frequent visitor to our office, Patrick’s association with us transcended the norm in many ways, exchanging technology tips with production director Paul McBroome, sharing sketches of his work, and nurturing a close friendship with publisher John Youden and his wife, Florencia. Patrick was part of our extended family and will always remain in our thoughts and memories.
Special thanks to Cathy, Patrick’s wife, and Alain Bali, Patrick’s close friend, in helping put this collection of images together.
La Fuente Río Cuale
In the late 1990s, Patrick published a group of four drawings that were black and white except for one small bit of color in each image. The set was very popular, but this one, “the Cuale River Bridge,” was overwhelmingly so, with many people inquiring if they could buy it separately. Perhaps it was a case of less is more, or the genius of the painter in his choice of where to use this small bit of blue, but the impact was obvious. Despite the visual competition of the crown of our famous church or the presence of a young boy on a donkey, the little girl in blue in the bottom left corner stole the scene and defined the image. It demonstrates the great ability that Patrick had to draw in a classic representational style, usually considered the artistic cornerstone of a painter´s talent, apart from whatever approach he may gravitate to later.
Many of Patrick´s paintings convey the bold colors of Mexican scenes, the most popular ones focusing on mothers with babies or small children in the indigenous clothing of their area, often Oaxaca. Many of these paintings showed an entire scene; but, increasingly, Patrick would crop the image in a photographic way to create a close-up of the central objects, eliminating details of the fore- and background to draw one´s focus to the point of emphasis, often the child. In this painting, he went beyond conventional cropping and showed only the bottom of the mother´s face, focusing on the baby´s eyes and face up to mid hairline. Although many people were initially attracted to this painting because of its bright colors and subject matter, the unconventionality of the composition seemed to stop them from acquiring it. When it did sell, it was to a collector who is, as was Patrick, an accomplished photographer and appreciated this unique perspective.
As Patrick´s Valentine’s Day 2007 exhibition approached, fans of his colorful Mexican scenes were worried that they´d be seeing only nudes. However, despite his near obsession with the female form and his new techniques, Patrick´s love of Mexico and its people kept him from abandoning this traditional subject matter. This show, which would prove to be his last, presented some of his most captivating indigenous scenes ever. They have a softer focus, but he captured the feeling of the scene every bit as strongly as he did with his earlier bold and bright treatments. Four are now off ered in a collection of off set lithos sold by Cathy Denoun in a few galleries, including Galeria Pacifico. This particular painting appeals to me because of the way Patrick uses the light filtering between the tarps and sheets in this tianguis (temporary market) to dramatize a strong figure of emphasis, the lady in red with the white scarf, within a very crowded scene.
Patrick established his reputation in Vallarta painting scenes of Mexico that hadn´t changed in centuries. This painting, “The Cell Phone,” marked the first time Patrick, or any artist in Vallarta I know of, had captured the feeling of contemporary Mexico, emphasizing the transition that parts of the country are experiencing. We see the handsome faces of a very young father and his son, but the cellular phone defines the scene. This painting illustrates a technique Patrick used to focus on the central figures, with the foreground and background fading out of focus or disintegrating into patterns of light or reflections. In a photograph, it would be called selective focus and takes advantage of the optical qualities of a camera’s lens, especially the telephoto lens. The stream of light and abstract forms also show Patrick´s search for a personalized technique to dramatize the power of light, which would contribute to his attraction to the work of Gustav Klimt.
The Nineteenth Hole
A visit to the newly opened Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita made a strong visual impact on Patrick, especially the optional third hole of its Jack Nicklaus Championship Golf Course. Nicknamed the 19th Hole, here players drive from the mainland to an island about 200 yards off shore. The term “island green” has special significance here; the island is tiny, and the normal-sized green occupies almost all the available space. The visual effect is that of a small, bright green spot mostly surrounded by deep blue. It inspired the painter to deviate temporarily from his figurative norm to execute his most abstract landscape, with only the faint presence of a yellow flag and a white sail to guide us. He would follow this later with a semi-abstract painting of a sailboat, and his first nude, “Desnuda en Rojo,” which appears semi-abstract when compared to the photo-realism that followed.
In a couple of his earlier works, Patrick painted his interpretation of Scheherazade. In this later painting, “The Mirror,” he began with that starting point, but pushed ahead to dominate the image with interpretations of reflections and rays of light, using gold leaf and collaging various reflecting materials onto the painting. The image is one of several late in his career where Patrick was partly paying homage to Gustav Klimt, an Austrian artist of the late 1800s and early 1900s, who focused on the female figure and was considered by many to be the master of eroticism of his time. He was especially noted for some of the most extensive use of gold and silver leaf in representing reflections and light since the Byzantine Era. Klimt’s 1907 painting, “Adele Block-Bauer 1,” broke the record in 2006 for the highest price paid for a painting in a public auction at a reputed $135 to $140 million dollars.
Patrick´s father was born in Algeria, as were Patrick’s wife Cathy´s parents, and he always loved traveling in the deserts of Northern Africa, especially in Morocco. His name on his passport was actually Patrick Bendenoun, which he shortened to his artistic nom de plume. His father traced the family roots back to Bedouin tribesman, more than likely the Bani Rasheed, who practiced their nomadic lifestyle in the deserts of Northern Africa. This painting is a scaled-down detail of a very large painting that became famous locally when it hung for several years in restaurant Café des Artistes. It is framed and cropped in a photographic manner and from a viewer´s perspective looking up, denoting respect and emphasizing the elongated neck of the camel. Patrick greatly admired these nomads and the tenacity they demonstrated in the challenging deserts that he also loved to explore on his motorcycle and capture later in his paintings.
La Buena Vida
When Cafe des Artistes remodeled and expanded extensively, the new facility featured a cigar bar that also offered champagne and brandy. Owner Thierry Blouet turned to his friend and fellow Frenchman, Patrick Denoun, to commission a special painting to mount in the room that would capture its purpose while conveying a whimsical and festive mood. This particular work is reminiscent of the style of Peruvian-born artist Alberto Vargas, who became famous in the USA for the “Vargas Girls,” which adorned monthly issues of “Esquire” magazine in the 1940s and segued into “Playboy” magazines in the 1950s, where the monthly “Vargas Girl” became a regular full-page feature from 1960 to 1976. Patrick was able to create this unique image in a way that was erotic without being vulgar, an element of Vargas´ popularity that led to his illustrations being regarded as among the most recognizable iconic images of the last century.
Vallarta is a Lifestyles
This painting, one of Patrick’s last, utilized a technique he’d been developing for nearly two years. He would project a digital photo of one of his paintings onto a nude female model in his darkened studio, directing the model as he adjusted the projection, and taking more digital photos when he achieved his goal. He would then select an image to use as a guide for a painting in acrylics on linen, largely painted with brush in hand, but also often incorporating some use of an airbrush. In this painting, the projected image is from a cover of “Vallarta Lifestyles.” The montage of visual symbols of Vallarta includes the Malecon folkloric dancers and its public sculptures, this ocean promenade holding special significance for Patrick. It is where he met his wife, Cathy, two strangers from Paris with Algerian roots, who serendipitously bump into each other walking on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta.