Judit Reigl

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“The only constant in my work is the experience of existence! If it has to be figurative, I accept it. If it becomes abstract, I accept it too.”

Judit Reigl was born in 1923, in Kapuvár, Hungary, and studied painting at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest. After the inception of the Soviet-style authoritarian regime in her country, she made numerous attempts to leave and finally managed to move to Paris in 1950. Her earliest Parisian works were much influenced by surrealism, and include photo-collages as well as paintings of monstrous figures and of vividly coloured phantasmagorical scenes. Reigl also started to experiment with gestural paint application that expanded on the Surrealist practice of automatic writing. By painting and scraping the canvas, she produced abstract works that featured elongated, Möbius strip-like biomorphic forms in glowing and often highly saturated colours.

Later, she adopted a purely abstract and vigorously physical approach to painting. By hurling compounds of industrial pigment and linseed oil on the canvas and then moulding them with various metal devices into explosive marks, she used her body as an instrument of painting. For Judit Reigl the technical aspect is fundamental, from the choice of canvas to the actual making of her own painting tools. She lived and worked in Marcoussis, south of Paris till her death in 2020.

Outburst, 1956

oil on canvas, 142,5 x 150 cm
on loan from a private collection

She discovered the key to the visualisation of spatial experience in a method of spattering and spreading paint which she began using in 1955. Ágnes Berecz wrote: “Reigl would throw the mixture of industrial pigment and linseed oil onto the canvas, and then use a bent shower curtain rod (later a flexible metal blade) to break apart the mass of paint.” The Outburst (Éclatement) series refers to the meeting of the sprayed material and the canvas, or the encounter of surface and body, and to the painting surface thus formed: the battleground of the studio, traces of actions, and a map of the cosmos.