The Artist

Photo credits : Serge Périchon

1949

1949

Denis Godefroy was born in Évreux on 19 August 1949, the son of Christiane Renaux (born in 1926) and Pierre Godefroy (born in 1920). He is the eldest of five children. His father was a decorative painter and had a workshop in Évreux. A painter and music lover, he painted for his own pleasure and introduced Denis to drawing and painting techniques at an early age. From this learning, Denis Godefroy keeps the memory of his father's workshop, of the preparation of his backgrounds with Levis paint; he keeps the love of the layers that Pierre Godefroy liked to pass and to prepare ; of the sanding and of the smell of turpentine and of the Zan Blackoïd tablets. « I am a former child. I would have liked to keep the freshness of my childhood look. I kept in my eyes the paintings my father made and I remember very well the smell of his studio and the silence of the exhibitions he showed me. It is from all these conscious and unconscious imprints that my work has gradually been nourished. To exhibit in a school, for example, is to make this journey backwards again and to take for oneself the lessons of the children. » D.G.
1965

1965

A pupil of Desgranges, drawing teacher at the Lycée d'État d'Évreux, Denis thought about the teaching profession and prepared for the Claude Bernard school. He reads poetry and philosophy with passion.

1966

1966

First exhibition at the age of seventeen, at 19, rue Charles Corbeau in Évreux, with Jean Pierre Morin, a student at the Ecole Boulle. He exhibits five years of work: watercolours, oil, wash and charcoal. The work is figurative and one of the canvases, "Autumn flowers", is noticed for the blue which will largely inhabit his painting.

"When I was a child I only liked red. I thought that blue was a servile colour. I have always wondered what kind of relationship I have with blue. What interests me about colours is their musical impact." D.G.

He discovers Goya's etchings and the works of engravers who will influence him.

1968

1968

Denis Godefroy asserts his taste for literature and music and creates the group Anathema with his brothers and friends.

"It is not to man that we cast anathema but to oblivion. So that a whole past buried in the unconscious can come to the surface of silence. There are moments when remaining silent is the prelude to perdition." D.G.

The group Anathème offers a show "Ecce Homo" mixing poetry and music at the Maison de l'Europe in Évreux.

1969

1969

He marries Martine Dionis.

Denis Godefroy is a supervisor at the Collège d'Enseignement Technique du Bâtiment in Évreux, which commissions him to produce 18 panels.

The group Anathème puts on the show « L'un dans l'autre », a title borrowed from the poet André Breton, on texts by Allen Ginsberg and other poets of the beat generation « to wake us up from our lethargy » D.G.

1970

1970

He exhibits in the old museum of Évreux with Pascal Pingault in May, then at the Loeffer gallery, 4, rue des écoliers in Évreux in October. He also exhibits in Sables d'Olonne.

« The secret of art is to correct nature" said Voltaire; I wish to clear beauty in the classical sense of the term in favour of the violence of the line. » D.G.

1971

1971

Exhibition of painters and photographers "Tortures" at the old museum of Évreux where 15 paintings and as many drawings are presented. The group Anathème opens the exhibition with a performance for percussion, piano and voice on texts by Antonin Artaud.

1972

1972

Birth of his son Thibault.

Accompanied by the philosopher Michel Servière, he takes part in the exhibition "Lumières de la main" at the avant-garde gallery Cécile Gillot, 156 rue Eau de Robec in Rouen. Eighteen artists are gathered among whom Zack, Soulages, Ivkovic. He speaks of the influence of Jackson Pollock and American painting and admits his admiration for Nicolas de Staël. The Jeulin factories run by M. Casals, a patron of the arts, commission him to paint two panels on the theme "Movement, Flight and Dynamism".

1973

1973

He participates in the 7th festival of contemporary art in Rouen in an exhibition entitled "Paysages coincés".

"Godefroy paints, paints the landscapes, stuck landscapes as he calls them. The horizon of his landscapes is more or less high, the meeting of the sky and the earth more or less clear. At their intersection, many things happen. (…)

Godefroy is moving more and more towards the figurative, and the titles of his paintings – Landscapes stuck without oxygen, Seagulls - accentuate a figuration that could be called minimal or, why not, since the epithet comes back symptomatically in his work, "Stuck". Two mediums are used for this purpose: traditional oil paint and smooth, shiny glycerophtalic paint. The work, which was once inspired by Nicolas de Staël's crushed pastes and then became more gestural, is concentrated in colour. Everything happens as if a Bazaine or a Pignon had been retained: painting is an incarnation and a quest for reality."

Michel Servière in "Valeurs de Rouen", n°2, 1973.

Seventeenth exhibition of the Union des Arts plastiques in Saint Étienne du Rouvray with Georges Breuil. The exhibition at the Estuaire gallery, directed by Yvon Gay in Honfleur, inaugurates the series of birds.

1974

1974

Eighth festival of Art Actuel de Rouen where he exhibited alongside Daniel Authouart.

"Art in the company" with Jean-Claude Pinchon, Tony Fritz-Vilar, Pierre Godefroy, Christian Sauvé. Exhibition at the gallery-bookshop l'Armitière Création de l'Arlequin, workshops for children and adults, 13 rue de l'École in Rouen.

1975

1975

Denis Godefroy exhibits Altérations at the L'Estuaire gallery in Honfleur. Photography is an integral part of his work.

"The skeleton of the bird is only a mythical representation of the crucifixion of Christ" D.G.

The nudes in Alterations are bound. The Self-portraits are very violent. Marked by the writings of Ulrike Meinhoff, a member of the Baader Gang, and by her career, he does not hesitate to refer to them.

"Painting is a political and committed act". D.G.

His works are exhibited at the FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) in Paris. Invited by Dany Bloch, director of the plastic arts space, he exhibited his works on paper in Villepariris, at the "Foire de l'Estampe et du Multiple".

See : Denis Godefroy and photography

1976

1976

Denis Godefroy exhibits Boîtes à ARC 2, "L'objet comme œuvre d'art", as part of the exhibition organised by the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Maison de la Culture de Rennes. He exhibited at the Grand Palais as part of the "Grands et Jeunes d'aujourd'hui" exhibition.

At this time, Godefroy met the writer Denis Roche who had just published the novel "Louve Basse" (Edition du Seuil, collection "Fiction et Cie").

In Rouen, he decided, with musicians and visual artists, to create a show called "Fragments I, Itinéraire d'un corps" (Fragments I, Itinerary of a body) mixing extracts from "Louve Basse" and texts by Ulrike Meinhoff and Bernard Govy.

Alain Mabitt's music is used as a support for an 'Action paintaing'. Extracts from this show were broadcast on 2 June 1977 in the programme "Écoute" on France Musique.

That same year, he was the guest of Dany Bloch at Unesco, Paris. In October, he begins his weekly interventions in the expression workshops set up at the MGEN day hospital.

See : "I can't get rid of music".

1978

1978

In April, and for twenty years, Denis Godefroy will intervene in the psychiatric world, half a day a week, in an expression workshop set up at the Centre Hospitalier Psychiatrique du Rouvray in Sotteville les Rouen. With his friends, philosophers, painters and sculptors, and the lawyer Jean-Claude Ducable, the artist opens an associative gallery, Déclinaisons, on rue de l'École in Rouen. He exhibited his Self-portraits there. Autoportraits.

In Paris, at the Salon de Mai, he rubs shoulders with Joël Kermarrec Le Poids de la peinture as well as Sonia Delaunay Rythme - Couleur, Hartung T 1971 H 19, Léon Zack Peintures 78 and Otto Teichert. As in the previous year, he exhibits at the Salon "Grands et Jeunes d'aujourd'hui".

1979

1979

The "Grands et Jeunes d'aujourd'hui" exhibition welcomes him again with Paroles blanches; Petits paysages, a series in which photographs of floods disappear, veiled by paint.

He then exhibited with Alain Lambilliote, Lionel Godart and Guy Chaplain, in Rouen, at the Déclinaisons gallery.

 

1980

1980

It is the explosion of free figuration. He is present in Paris at the Salon de Mai, and at the Déclinaisons gallery. The International Biennial Exhibition of Portraits (Yugoslavia) welcomes him.

1981

1981

Godefroy opens his workshop at 67, rue Bouvreuil in Rouen. He then entered a period of change. His work evolves towards a more abstract approach. He begins his Série noire which he exhibits at the Déclinaisons gallery in Rouen. "It is a grey that has the appearance of black"

It is a grey that has the appearance of black

« Denis Godefroy's black canvases, this photographic paper glued and then covered by the material, are devoid of the nameable figures of reality. All that remains of the classical idea is the frame. The sensation of inhabiting an enigmatic space. »

Extract from the text by Eric Vandecasteele, accompanying the exhibition

1982

1982

His Minoirs series is presented as part of "Confrontations-Générations" in Tours. This exhibition gave rise to numerous debates within the framework of the Art Media conference.

Invited again by Dany Bloch to the "Foire de l'Estampe et du Multiple", he exhibited Série Noire, works on paper, in Villeparisis.

He participated in the exhibition "Citations critiques 1978-1982" at the Déclinaisons gallery, which in the same year organised the exhibition "Du livre" with the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, the first national exhibition devoted to artist's books.

1983

1983

Denis Godefroy exhibits the Minoirs at the Françoise Palluel gallery in Paris, rue Quincampoix.

Denis Godefroy's ethics are based on a triple renunciation: renunciation of colour, which is sensuality, of the line, whose accents are the expression of an individual sensitivity that the ascetic approach intends to master, and of figuration, since appearance is only a mask plastered on the "true reality", which alone deserves attention. Here we pass from art to the art of living. To an art of living with little. Going back in time, it is the ethics of the monks of Citeaux (12th century) which is now of some help to us. Cistercian Godefroy? »

Georges Duby, Soulages, Cahiers du MNAM, 1981-1983

1984

1984

Denis Godefroy is invited to the Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne (Germany), an exhibition organised with the support of the French Ministry of Culture, whose brochure includes texts by Gilbert Lascaux, Michel Servière and Eric Vandecasteele.

He marries Pascale Vallois.

Birth of his daughter Yaël.

He exhibits at the 29th Montrouge contemporary art fair, which pays tribute to Otto Dix and brings together 350 artists. The catalogue is enriched with some forty photographs of the most representative painters on a national and international level. That same year, Denis Godefroy exhibited his Nouvelles vagues at the Françoise Palluel gallery in Paris, at the Déclinaisons gallery in Rouen, and at the Grande Serre in Rouen (with a musical opening by Karl Biscuit).

New collaboration of the Déclinaisons gallery with the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen for the exhibition "Contemporary Photography".

 

1985

1985

Opening of the studios at 317, route de Darnétal in Rouen, which Denis Godefroy shares with the painter Jean-Pierre Bourquin and the sculptor Guy Chaplin.

He is invited by Françoise Palluel to the FIAC. The FRAC (Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain), which acquired a painting by Denis Godefroy in 1983, organises an exhibition "Un certain paysage" with the Château-musée of Dieppe, of which Pierre Bazin is the curator. This exhibition gathers a selection of the permanent collections of the FRAC of Haute Normandie and the Château-musée of Dieppe. Among the other painters : Jean-Pierre Bourquin, Olivier Debré, Christian Sorg, Pierre Tal Coat and Roger Tolmer.

In October, at the Centre Marc Sangnier, the painter will share a musical experience with jazz musician Steve Lacy and singer Irène Aebi by performing a work during a concert.

Denis Godefroy presents a sort of retrospective to Marianne Requenna and Jean-Pierre Bourquin at the Château d'Aveny in Normandy, a contemporary art space. Françoise Palluel exhibited works that were intermediate between the Vagues and Nuits d'ébauche.

1986

1986

Exhibition at Simone Lhermitte's, rue Bras-de-Fer in Rouen, where his two large canvases, "Nuits d'ébauche" and a series of sketches and paintings on small-format paper, are presented.

He also participated in the FIAC and the Montrouge Contemporary Art Fair and took part in the first Sète Contemporary Art Festival.

Denis Godefroy exhibits "Petits dessins impromptus" at the Armitière bookshop in Rouen. That same year, he participated with the organist Louis Thiry in a concert-performance, "L'art de la fugue en peinture", in the Saint Taurin church in Évreux.

1987

1987

Birth of his daughter Solène.

A book entitled "Nuits d'ébauche" reviews ten years of production with texts by Robert Carmyne and Jean-Claude Thévenin.

Godefroy succeeds in the challenge of showing us that black can be, like the traditional diaphanous, his medium of coloured appearance and paradoxically the transparent medium where appearances appear. It is the work in black...

Jean-Claude Thévenin

 

"Nuits d'encre et Nuits d'ébauche": this series of "Nights" is made up of variations of blacks, greys, deep mats, mixtures of dark materials clogged with graphite and lead that he applies with a brush, a pad, or by hand and which form an opaque sky crossed by blue, ochre and white flashes."

Robert Carmyne.

1988

1988

The FRAC de Haute-Normandie presents the exhibition "Un certain paysage" in Holte and Randers (Denmark), where Denis Godefroy's works rub shoulders with those of Jean-Pierre Schneider, Joan Mitchell, Christian Sorg, Pierre Talcoat, Olivier Debré...

He is always present at the FIAC with the Françoise Palluel gallery.

Denis Godefroy loses his daughter Solène.

He works on a whole series of Plexiglas and marbles which he presents in the Salle des Procureurs of the Palais de Justice in Rouen. The exhibition "EPOKE" brings together Jean-Claude Pinchon, Lionel Godart and Jean-Pierre Bourquin.

Each artist having carte blanche, Denis Godefroy chose to invite Andriana Cavalletti who writes in the introduction to the catalogue "The balance between the carnal and the spiritual is what interests me".

« If I use Plexiglas, it is not for the effects of the material, but for the work on layers and transparencies. Plexiglas functions as a metaphysical layer. ». D.G.

1989

1989

"Morceaux choisis" organised by the FRAC presents a selection of the 1983-1988 acquisitions in Rouen. This selection includes, along with Denis Godefroy, Jacques Mayeux, Edouard Pignon, Guy Chaplain, Vincent Barré, Joël Kermarrec, Alain Lambilliotte... Returning to his literary and musical preoccupations, he adapts Gregory Corso's essay "Elegiac feelings American" (Christian Bourgois - 1977).

"Looking at Le Carpaccio...

Looking at all this death, immobile and stratified

I will go under your gallops, it is undoubtedly the desperate tumult of a chivalrous joust, of light, of darkness, of writing and of song"

This show, which brings together, in addition to the painter, a musician, Jeff Richard, a dancer, Gisèle Gréau, and an actor, Maxime Leroux, is produced by the Centre d'Art d'Essai et de Création Marc Sangnier, in Mont-Saint-Aignan.

It is followed by an exhibition "J'irai sous tes galops" in Paris, at the Françoise Palluel gallery.

1990

1990

He marries Elisa Picot.

"Vague à l'arbre", at the Château-musée in Dieppe: retrospective exhibition of the painter's landscape drawings and performances Nuits d'ébauche (1985) and "J'irai sous tes galops" (1989).

« "My work is to organise chaos. The landscape is only organised nature. Imagine a tree standing out against a sky. In painting there are two solutions: either you focus on the tree or the sky. My work consists of filling the void and emptying the full." » D.G.

Nature, Life, Love, Death... to specify would be reductive: everything that is felt, understood, endured, lived, loved, suffered, the artist, with as much modesty as pride, will see it projected outside himself because of a certain relationship of forms and forces. Project, design, drawing.

Pierre Bazin

1991

1991

It was a year rich in exhibitions and events. Publication of a monograph by Éditions Médiane directed by Jean-Marie Tiercelin, co-authored by Gilbert Lascaux, Philippe Bataille and Guy Lauzun.

« At the time, he made black a colour and this colour a sacrifice. Today, from his miraculous fishing and by dint of asceticism, he has brought back other signs, other prints, and other metals. After demonstrating black, he has rediscovered the golds of Siena, the primordial reds and blues. It is a painting against a backdrop of wild power, moving like the alignments of Carnac or the Orants of ten centuries ago.. »

Philippe Bataille; Ombilic des Gaules a monograph, Éd.Médiane.

Exhibitions at the Anne Bourdier gallery in Rouen and at Françoise Palluel and Tadeuz Koralevski, in Paris. He also participates in the "Découverte" exhibition at the Grand Palais.

"I always start from the drawing, it is there that one is in the most radical danger possible. It is there that the hand acquires a memory: it is not only the written word that has one.

Painting is an act, I try to be sincere with what I can't find. It's like the craftsman's pot: the surface is made for what the pot will contain. Painting is the same: I call it the implicit, the implicit that I would not like to see too quickly deflowered. There must remain a part of the unfathomable in painting." ».

D.G., 1991. Extract from an interview with Roger Balavoine.

Au 2e At the 2nd Salon d'Art Contemporain de Rouen, Denis Godefroy is present in "Portrait d'une collection" which gathers paintings by an anonymous collector: Picasso, Poliakoff, Dubuffet, Gleize, Debré, Pincemin, Schneider, Combaz, Priser, Pinchon...

He exhibits Kalejdoskop Zaprasza with the Association Aestetica Nova, Miejska Lodz Gallery (Poland) and participates in "Artists for Freedom", organised by Amnesty International Rouen.

1992

1992

Birth of his son Louis.

As a continuation of the "Découverte 1991" exhibition, Tadeuz Koralewski presents a group exhibition, "Préludes". At the same time, the gallery Lise et Henri de Menton, 4, rue du Perche in Paris, presents a dozen Boucliers. Works from this same series had previously been exhibited at the Rouen Salon (Regional Council Prize) and by Yves Richard at the Orangerie Gallery in Grand-Couronne.

Godefroy is a sometimes tender brute: when he makes the worst of the supports he uses, he cannot help but heal their wounds with a delicate line or a full paste fed with graphite. The drawings and the ten or so "Shields", marouflaged papers and canvases, that he is showing today confirm a temperament that was revealed almost ten years ago by his superb "Minoirs" series.

Le Monde, 31 December 1992.

1993

1993

Denis Godefroy always keeps in mind what his father passed on to him. He exhibits with him, drawings and watercolours, "De part et d'autre" at the Dubosc gallery in Louviers. The painter is starting a new series, "Les Sémaphores", blue squares, "paintings to make a sign". D.G.

He shows his works at the Château de Belbeuf belonging to AXA, an exhibition organised for the benefit of the Departmental Committee of the League against Cancer. He is always present at the FIAC, with the Françoise Palluel gallery.

1994

1994

Denis Godefroy, accompanied by his brother Gene Clarksville and Sébastien Souchois, performs in a show still inspired by the texts of Gregory Corso at the Centre Marc Sangnier in Mont-Saint-Aignan.

The Duchamp Gallery, directed by Thierry Heynen in Yvetôt, presents two performance concerts, two works painted by Denis Godefroy to music by composer Jean-Yves Bosseur with Jacques Feuillie on bass and Emmanuel Thiry on double bass.

« There is music in literature, there is also painting in literature and no doubt vision in music... It is the mixture of three extremely fabulous things that makes... it makes art »

He takes part in another concert organised in collaboration with the FNAC: three groups, three visual artists at Exo 7, Petit-Quevilly. Bergit von Keller is on cello and Bob Drewry on double bass.

« Does a painter hear music when he paints, does a musician have images when he composes? »

"In art, it's all about punctuation... the important thing in a performance is not the finished product but the path that leads to it." D.G.

More music with "Concert pictural" at Château Cadillac en Fronsadais, invited by Jean-Jacques Lesgourgues, his most faithful collector. Gene Clarksville and Sébastien Souchois accompany him. The work Crucifixion, now mounted on canvas, is now in the château.

He exhibits "Past present, future" at the Françoise Palluel gallery.

The Du Bellay gallery in Mont-Saint-Aignan exhibits him in "Bleu nuit, nuit bleue" with Serge Périchon photographer and Dominique Denry sculptor.

« The idea is to capture the flight of angels. I've been dreaming of this meeting for a long time... ». D.G.

On the initiative of the SIVOM, he was commissioned to create two panels for the Rouen Metro-bus, "Théâtre des Arts" station: Les Angéliques.

« The debate between abstraction and figuration annoys me so much that it is like the search for the sex of the angels. That must be why it is called 'Les Angéliques'. Moreover, they are bitter plants when fresh and sweet when candied ». D.G.

1995

1995

The Salon de Rouen et de Normandie, 1995 edition, organised with the participation of the Conseil Général de la Seine-Maritime, welcomes him to the Halle aux Toiles.

The Françoise Palluel gallery presents Les Angéliques, works on paper and small formats, with Pincemin, Bourquin, Schling, Bosser, Soulié and Taboada... He is present in Toulouse in the exhibition "Regard d'un collectionneur".

Jean-Marie Gille and Éric de Falco create with the painter a philosophy café in Bonsecours.

 

1996

1996

Two exhibitions: Les Angéliques at the Cloître des Pénitents in Rouen, where he created a performance with his brother Gene Clarksville; recent works at the Françoise Palluel gallery, Paris.

Denis Godefroy shared with Jean-Pierre Bourquin and Guy Chaplin, a studio located on the banks of the Robec, route de Darnétal in Rouen. In April 1995, a letter announced that the premises had to be vacated of goods and people by 30 April at the latest. "My anger is the beauty of the site and the absurdity of the situation," exclaims Godefroy, who refuses to leave the premises.

Denis Godefroy shared with Jean-Pierre Bourquin and Guy Chaplin, a studio located on the banks of the Robec, route de Darnétal in Rouen. In April 1995, a letter announced that the premises had to be vacated of goods and people by 30 April at the latest. "My anger is the beauty of the site and the absurdity of the situation," exclaims Godefroy, who refuses to leave the premises.

« I have a lot of students and if this place disappears, that's it for them. I am also involved in therapeutic and psychiatric work with support painting. I also take on children... If this place collapses I won't be the first victim. These workshops are the memory of a vanished industrial civilisation. » D.G.

1997

1997

Denis Godefroy died of an aneurysm on 24 January 1997.

2003

2003

From « Denis Godefroy (1949-1997) », France, Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2003, p.183-189.