Jean Raine au Musée de Berkeley (1968)

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Jean Raine has come to painting from the literary and cinema worlds. Essentially a poet, Raine’s paintings are an extension of his poetry. Intellectually he shares the sensibilities of the surrealists, although his paintings do not seem to reflect that interest. Raine’s visual sense is, rather, tempered by the european group of action painters who had organised as COBRA, although Raine matured as a painter after COBRA had already disbanded.

Raine’s affinity for the COBRA group is apparent in a similar feeling for a synthesis of the arts, as well as in the execution of his work, which is in the exuberant style so familiar from the work of COBRA painters. These are strong differences, however, between Raine’s work and that of other COBRA painters ; in contrast to Alechinsky, Raine’s work is more consistently tied to a readable imagery ; in contrast to Jorn, Raine’s imagery is more direct in presenting figures rather than simply suggestions of figures. Because of the references in the titles, of course, there is a somewhat blurred distinction between what we only see and what we already know.

Many of Raine’s paintings are actually ink on paper, regardless of size, executed in a quasi-calligraphic manner with strong oriental overtones. Indeed, after seeing a nomber of these works, one has the impression of their being drawings in various sizes rather than paintings. These works even suggest something like "reading" - that is, the inked images assume a written quality - particularly appropriate for a poet !

In the Museum’s painting, "Slowing Down of the tortoise’s flight", the images are rendered with an apparent clarity which is actually quite elusive : there is a visual conflict between images which seem either so groteque that they appear powerful and frightening, or so childish tht they suggest a moment of whimsy. There is a pervasive un easiness in the main fiel of the work, where a mutitude of limsb - rather scaley arms and legs - turn out to be body-less. The off-white background juxtaposed to the black ink and wash seems to absorb a great deal more color than is actually there, characteristic of calligraphy in its most extended forms. The scale of this painting adds to its power, especially given its vertical organization. The "figures" loom from above, moving in a space of great height, and seeming to create a one-to-one relationship with the viewer.

In poetry the capcity for involving the reader rather than permitting him to remain aloof, is a major element in the sucess of a poem. It is probably this sense of involvement which enables Jean Raine the poet to succeed as Jean Raine the painter.