Jacques Monory’s work is visually shocking; it is like a punch in the stomach. His work is unique in the sense that it is at the crossroads between painting, cinema and photography. If one has to characterize his work, one could say that it is the cinema transposed into painting. Jacques Monory was born in Paris in 1934 and grew up near a Pathé cinema; American B movies have greatly influenced a large part of his work to the extent that one can talk of cinema painting. Monory understood very early on that by reproducing the visual impact of the cinema in his works, he was using the unconscious visual dimension which bound his generation together. At a time when abstract art spoke to a limited section of the population, the cinema, in contrast, appealed to a large public. The elongated format of his canvases reinforces their cinematographic style; their themes which are nearly always somber: death, crime, loss find references in the 7th art. These themes are often treated in series of at least 5 pictures.
Monory always uses a photograph as the initial inspiration for his work ; a photograph from magazines, films or family albums recording their visit to the United States. In Monory’s work there is a subtle combination of different techniques and the result is often a combination of photography and painting; a photograph is sometimes stuck on a canvas and acts as a unsettling element, which makes the viewer question the plot or as a piece of evidence, in which case, it offers the key to understanding the work, whereas the painting supplies the realistic support. The photograph is sometimes colored or presented in sequence so that it accelerates the rhythm of the picture by multiplying the number of scenes and angles. In all the different combinations, however, it is always the painterly aspect rather than the machine-produced photo, which is the most important and gives the work its emotional dimension.
One can identify Monory’s work by its dominant blue monochrome which reinforces the impression that we are in between reality and fiction. Initially the dominant blue amplifies the feeling of anguish, but then, as the viewer takes in the scenario and realizes that he is looking at a staged scene, the blue progressively neutralizes the violence and aggression. The effect makes his paintings mysterious and ambivalent; should we be worried or concentrate on our visual enjoyment? Monory’s work makes our pulse beat faster and transports us into a strange surreal world.
To illustrate his oeuvre, I have chosen « Noir, no. 9 » dating from 1990. In this work we find all of Monory’s virtuosity in his traditional blue monochrome. The cinematic effect is achieved by the fact that two images are juxtaposed one on top of the other, shown with a reversed angle and by the « travelling » effect which is further accentuated by the two passers-by walking in opposite directions. The summery clothes of the young woman contrast with the injured man who is on the ground. We cannot distinguish the look on the faces of the passers-by, but given their posture and direction of movement, we can assume that they are indifferent to the man’s suffering. By reproducing the scene on canvas, Monory prolongs the dramatic intensity infinitely and enhances the density and emotional charge of the image.