*15/9 1925 - † 7/3 2008

with his hand on the canvas
with colour on the canvas,
blood-red against the darkness of the blue,
a cigarette in his mouth.
With thoughts so far away
beyond our daily cares,
seeking the dream,
seeking the mystery of abstraction.

by the coffee table
on a visit to Sweden,
a picture in the process of creation
in blocks of intensive colour.
We are sitting
close to the great church in Lund,
this grey yet intimate cathedral
filled with the echoes
of history.

Your memory is shining still.
Your colours live on,
the brush in your hand,
the cigarette,
and the smile that grows
until it dimples your very face.

Your colours, all of them,
are on fire!

Poem by Johan Persson
Translation: Ian Hinchliffe


Welcome to the opening 18th of October
The exhibition is on until 15th of November 2008.

“With just a few strokes of his brush he conjures up an entire world. James Coignard extends the boundaries between concrete and abstract. He knows how to create chromatic melodies that shift in timbre from cobalt blue to blood red. His pictures are an artistic epicentre where lines, letters and numbers meld with vigorous swashes of colour.” That is how the writer Johan Persson has described the artist’s paintings.
With this exhibition we honour James Coignard, showing some of his last carborundum engravings and paintings as well as presenting the book “L’œuvre gravé de James Coignard” volume VI. In this edition, we have gathered together all the engravings that James Coignard produced between June 2005 and his decease, on 7 March this year. Behind him he left many fond memories and a life’s work as a great artist.
James Coignard’s principal modes of expression were oil on canvas and gravure au carborundum, but also in bronze and glass sculptures as well as in ceramics. His work has been shown on more than 400 exhibitions, primarily in Central Europe and Scandinavia, but also in Canada and the USA. His first Swedish exhibition was at Malmö Museum in 1956. The early 1970s saw the start of a long-term liaison with Galleri Östermalm in Stockholm, owned by Editions Sonet. They came to represent him in Scandinavia and edited several volumes of his graphic works. It was not until 2003 that we at Galleri GKM Siwert Bergström, took over the role of James Coignard’s representative. By then, however, we had already known one another for almost 20 years, and we have many treasured memories of our meetings.
We recall our visits to his various studios, on the rue Martel in Paris, in La Boissière-École and later in Antibes. It was always such fun to be there and experience the playful way in which he coaxed forth his works of art with paints and a variety of materials. More often than not he would present us with a personally dedicated drawing or engraving before we left. That was the kind of person James Coignard was: generous to a fault – a friendly, modest, self-effacing man who never had a bad word to say about anyone.
We are delighted that, in collaboration with James Coignard’s children; Pascale, David, Emmanuelle and Simon, and his assistant and close friend, Fatima Ashad, we are able to continue to work with his artistic production and to ensure that it lives on.
James Coignard was an important artist, but also a warm and compassionate human being, a big-hearted man whose death has left a gaping hole. We are fortunate, at least, in having his art to remember him by.

Thank you James.

Thomas & Karl-Johan Bergström

With just a few strokes of his brush he conjures up an entire world. James Coignard extends the boundaries between concrete and abstract. He knows how to create chromatic melodies that shift in timbre from cobalt blue to blood red, from earthy tones to blocks of colour as black as night. His paintings embrace everything from vast expanses of colour to spaces enclosed. His pictures are an artistic epicentre where lines, letters and numbers meld with vigorous swashes of colour.
He varies his subject matter endlessly – in one painting the focal symbol might be a secret sign; in another, a sensually conceived female body. His themes might as easily be small squares that seem to describe an urban formation, cave paintings of animals that may well have been taken from Spain’s Altamira or France’s Lascaux, or a full-blooded scene from a brutal bullfight.
The paintings become magical. They trace an immense line over the heavens, a clean-cut brush stroke that transforms into a view of a mysterious, infinite universe. Paradoxically, Coignard casts the tangible and the unspeakable in the same mould, placing the luminous in opposition to the dull; the asperous against the fulgent.
Several works from his early years reveal an unquenchable thirst for life, an indefatigable desire to paint whatever touches our innermost feelings and the landscapes that surround. Other works inculcate a rather more melancholy mood against a sombre backdrop. The facility for creating symmetrical lines that contrast with the chaotic and irrational has become a hallmark of Coignard’s work.
Many of his paintings present saturated colours as a contrast to the grey, almost extinguished and effaced. Life meets death. Such is his pictorial universe, spinning like a never-ending whirligig populated by humans, animals and phantasmagoria.
Born in Tours in 1925, James Coignard moved to Paris with his parents at the age of three. Even as a child he had an insatiable appetite for drawing and painting. In 1948, 23 years old, he made up his mind to become an artist and enrolled at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Nice. The following year he and his fellow artist, Marchand des Raux, staged a joint exhibition at the Musée de l'Ile de France in St Jean Cap Ferrat. Around the same time Coignard came into contact with the great Henri Matisse and was influenced by his work for a while before he began to seek his own ways forward. Not long afterwards Coignard discovered the modernists’ handling of colour via the techniques of Georges Braque and Marc Chagall.
His contact in the late 1950s with a number of Spanish artists and his special fascination for Catalan sculptures and frescoes proved decisive for his artistic development.
Coignard’s first Paris exhibition came in 1960. Since then he has exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, and is well represented in both private and public collections that include the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, California.
In the late 1960s Coignard produced his first etchings in the gravure au carborundum technique. Earlier in the same decade he had also begun to create sculptures in bronze and glass, which he has continued to produce parallel with his paintings and graphic work.
Today he is based in the south of France, with a studio in Antibes and a home on the outskirts of Cannes.
James Coignard’s paintings and graphic works are an artistic adventure, an aesthetic game in which the destructive and the momentous mingle freely with the spontaneous and the sensual.

Johan Persson

Stora Nygatan 30, SE-211 37 Malmö
Phone +46(0)40-611 99 11, Fax +46(0)40-611 85 45