Maire refers to this new body of work being developed in Rome as Logical Paintings (Peintures logiques), which can be considered as his latest enterprise – in fact, he took up painting around 2012 without formal training as I learnt when we came together at Villa Medici. In response to my queries about his Cloud Paintings – the artist’s take on post-painterly practice combined with his omnivorous tendency of digesting lessons from, among others, Impressionism, Conceptual Art, Abstract Expressionism, Renaissance painting – I am given a copy of the catalogue from his 2018 solo show, Thebes at CAPC, the Contemporary Art Museum in Bordeaux. The act of calling them Cloud Paintings introduces head-on Maire’s thinking structure on which rests the act of painting a cloud on a canvas. Dutch Professor Mieke Bal writes in the same catalogue that she has come to the following conclusion: “what Maire is telling us, as a visual philosopher of visuality, can be summed up as the insight that painting is itself a cloud.”2 Maire has found a way to marry his theoretical concerns to an aesthetically cogent painterly praxis: the ideas, rather than contained by the materials, are funnelled through them, very much like in the data-gathering banks of our computers that we call the ‘cloud’. The result is a technological space of computation as well as of contemplation, an ever-evolving algorithm which we don’t see the workings of but which we know is constantly gathering and releasing information. The artist’s studio is where physical gestures are performed on the canvas and also the space in which abstract compositional rules are applied: tested out through pictures taken with a smartphone and visualised through a computer screen, anticipating further developments on the surface while layers of oil dry close by. Painting 3.0 cannot exist outside our interconnected digital lives, so visiting Ettore Spalletti’s installation at Galleria Nazionale in Rome and finding interesting contemporary paintings and painters on Instagram both constitute worthwhile research for Maire.
During my first visit to Rome, in the two consecutive days I spend in the studio, the paintings are at different stages of development and I conclude that the artist is a much faster painter than I had anticipated and that he works mostly at night. It is remarkable to consider that he trained himself to paint after having adopted in his previous productions mostly words, sculptures, films and assemblages. The stakes are high: on the one hand, painting exists in contemporary discourse as a more accessible artistic medium which also translates into a more commercially viable medium; on the other, to master his own ‘style’ the artist needs to process so much history (past and present), theory and technical decisions. Clouds provide a vast horizon of interpretation, beyond chronological time, allowing Maire to construct an intellectual proposition while working on its representation. This process, both material and mental, allows for layers, changes, mistakes and additions, like the editorial work behind writing this essay, in which some paragraphs will be cut while others resurface in different shapes.