Soulages’s paintings were then, and still are, given to sections more than a holistic intake. The early works suggest a more symbolic aspect Whereas earlier works, suggest a kind of contradiction between form and space, between the gesture and the surface, between the support and its interior. These painterly ideas were closer to Soulages than the more metaphorical interpretations of being an expression of post-World War II trauma where hope lingers in the crevices between the charred remnants (a popular interpretation that Soulages attempted to discourage).
The surfaces in the recent work from 2013–14 reveals more literal variations of black pigment, often utilizing an uncompromising matt underpainting as a support for glossy black on top; or, alternatively, light refracting from severe cuts into a hardened density of pigment, unequaled in works associated with subsequent modes of pastiche used in some overworked paintings associated with painters of The New York School in the turbulent late fifties. By 1979, Soulages had shifted his emphasis by moving away from former juxtapositions toward a more formally ordered surface, yet still latent with energy through his ability to discover light emanating from various angles, reminiscent in some way to the play of light on dark However, the focus on the presence of light continues in the paintings of Soulages to be borne from the blackness as made evident in the paintings of the last two years.
The most recent paintings constitute a latent subterfuge, whereby the light bounces rhythmically from one panel to another within a single painting Some paintings reveal a rough-edged contour over a smoothly chiseled surface. The affect reeks with a kind of abdominal essence, a respite from the normative facture found in earlier paintings. The assertion of light in Soulages’s resilient paintings is remarkable in its immediacy, given that the work not only exalts a heightened sensory elegance, but a clearly anchored youthful appearance. They are not at all the works of a retiring artist, but appear to have been made through the strength of accurate perception, thereby suggesting equivalence between the color black the truth of absence. They are paintings that offer substance to the way we perceive light. The pigment literally emit light by refracting off the surface, a point of view closer to Eastern Taoism than to the traditions of Western painting that began in medieval times.
His individual style, characterized by strong bold lines and occasional calligraphic elements, is an important organizing principle in his works. “I found small brushes only for the exact work, as was necessary and important in the art of the 19th century and earlier – Picasso himself worked with fine brushes in his early works. But for me there was no question of that. I wanted to try something quite different, so I went into a paint shop in Paris and bought myself broad brushes and rollers of the kind used for house-painting.“ By using this technique in combination with a dark walnut stain known as “de noix” he created his first masterpieces, one of which was bought by the Museum of Modern Art in New York as early as 1948.