Fleshy vignettes in sumptuous soft focus.
With no formal education in art, having initially pursued language and communication studies at the University of Rennes, it was the figurative works of artists such as John Currin, Gerard van Honthorst and Rembrandt that drew Ralaivao's attention to painting.
Much of the artist's oeuvre was created during the lockdown of 2020 in France, the majority of which he spent in the confines of his apartment with his girlfriend.
Ralaivao puts a modern spin on figurative painting traditions. “In classical portraiture, there is a distance between the public and the person represented. I want to erase that distance.” The ultra-close-up, immaculately executed and seamlessly blended paintings punctuate a fleshy palette of pastel hues with tiny, bodily details like moles and blemishes. While thinly layered brushstrokes lend the works a dream-like, almost airbrushed quality, the body language of their subjects is palpably relaxed and off-guard. This is because all of the paintings depict real moments from Ralaivao’s daily life: intimate snapshots of his partner during Covid-19 quarantines or self-portraits of the artist in his home.
Pearl necklaces and Gucci loafers bring delicate touches of glamour to the work, and sensuality percolates throughout. Adam and Eve (2021) is a diptych that shows two bare torsos: one male, one female. They lean toward each other wearing matching gold chains and emerald pendants. Rendered in similar compositions and colour palettes, the male and female body are afforded an equal dose of agency and elegance - transforming gendered and religious tropes into new renditions of the painted nude. Drawing from Renaissance painting and baroque furniture alongside contemporary artists such as Somaya Critchlow and Henry Taylor, Ralaivao sets out to “shock” his audiences with tenderness.
“No chiaroscuro, no aggressive bright color, I want to catch people's attention with the sweetness of the color palette.” – Alexis Ralaivao