The exhibition dedicated to Gilles Aillaud (Paris, 1928-2005) consists of nearly fifty paintings which allow for a complete view into the work of one of the leading representatives of the pictorial trend called critical figuration that emerged in Paris around 1963. For the exhibition's curator, Christian Derouet, his style of painting is one that wants to "find a proper expression of what is real again, without nostalgia for the past." The two principles upon which he bases his work and his aesthetic discourse are the recovery of real painting, to which he confers a transitive value (that is to say, the painting has to be something), and the radical denial of neo-avant-garde rhetoric of modernity. Although Aillaud decides to devote himself to painting late in life, in around 1963, he never abandons his other occupations: playwriting and set design. In this regard, it is important to note the personal, artistic and professional links he maintains with Eduardo Arroyo and Antonio Recalcati, with whom he worked several times in the staging of various texts signed by him.
Aillaud’s paintings are a stylistically and conceptually homogeneous work where two themes are shaped: animals in the zoo and scenic landscapes, appearing as a subject from 1978 and with which he develops a style that Christian Derouet calls "extremely finished". On one hand, the light (natural or artificial) and colour form the basis of his painting. On the other, animals, which become the silent protagonists of his large canvases. They are not presented as allegories or symbols, but as examples of alienation and life turned into a spectacle. In this way the artist, present in his paintings through his look, plays the same role the audience does, looking inside the cages or aquaria in search of acknowledgment by the hippopotamus or tapir. The inclusion of the bars not only gives an idea of separation to the painting, it also appeals to emptiness and gives a constructive value as extracted from his admiration for Vermeer, but also emotional as in that empty space the relationships between animal and the viewer are established.
As for the scenery, whether set on a river or in the desert, they share a strong and distant horizon line that allows for the creation of a vast stage on which the reasons, living or inert, animals or rocks, are concentrated in the background. By doing this Aillaud introduces the same idea of distance that dominate his zoo scenes and in the words of Michael Sager, he paints beautiful and accurate ways of being in the world.