The influences for Marrey's color schemes run as far back and afield as Pompeii wall paintings.
In his richly atmospheric portraits of San Francisco, Parisian artist Giles Marrey presents the city through fresh eyes, transforming palm trees and power lines, houses and roads, into arresting compositional elements. Long enamored of the Bay Area, Marrey has visited the city numerous times, continually fascinated by its eclectic architecture, vibrant hues, and drastically shifting topography. Almost ten years ago, an exhibition of work by artists associated with the Bay Area Figurative Movement resonated with him profoundly, influencing his own approach to painting. Richard Diebenkorn, who captured San Francisco's wildly undulating terrain in striking geometry and saturated patches of color, has remained one of Marrey's most significant influences.
Along with Diebenkorn, Marrey cites the 17th-century painter Claude Lorrain as an inspiration for his newest paintings. With their glimpses of distant horizons bathed in mystical, dawning light, Lorrain's landscapes are a natural touchstone for Marrey's visions of San Francisco—serene yet full of drama, realistic yet transcendent, inviting us into familiar scenes yet leading us toward intangible places. Marrey's landscapes take us down roads that end in distant, hazy visions, or sometimes in pure swathes of sky. Electrical wires, far from defiling the sky's beauty, add a playful, dynamic dimension, slicing the upper section of Marrey's canvases into energetic abstractions. "I was obsessed," he says, "by the urban perspectives of San Francisco and the structural electric lines on the abstraction of the 'skyscapes'." Echoing the character of San Francisco itself, which opens up in unexpected views over hilltops and around bends, Marrey's paintings contain an element of wonder: again and again, they catch us unaware, as if we too have just come over a steep rise and encountered a startling panorama.
In addition to pure landscapes, Marrey's latest works include an intimate series of nudes set against the backdrop of the city. Personal and poetic, these images carve out spaces for contemplation in the midst of buzzing activity, their subjects gazing out with expressions suggestive of rich inner lives. The city appears to slow down, revealing itself in its basic elements: angular shadows, hints of manicured trees, stunning natural and manmade design. As in all of Marrey's paintings, inventive brushwork and a complex palette draw out the essence of his subjects, capturing them in bold juxtapositions of shadow and light. Through his eyes, we see the entire city anew: a place of infinite detail and curiosity, beautifully composed and endlessly capable of surprise.