Ulysse, Why Do You Come So Late Poor Fool | Martial Raysse

Ulysse, Why Do You Come So Late Poor Fool 1966 | Painting 153,5x 62,9 Inch

Discover the biography and all work of the artist

The work Ulysses, Why Do You Come So Late Poor Fool? was conceived as an alphabet of elements that the artist and the viewer are invited to compile, to invent a new vocabulary and a new way of structuring the surface.

This work forms part of a series that Martial Raysse exhibited in the 1960s, called "works of variable geometry". The artist has altered the original image by creating juxtapositions, seeking to give a different impression of a traditional painting, as if to criticise the media world that coerces us into adopting the same point of view. Here, we want to move the various fragments around, as if in a game, by positioning them differently, thereby offering our own interpretation.

The twelve colour panels that comprise the work are treated by Martial Raysse as a singular world, with its own colour palette and spectrum, each part being structured to take us back to the whole, to the complete image and the title of the work: Ulysses, Why Do You Come So Late Poor Fool? - a reference to the epic poem "The Odyssey", in which Ulysses is the main character.

The duplicate portrait of a woman with green eyes, against a uniform background, could be Penelope, Ulysses' wife. Her gaze is fixed on the horizon as if waiting for something to happen, or for Ulysses to return. The portraits are bisected by a reclining body, picked out in ochre tones: it is highly likely that this is Ulysses' corpse, itself intersected by the image of a colourful landscape. In its architecture, this landscape refers to Giorgio de Chirico and to metaphysics, a subject that fits well with a work whose narrative seems to tell the story of the relationship between the body and the mind, and in which the artist moves between notions of space and time, and man and the environment.

Raysse takes inspiration for his work from photographs and advertising posters, mimicking their flashy colours in a manner reminiscent of Warhol. Unlike Warhol, however, he uses anonymous protagonists rather than movie stars. On the other hand, he stylises their faces to the utmost degree, so that the contours stand out as much as possible.

Having grown up on the Côte d'Azur, Martial Raysse has always been influenced by the vivid colours of sun and sea, and of rivers, which we also find in this painting.

Lastly, as a member of the New Realists group, which was founded in 1960, Martial Raysse continues to seek a new understanding of the world, a new spatial structure and a look transformed in painting. This painting is one of the last works he created before moving to film, the ultimate example of the fragmentation of a story.