Jean-Michel Atlan is the painter of enigmas and, in a world that only wants quick answers and not suggestions to be patiently deciphered, his painting does not have the impact that this unique, strange and visionary work should have.
An approach to his universe could be this short extract from one of his poems. Atlan remains a marginal French painter, unclassifiable car. It is impossible to fit him into one of the many pictorial movements of his time in the fifties, so we have to help bring out a certain oblivion which falls on him, because his work still confuses, he wrote: "it is my destiny to abandon the public roads, because when the locusts arrive it is better to pitch his tent elsewhere. And fashion in painting is much more devastating than locusts” (Letter to Japanese friends, November 1959).
His painting borrows more from the magical world of ocean myths, immemorial legends, or Jewish mysticism than from the marked universe of the history of painting. He, the autodidact who came by ricochet to the painting, is attentive to the open, wincing like an animal on the lookout for secret earthquakes and primordial mysteries. He restores them in a knotted painting, framed by intense blacks like stained glass, archaic and thrilling.
A kind of obstinacy of rhythms, almost afflicted, runs through his paintings. His painting, so original in its visions, dense, difficult, can make one think of the magic of Paul Klee, of his symbolic alphabets, but Atlan does not have the tender humor of Klee, nor his geometry of sweet hopscotch of magic labyrinths.
Atlan did not have the spirit of childhood, but that of the dawn of humanity.