Born in Paris on March 27,1902,Carrey settled in Brussels 20 years
later, where he got married in 1941.In 1947 he returned to Paris in
order to paint .He died of a heart attack at the age of 51,as he was
preparing an exhibition of his work at the " Galerie ARIEL" in
Paris. The artist left us with works of an exceptional quality,
mostly kept in private collections in Paris and Brussels. In
1954,one year after his death poet and novelist Hubert Juin wrote a
20-page book about him, titled: " Carrey ou l' Impossible
Perfection". In 1957,in his "Dictionary of Abstract Paintings",
Michel Seuphor included an entry about the painter. Twenty -four
years later, canvasses by Carrey were exhibited in Charleroi during
a retrospective exhibition about the
"GROUPE ART ABSTRAIT", of which
he was a founding member. Since then, a number of exhibitions have
been organized and Carrey' s paintings have been regularly presented
at Contemporary Art fairs.
-His works on paper have never been shown, his gouaches, watercolors
and oils on paper have been kept in portfolios for more than 40
years. They are nonetheless an essential element in the body of work
of this demanding painter who worked over and over again on the same
composition. He wrote about his creative process in his letters to
his wife Louise Carrey:
"It is important not to rush to the canvass; it is best to
first accumulate many drawings, choose the right one, work it again,
and finally try to do a canvass" (April, 12,1949)
-In the beginning of his life in Brussels, Carrey drew caricatures
of cinema and theatre actors, for magazines. He designed posters and
sets for the theater. For a while he was a commercial artist for an
advertising company. His sense of observation was keen, enabling him
to capture any character with a few strokes. Henry Van de Velde
(famous Belgian architect) noticed his posters and asked him to sit
on the jury of the class of advertising of the Institute of
Decorative arts in Brussels (1), which he did from 1930 to 1937.
-He also painted still lives, landscapes, and mostly portraits, the
latter earning him a rapid success. His technique was expert and
assured, his palette was bright. He exhibited this works together
with a group of painters, whose works stood on the fringe of
surrealism and abstraction, described by Paul Haesaerts as
"Animist"(2). It is at this period that he befriended Jean milo's
older brother Roger Van Gindertael, who later gave up painting to
become an art critic.
-The turmoil of the war brought about Carrey a crisis of conscience.
He and his wife were spending time with poets, musicians, writers
and actors, all engaged in contemporary creation. He was no longer
satisfied with his success as a portraitist he looked for a
different form of expression, a new language. He wanted to go beyond
appearance. He first started by doing research on simplification,
designing geometrical plans of nudes and musical instruments.
-Abstraction in painting had gained ground, causing artists to
question their works and redirect their reflection. Bissiere was in
his sixties when he tackled the form;
Esteve was 43, Hossiasson 49, and Schneider48. Poliakoff, after
painting a great number of nudes between 1930 and 1938,gradually
came to abstraction.
-As noted by Hubert Juin in his writings, Carrey endeavored to
produce works that were essential-works in which no element could
been added or removed. It is with an extreme discipline that he
strove, from one painting to the next, to pursue his pictorial
ideal. He saw art as a daily work, one he had to stick to without
fail. He worked without showing any of his compositions until
1946,when he presented canvasses in which the subject, reduced to
his essence, was no longer identifiable. What remained was a
composition of lines and colours.
The small format paintings he exhibited at Lou Cosyn's gallery a
year later were a blend of colors and interlace.
-But Carrey felt very much alone in his artistic pursuit. The
Belgian public was quite unfavorable to non-figurative art.
Nonetheless a few artists embarked on this adventure and some groups
were formed. July 1945 marked the official birth of "La jeune
peinture Belge". Heralding this
spirit of abstraction.
-However it was in Paris that post-war abstract art took shape,
thanks to the creation of new "salons”. Numerous gallery exhibitions
and the enthusiasm of such critics as Leon Degand and Charles Estienne.The "Salon de Mai"
was created in 1945 and the" Salon des Realites Nouvelles", exclusively dedicated to abstract art, was
organized in 1946 by Fredo Sides.
In 1949.Andre Bloc, Leon Degand, Pillet and Del Marle launched "Art d'Aujourd'hui", the first review entirely devoted to this form of
-Carrey decided to return to the city where he was born: Paris. He
did not aim to do abstract painting per se, but rather to free
himself from the shackles of figurative painting: what would remain
would be painting only-a composition of surfaces and colors. The
artist abandoned outside appearances in order to reach the
In Paris, Carrey worked relentlessly, always on the lookout for
anything that might feed his artistic undertaking. In November of
1948,he signed up for lessons with Andre Lhote, a painter belonging
to the Cubist movement who had founded an academy of Arts on rue
D'Odessa and who played an important role as a pedagogue and a
critic. But Carrey quickly found out that his own artistic path had
brought him farther than the Cubist technique. Lhote himself
recognized that his pupil had no need for him, that he had already
mastered his art.
-Carrey continued his work alone. He would walk on the banks of the
Seine; sketchbook in hand, in order to find new forms and colors.
The harmonies of gray on the old walls of the 'Temple' neighborhood
had a determining effect on his palette.
At home he would draw with India ink, his artistic research was
purely graphic: pure forms combined with pure lines.
- He met Nicolas de Stael at the house of friend Roger Van Gindertael,
a fervent champion of non-figurative art. The two artists were
brought together by a common sensibility and a high esteem for one
another. They discussed their work and their research, plastic and
technical. Carrey and de Stael were both interested in the material
matter, as directly linked to the action of painting.
Carrey worked with more zeal than ever. Like de Stael, he now used a
palette knife to paint his rigorously constructed canvasses. He used
a small scale of colors and cold tones, livened up by a few strokes
of bright colors.
-At the same time he became friends with other artists: Poliakoff,
In his letters to his wife, Carrey evoked some other artists whose
works he liked: Bram Van Velde, Soulages, Vieira da Silva, and Tal
coat, Marta Pan, Hadju, Gilioli.
In 1951,during a trip to Italy, Carrey saw the mosaics of Ravenna.
The interplay of the muted tones with light reflected trough the
molten glass, the fragmentation of the composition into small
squares of equal size would influence his subsequent work. With his
palette knife, he started juxtaposing small patches of red and blue,
more or less square in shape.
The paintings he exhibited in April 1952 at the "Galerie Arnaud"
looked like pointillist paintings seen trough an extremely powerful
-Carrey came back to Brussels regularly to visit his young daughter
and wife, who worked in order to allow him to paint. In 1952,he
founded the group "ART ABSTRAIT" there together with Burssens, Pol
Bury, Plomteux, Saverys, soon joined by Collignon and a pair of
artists who signed by the name Heuror. The group was in no way a
"school”. Even though these artists had gathered to defend,
Abstraction, they had nothing in common: neither age, training, nor
character. It was agreed that each one of them would maintain the
freedom that his individual work demanded.
No single trend was favored at the expense of another (e.g.
geometrical abstraction vs. lyrical abstraction). The goal of these
artists was to rally in order to impose an art form that was
rejected both by the public and a majority of critics. Carrey
participated in all of the group's exhibitions, and these caused a
great deal of curiosity. The group was in contact with artists
abroad, particularly in Paris. Its aim was to involve Belgium in the
vast reformist movement of non-figurative art.
Outside of these exhibitions, the group published an album where
each of its members was represented trough lithographs, linocuts,
woodcuts, or serigraphs. (Example at the office)
Even trough the group would later break up in 1956;it was the
catalyst for a true friendship between Bury and Carrey.
-Carrey multiplied his activities; gallery directors began showing
interest in his work. In 1952,he participated in the "Salon
doctored"( related by Charles Estienne, the big priest of " Tachisme
") with artists who had became to non figuration around 1950,such as
This "salon” was in direct competition with the "Salon de Mai"
dominated by painters of the French tradition, and with the "Salon
des Realites Nouvelles", reserved to cold abstraction. In its first
year, 88 artists exhibited at the "Salon d'Octobre". Among the most
famous today were: Alechinsky, Bissiere, Constant, Doucet, Lapicque,
Messagier & Zao wou-ki.
-Then Carrey met Monsieur Polac, owner of the "Galerie Ariel” who
took an instant liking to his work. At the time Carrey was doing a
great many oils on paper. He worked using his palette knife, his favourite colour
was blackwash he never pushed to its full sensorial intensity. His
blacks were infinitely varied thanks to the solidity of the
pictorial structure as well as the relationships and contrasts
between the various elements in the picture. An exhibition organized
in 1948 at the "Galerie Maeght", titled Le Noir Est Une
(Black is a color) had emphasized the possible use of black as a
colour- one that is sufficiently rich to allow for infinity of
compositions. A white sheet and the color black, applied with the
knife: Carrey’s compositions are each time different and extremely
powerful-a game involving space, rhythm matter and the grain of the
paper. The area painted is bordered by a line drawn in pencil.
Darker lines form the structure, not only framing the color, but
also supporting it. The colour achieves more brightness thanks to
the contrast with black.
-The painter later began spreading thick layers of bright colors to
cover this black,
letting it merge only here and there.
-Until his death, Carrey continued to do both sketches and paintings
at the same time. Drawing was essential for him: it gave him great
From 1953 on, gradually he replaced the bright colors by lighter
ones. Carrey’s compositions became dominated by whites of all
shades, and the artist tackled large format canvasses. The structure
remained present, black lines appeared, dominated by white and gray
areas, very light and bluish, and brightened up by a few touches of
red or orange. His canvasses became light, luminous and joyful. The
year he died, Carrey was on the road to success. He had an art
dealer, Monsieur Polac, who was preparing an exhibition of his
works. The exhibition took place two months after artist's early
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