By Linus Rees

Michel Maly 'Sur le fauteil un chat noir' 120cm x 120cm. Oil on Canvas
Michel Maly 'Sur le fauteil un chat noir' 120cm x 120cm. Oil on Canvas

Michel Maly’s solo exhibition at the Woolf Gallery, Charlotte Street, mostly showcases a study of French cafe life with the occasional excursion to Venice and New York. Gallery owner Malcolm Woolff is a personal collector of Maly’s works he gives me a description the artist’s work.

“Maly has been exhibiting for more than 50 years,” says Malcolm. “The characters in Michel Maly’s paintings glow. His work is post-impressionist and can be summed up by the artists own words: ‘The drawing for me is the food of the canvas which will give the canvas a truth. That is why, while I am painting in nature, I don’t only look at it, but I also breathe it and listen to it, in order to become impregnated with it’.”

I’m not exactly sure where post-impressionism sits with impressionism, so I ask Malcolm to try to clarify for me what it’s all about.

Malcolm explains that when the camera started to capture images in the middle of the nineteenth century artists began to re-assert themselves in a way that wasn’t competing with the camera but in a way that interpreted scenes and made “impressions” of them. “The camera could take complete images in real time. So painters started to look at new ways at looking at something. Instead they tried to portray the actual character of their subjects,” says Malcolm.

Post-impressionism is what came after this from the early twentieth century. It was the artist and critic Roger Fry who coined the phrase post-impressionism. Fry, a member of the Bloomsbury Group, had a studio on Fitzroy Square. These post-impressionist artists wanted to push the boundaries of impressionism. “Michel Maly,” says Malcolm Woolf, “continues this post-impressionist tradition with his work.”

Michel Maly solo exhibition is at the Woolff Gallery, 89 Charlotte St, London, W1T 4PU until 16 October 2010