Marie-Noëlle Leppens, Charlotte Nordin, Delphine Sandoz, Céline Salamin / Memory of the living
13th September - 25th October 2015
Spare of form, Marie-Noëlle Leppens’ sculptures retrace the course of history to primordial tools and architectural archetypes. Drawing on texts about ancient implements, she models them in clay discarding all the narrative detail found in the text. She keeps only the forms which make them recognisable while transcending the functional aspect to produce an artistic concept. The titles given to the objects are taken from Celtic and ancient myths which emphasises their legendary and symbolic dimensions. The design of the surfaces and volumes includes an imperceptible imbalance which gives the pieces a movement opposed to the power of their mass. The way in which the surfaces are treated introduces another ambiguity, that of a mysterious fusion between stone, earth and metal. Buildings are approached with the same technique of eliminating ornamentation so that only the fundamental lines needed to suggest the idea of a house remain. Gable roofs, doors and sometimes openings are transformed into graphic elements which give a rhythm to the surfaces and the volumes. The result of much thought, the sculptures of Marie-Noëlle Leppens encapsulate and protect stories of life, work and collective memory.
First colour, then form. The form, perhaps a container or a vase, has been repeated since Delphine Sandoz started her artistic career. Large blocks of vibrant colour dominated by an intense sky blue, the rosy hue of bubble-gum, crimson and black are organised on the canvas to create a painting. Buried under these flamboyant layers we can see pieces of fabric or old paper that the artist uses to add thickness and texture to the painting. Through her gestures the artist explores the link between colour and strong emotions without being aggressive because violence, powerful and persistent, is contained as a vital energy in the paintings. In a sustained dialogue, form and colour escape from abstraction and offer us a schematic, sensual and emotional dimension contained in the square canvas. While the vase has been a constant in the work of Delphine Sandoz from the beginning, the human figure appeared for a while but is now gradually fading like a memory. Memory plays a key role in this art and so does life experience portrayed through dense vivid colours but also through simple, enigmatic and disturbing forms. We have instant contact with the work through the artist’s mastery of colours aided by the elimination of irrelevant detail, and through the use of a pure elemental pictorial language.
Céline Salamin loves detail. Those of the body and of our everyday surroundings, those which we don’t notice. Navels, ears and, in this exhibition, hands fascinate her by their complexity and unique forms, repeated but never the same. By exploring all aspects of a single subject, the artist is reaching for the universal. In getting to this stage, she accumulates details infinitely which, presented in a series, shows both the originality of forms and their unsettling source, the core of being human. The hands Céline Salamin paints are copied from Renaissance, Baroque or Classical paintings, often by famous artists, but they are taken out of context and shown alone against a light background. She asks her models to pose exactly as in the original work and paints only the hands and arms. She thus invites the visitor to concentrate on this vital instrument of gesture which expresses emotions and tacitly gives meaning to the composition. With a realism which does not, however, overshadow the art, the painter offers homage to tradition while presenting a contemporary vision. By emphasising universal gestures which she personalises, the artist recalls the original work and gives it another life. Viewed side by side, these paintings become fragments of a collective memory. The artist has also created a series of small paintings of flowers and vegetables, taken from nature, on original supports such as paper plates and wallpaper. Germinated potatoes, turgescent tulips, banana skins or egg shells go beyond still life conventions in order to dramatise the familiar which becomes precious and fragile, remarkable. These are the small fragments of her day which she offers in small formats in order to share her vision which goes beyond the appearance of things.
Profoundly linked to plants, Charlotte Nordin’s ceramic pieces are full of mystery, even magic. She presented the sound installations “Conversations” and “Les glands de Vénus” in this gallery in 2008 and 2010 respectively. She is returning with an interactive work called “Living Landscape” which will expand as the exhibition progresses thanks to contributions from visitors. Comparable to an unstable and changing landscape, the work is expected to grow like a living organism. Nature is the guiding theme throughout the work of this artist whose Swedish origins have nurtured her taste for landscapes and forests which play an important role in Scandinavian myths and legends. In all her ceramic work, we find forms which remind us of the universe of plants: tree trunks, cocoons, sea beds. Even though the idea of an interactive work is new to Charlotte Nordin, it is not entirely unexpected given that her artistic approach plays with the surprises which clay can bring, when it is fired for example. Here it is the visitors who provide the uncontrolled element, because they will model the clay with the artist and make the sculpture grow as they wish. The medium is essential in ensuring a link with reality according to Charlotte Nordin, and so is reconnection with an almost spiritual earth energy, in contrast with the fashion for the virtual. A performance around the installation will allow the artist to launch the interactive process of the work by explaining, through a musician, the profound link between the creative act and the medium./ N. Kunz