Christine Célarier, Cécile Perra, Isabelle Racine et Laura Thiong-Toye / Sacred profane

10th January - 22nd February 2015

Since their meeting at HEAD in Geneva, Isabelle Racine and Laura Thiong-Toye have embarked on a sprawling four-handed work covering a wide range of subjects drawn from popular, religious and advertising imagery.  They work with acrylic on plywood in small, medium and large formats.  The result is a limitless and very varied body of work in which the decoration and the frame are as important as the subjects.  The brilliant colours add a note of kitsch although this unusual art manages to maintain a balance.  The way in which the work is presented continues the tone of mild derision with wall paintings on shelves, images placed in no apparent order on top of each other, or in boxes where visitors are invited to sort through them as they might in a flea market. The accumulation of objects raises questions about the status of an artwork and demystifies the subjects, while reminding us of the ex-votos which haphazardly cover the walls of some holy places with no attempt at a harmonious presentation.  An echo of such popular displays is conjured up by the solid flamboyant colours as well as in the iconography which casually mixes the sacred and the profane.  The originality of the work also lies in the artists’ close collaboration through which their imaginations fuse to produce an œuvre which is constantly renewed.

A theme running through Christine Célarier’s work is the transformation of sacred images and objects.  From figures of saints painted by Renaissance artists to chalices and reliquaries, she recreates a personal and intimate universe embodied in the human condition.  The suffering body, ecstasy, the fluidity of folds in a garment are extracted, reworked and transcribed in compositions which keep only the essence and indissoluble beauty of the originals.  When the artist distorts a ritual object, she does not erase its primary function which is to make visible through metaphor that which is invisible.  Instead of portraying a religious spirituality she emphasises profound human experiences such as suffering, migration, illness, making them exquisitve through the unmistakeable figure which contains them.  The works are strangely familiar.  We recognise silhouettes or the materials but their dissonant reconstruction transforms them into objects which are no longer part of a cult but are universal. 

Cecil Perra’s artistic universe, although very varied, employs a consistent technique of collage and needlework.  Drawings or objects all share this common signature which unites them in an immense family of unlikely characters.  Emerging from an imagination which must be brimming with memories, popular imagery, stories, Cecil Perra’s work sometimes veers towards illustration, family photo, a ritual object.  Even if we cannot really speak of the sacred, there is nevertheless a more fragile and thoughtful side which makes the objects precious and unique like old relics which have been preserved with care.  As she says herself, she is now trying to unlearn what she has learned during years of study of the fine arts, and is also in contact with mentally handicapped artists who she has followed for several years.  Her search for the essence of the artistic act has liberated her movements and made them more spontaneous thus opening doors to wider possibilities./ N. Kunz

 

 

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