Here’s the article + the state of painting in France.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

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Yes, here it is. All five pages. During the past week I posted images of the article onto my facebook and instagram pages. There were messages from frustrated French readers because the text was illegible, so now the article can be read below via the PDF link. Even if French is not your forte I am sure you will still enjoy the images.

Click here to see the full article as a PDF.

I was considering attempting to translate it into English, but it’s such a lengthy piece and includes French literary references, so I have decided that is is beyond me. I am a painter not a translator, so please accept my apologies.

The journalist who interviewed me told me that the piece she wrote is quite a bit longer piece than her normal articles, I guess because there was so much information that I provided. Maybe I just talked a lot. My years of practice writing artist statements paid off and it seemed to roll off the tongue once I got going, even in French.

The title of the article – Le Grand Manège de la Femme de Ménage – is a play on words: manège (a merry-go-round/treadmill/little trick) and ménage (domestic tasks). It roughly means the merry-go-round/treadmill/trick of the cleaning lady. However femme de ménage (literally woman of cleaning) has a more dignified and respectful tone than the English translation. I’m not sure why, but it does.

The article by Anne Devailly (who also writes for well known newspapers such as Le Monde) discusses the very personal connection between myself and my subject matter – an anxious childhood, house proud Estonian mother, and growing up in a migrant family keen to fit into a new culture.  Cleaning, make-up and self adornment are not just about achieving bright and shiny surfaces. They are a source of self-interrogation and disquiet. Are the women in my paintings cleaning or polluting? The deliberate use of symbolism is mentioned, and my relationship with historical painting, mythology, and fashion images, as well as empowering my characters through the force of scale.

I discuss my processes, my year at Chelsea College in London, and the subsequent move to Montpellier. The author correctly observes that my paintings are at the opposite end of the spectrum from the institutionally sanctioned forms of contemporary art in France today.

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I see my place as an artist in France as being rather displaced. I don’t fit, which is what Anne Devailly was moved by (happily in a positive way) when she visited my studio. As she said, my work is unlike anything else here. The art school/institutional scene in France is still very conceptually based, ‘new media’ focused, and the carefully crafted object is not ‘a la mode‘. Tonal realism is almost unheard of in contemporary art circles.

Painting in France seems to have largely lost its pedals. Yes, there are plenty of French painters, but fewer good ones. Many of those that haven’t abandoned ship (turning to new media) are trying too hard to be contemporary in a self conscious way, imitating other successful painters mostly from abroad. It’s not convincing or authentic.

The most powerful force in French painting today (figurative or non-figurative) is the street art movement. It is UBER hip, hugely popular and also sanctioned and financed by local authorities. Sure, most of it is not hugely original but there are bright exceptions, and at least it’s mostly uplifting and/or thought provoking. Numerous galleries specialising in urban art have popped up recently in Montpellier and savvy ‘graffitti’ artists are now applying their designs onto stretched canvases with a young audience ready to lap it up.

But this is a whole new topic that I will discuss in a future post.

PS Remember my upcoming new website ? Well it has turned into a super-marathon, and has been driving me crazy – I never aspired to be an expert in WordPress, ecommerce, making videos, and so on. I am attempting to learn too many new skills at once. No, I’m not even doing the coding myself and  have professional developers employed, but it is still a massive task just providing the required content. I expect it to take at least another month but no rash promises. You will see it when it arrives.

 

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