To round off my program of exhibitions at Noisy-le-Sec, I have invited Emmanuelle Castellan to show a new group of paintings, all dating from 2012, which set up interplays of perspective within the gallery space and dialogue with her screen-paintings executed directly on the walls and columns at La Galerie.
Emmanuelle Castellan finds her inspiration in a range of readymade images – postcards, magazines, old photographs, illustrations from the Internet – mainly rooted in popular culture. Drawing all or part of her subject from a specific visual – which remains a closely kept secret – she retains only a trace of it on the canvas, in the form of a pared-down abstraction. This is no mere exercise in reduction, however, for the subject resurfaces in a balance between disappearance and excess. In its introduction, erasure and renewal of lines, areas of colour and textures, each picture repeats a single image – but one we shall never identify, so far removed from reality does it remain despite those countless repetitions. Out of this succession of undisclosed retouchings the subject, or rather what is left of it, finally emerges like a spectre.
Behind the softness of its pastel tones and evanescent sfumati, behind the childlike melody of a ballad intended as a ongoing strand for the exhibition, Emmanuelle Castellan’s painting is in fact shot through with ghost stories: through the motifs of playing cards, magic tricks and masks, apparitions literally haunt her work; and when we look into the oeuvre’s seemingly trivial sources, we find recurring death-related images extending from antiquity – Egyptian mummies, recumbent tomb figures, Roman graves – to the horror film: a character from a Dario Argento movie, for example, and a scene from Evil Dead.
Then there are the actual painted surfaces, some of them bearing threatening traces of wild animals – griffes (claws), with its backdrop of an archaeology dig – or of birds tearing the canvas in as I was going along. Others, perforated or scored with inscriptions, seem to suggest animistic or shamanistic rituals in which the worlds of the living and the dead converge. One instance is figure anthracite (anthracite figure ), a portrait of a woman whose hair merges with animal fur, while to the right are signs resembling primitive letters etched into wood. Even more disturbing is communauté perdue (lost community), a ghostly portrait of North American Indians, with holes punched in the canvas and a ribbon hanging down to the floor like a link to the subterranean world. In addition to its anthropological concern with antiquity, ancient rites and “primitive” civilisations, Emmanuelle Castellan’s work unambiguously sets forth its own ways of unearthing buried history.
My thanks to Martine Michard, who introduced me to the work of Emmanuelle Castellan.
And to the La Galerie team for their work on the programme during this transitional period.
And welcome to Émilie Renard, the new La Galerie director!
Translated by John Tittensor
around the exhibition
from 6 p.m to 9 p.m
“Before the night, an artistic walk”.
Meeting with Lamarche & Ovize, artists in residence, in their studio.
As part of Nuit Blanche 2012.
Performance danced by Dominique Brun, choreographer.
In parternship with Théâtre des Bergeries in Noisy-le-Sec.
from 5 p.m to 6 p.m
“Visit with two voices” with Emmanuelle Castellan and J. Emil Sennewald, art critic.
from 2 p.m to 7 p.m
Parcours Est #11, Paris east exhibition trail on a free shuttle
“More or less witch 3/3” (Maison Populaire, Montreuil), Rachel Labastie and Nicolas Delprat (Les Salaisons, Romainville),
“Visit with two voices” with Emmanuelle Castellan and Jens Emil Sennewald,La Galerie (Noisy-le-Sec).