by René-Julien Praz
Rather like a writer facing the blank page, Pauline Bazignan is also haunted by the prospect of leaving her mark on the immaculate surface of a new canvas. If she does indeed take up arms and enter the struggle, it is only so that the meaningful and intimate relationship she has established with her subject can come to life at the heart of this virgin territory. Her approach aims to tame the space and provide it with the lines that will become emotions and, in an almost indescribable manner, express the artist’s soul. Bazignan battles to leave apparent the traces of her dominion which, as the painting advances, become a motif in their own right amidst the recurrent corolla motif embodied by paint runs and the explosion of expressive effervescence that gradually takes over the entire canvas. The artist’s trademark compulsive all-over approach leads to a dense, but paradoxically airy entanglement; each painting is like a palimpsest with successive flows of paint that create one drip and run after another. For Pauline Bazignan, painting is all about generalising the sources of tension, whilst doing away with any form of hierarchy between the figure and the background by means of an intricate interlaced design that we would be hard pressed to unravel. She breaks free from all constraints, liberating her gestures and letting her fluid colours run wild creating the signature paint runs that are the aesthetic driving force at the heart of every artwork. ‘‘Rather than leaving the painting, the paint runs clash within the frame revealing unexpected forms.’’(1) And so, sometimes deliberately and sometimes by making the most of chance, Pauline Bazignan allows her colours to run and create different poetic visual effects; the object becomes the subject and as such, refutes the classical theories of painting.
For her first solo show at Praz-Delavallade Paris, Pauline Bazignan takes us on a trip through time back to 1432, when the Florentine Renaissance painter Paolo di Dono, better known as Paolo Uccello, recounted the story of The Battle of San Romano. Uccello needed three very large panels to recreate this epic event, a heroic battle between the forces of Siena and Florence, which Bazignan reinterprets in an astonishing transposition. In Uccello’s paintings, Niccolo da Tolentino, the commander of the Florentine troops, confronts the Sienese army. Battle rages and the sound of clashing swords echoes across the plain near the town of San Miniato in the heart of Tuscany. Pouring forth on all sides, foot soldiers bearing pikes and lances confront other infantrymen holding their pavis(2) in front of their bodies to protect themselves from the deadly spikes. A first wave hurls itself at the enemy, which is followed by a counterattack in a chaotic melee of cavalrymen, lances and horses, including the Florentine commander’s white horse that cuts a swathe through the enemy troops as he unseats Bernardino della Ciarda. For her part, Bazignan adopts the role of a chronicler portraying this confusion in a unique pictorial disorder of her own in which each act of painting bears witness to the final triumph of Florence over Siena. In this epic undertaking, the artist’s “narrative paintings” go from light to dark, as if Bazignan were using colour to express the notions of victory and defeat, a transition that makes these dreamlike paintings even more forceful, imbues them with conviction and tinges her series of paintings and the fragile ceramics that make up the exhibition with the sweet smell of freedom. ‘‘Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.’’(3)
(1) Guillaume Cassegrain, La coulure, histoire(s) de la peinture en mouvement (XIe - XXIe siècles), Hazan, 2015.
(2) The pavis is a large square or oval shield designed to protect the entire body and used by foot soldiers in the Middle Ages.
(3) Paul Klee
3 June – 17 July 2021, Praz-Delavallade Paris
by Marie Darrieussecq
For Pauline Bazignan, action is creation and creation is action. Her body moves. She dances. She inhabits the space. I envy artists their bodies, their momentum, their hands. When I write, only my hands move. My shoulders stiffen, I forget to breathe. Pauline seems led by the four elements she works with: air, water, fire and earth. Her
feet touch the ground from a far, she seems both anchored and airborne. Water she lets run over her canvases – it's almost alarming, will everything disappear? Fire – she sets her sculptures on fire, what is she doing? "My paintings appear with water, my sculptures appear through fire." This destroyer is a creator. She calms our
dismay. To contemplate her work is to enter into calmness. A calmness born from some dark, dangerous unknown, some devastating event – but nonetheless calm.
In slippers like those of a dancer, the ballerina paints. She wields her brushes in a choreography of all possibilities – two-handed, by the armful, circling, scissoring, spraying. To paint is normally to accept two dimensions, to be "flat"; but one day, Pauline Bazignan saw paint running down one of her canvases, and this little disaster
of gravity became her force. She made it her stalk. She paints around an initial, set point, and from this straight stalk. At first the two axes were movements under her hands. As Louise Bourgeois said, "there is always a battle to the finish between the artist and their material: sometimes this gives us a visible result, more often there is no result, but we gain an experience." From memory, what we see in Bazignan's work seems the result of multiple experiments and tests. We also sense in her an acceptance of the invisible, and even a desire for the invisible, paradoxically, to bring things out.
Flowers come to mind but not only these... Stars, meteorites... something that has left a trace after a fleeting bloom...burst...fleeting yet always there, in another form... in the whiteness and lightness... the lightness of memory... The complete opposite of an obligation, as light things are no less important, or serious, as this is firstly a question of style... Painter of gravity in all senses of the word, Pauline Bazignan never imposes any lesson on us. She paints de mémoire –"from memory" – in the sense that she works her memory of movements and forms: she works the memory of the material itself. This is not an archival or automatic-recording type of memory; it's the human, fallible memory of lived experience, here the lived experience of creation. As we understand in the expression "from memory": with randomness, possible errors, play and nuance. The eye watches us, but without menace. The meteor comes down but destroys nothing; it brings life, as we know in the sciences: water comes from meteorites, from their raining down on Earth.
Whirling planet... Life... cycles... flow... tears and blood... tears of joy and blood of birth... accidents... anchorage in the depths... Sculptures of liquid earth, inside orange peels... Bazignan burns the peel; then the sphere – rough, grooved, grainy – appears in negative: tiny capsules of time are these fruits both reduced to ash and recreated, blurry yet solid... From memory, it's also Pompeii: plaster has revealed the inside and thus the silhouette of victims,
their gestures, their individual traits... Like from an other side of the gaze, that would show what has been lost. "Only what we have lost is ours," wrote a blind Borges, remembering colours.
Pauline Bazignan seems to paint what would remain of a painting... Destruction by water... the trace of an action... a memory... What we see could be a painting of memory, like a memory of water... where the trace of what happened first would appear last... In this sense Bazignan is heir to a long tradition. Turner's contemporaries exclaimed their astonishment when they saw the master painter soak his canvases before starting to paint, then to soak them again after... or coat them in a varnish of his own recipe, until the lines were liquified and the blurs even blurrier... A target for mockery, Turner was the pioneer of those artists from whom Bazignan descends: those for whom it is not enough to paint, but who act when painting, great splatterers like Pollock, great canvas-rubbers such as Klein. "My paintings are only the ashes of my art," declared Yves Klein in 1959. Marguerite Duras, similarly, described her novella The Malady of Death as, "what would remain after a book". Pauline Bazignan, in this tradition of the painting that remains after the painting has gone, nevertheless injects life in the risks of this desert. Terrestrial force, moisture, weight, fire, rain, flow, all become one in her paintings and sculptures. While the traces of these devastating elements linger, Bazignan's work, curiously, remains ever giving, ever full. Its white is generous, round and sensual. Its flowers glow. Its eyes open. Its fragile-looking stalks nonetheless bring forth their sap in these paintings that first appear emptied. There seems to be a very contemporary gesture here, or even a feminine one, if we accept femininity in men and masculinity in women. Bazignan's work harbours the force of an intimate mythology, one that dispenses with words and passes through her whole body, in a dance with the elements.
Semaine 24.19 n°432, Friday 14.06.2019
PAULINE BAZIGNAN / L'ATELIER A.
by Marianne Derrien
Between erasure and appearance, simple and minimal gestures repeat themselves on paper or in clay. As fragile as they are strong, flowers that resemble celestial worlds appear and are the trace of the cycles of life and death.
This dialogue with natural elements, whether it be water for painting or fire for sculpture, is an ode to transformation and mutations.
by Laurent Le Bon
'lntérieur. Hespérides' is the fruit of a long process of research during which Pauline Bazignan sought to make the invisible, the hidden faces of things, perceptible. After peeling an orange, the artist carefully reconstructed its organic envelope and filled it with liquid clay to reveal its emptiness and asperities. The peel burns, the clay coalesces, and from this revelatory fire a series of ceramics is born. Moulds fashioned from hollowed-out citrus fruits become emergent interiors, playing on the relationship between perceptible and imperceptible, appearance and essence.
Following her 'fleurs-lignes' [flowers-lines], these interiors-interiors, male and female alike, gangue boasting precious columellae, point to a new sculptural direction in this very demanding artist's work. 'Intérieur' seems to result from some spontaneous happening during the process of impression.
by Augustin Besnier
In art, repetition can follow two different directions. The first is extensive, it aims at proliferation while confining to a model. The second is intensive, requires introspection and the realm of rituals. Of these two paths, Pauline Bazignan has chosen the second. She did not become interested in the flower by chance: after a few years in art school, the feeling of doing “nothing of any significance” began to take hold of her, so she decided to narrow her focus to something more elementary, therefore essential, just as the ascetic would use discipline to perfect their thought process.
There would be much to say about the impression of doing nothing of any significance in art. In this case, it led the artist to go from wild displays of colour to a series of monochrome disks: returning to the essence of things, stars or atoms, that could be anything but insignificant.
One might say the flowers we see before us sprouted from this seed bed. In truth, they had made appearances in previous works but mostly illustrated gravity by dropping their seeds. The flowers that the artist was to paint would now be delivered from the narrative load born by the motif, so that the paint itself might bloom.
Unsurprisingly, it was the stem that was difficult to work: it is one of those issues that painters have had to reflect on with disconcerting gravitas and often caused them to revolutionise their art. From that point of view, the flower to Pauline Bazignan is Cezanne’s apple.
After several attempts – from stencilling to tacking real stems to the canvas –, it was an accidental drip that triggered her discovery. No paintbrush or technique, just a drop of paint following its own path: nature prevails and if gravity is complied with, it is the painter now and no longer the subject.
The motif then becomes the conductor, painting exchanges it purpose – such as managing to represent some type of flower in a vase – for a, generally unexplainable, reason. As others would climb mountains just “because they are there”, it was essential to scale this particular dizzying vertical axis, even if it required a thousand attempts before understanding why.
No artist driven by such a reason to paint could become repetitive. The drop of paint will continue to fall to the ground ‘til the end of times, as will the apple – Newton’s apple in this case. Besides, imagine Pauline Bazignan holding an unpeeled orange in her hand pondering on the mystery of its invisible flesh. Though no law of physics came to her, it inspired an endless series of empty skin mouldings as if it was a necessity to penetrate any secret that might arise. Creating a void for something to blossom would therefore be as fruitful for art as in meditation, indeed Pauline Bazignan’s works offer a reason for contemplation that no models could ever comprehend.
Catalogue Salon de Montrouge 2014