Romance for one work by Agnès Brézéphin.
‘I am as obscure as feelings’.
The works we have here are untitled. They just lay there as islets shaping an archipelago illustrating the inner trip that everyone will follow according to their own current. As in the river bed they limit your shore opening up to different shapes and material upstream or downstream to your thoughts or subordinations. Sometimes they will come to you against the current, more like the moving water on the surface, in one initiating wandering from life to death and the possible rebirths.
My itinerary begins attracted by the sight of a man in the hieratic stature of a respectable ‘bourgeois’ of whom we can only see the hollow eyes, the rest of his face being drowned into a red mass. Coming closer, I realize that his features are blurred behind a mass of red paint and pieces of thread assembled in triangles or in circles in dense and hacked lines; this well-adjusted disorder suggesting a haunted notable character, kept prisoner in his own unconsciousness, masked by his own terrifying madness. Three medals, like the stars of hope, rotate around him as if to guide what is left of his probity. No legion, no decorations glorify the lapels of his jacket, the silver medals do not decorate them, for the time being they do not belong to him; they just glorify the bloodshed. The background of the photo has been repainted in a yellow brown colour, evoking clay. Here and there some ants are gathering or escaping, a symbol of what is swarming under the earth and cannot be seen, a trip into the unconscious. This man is to be pitied and we feel empathy, no one would want his place, he is just watching what he has lost and his apparent freedom is just social. ‘Hope shines like a stone in a hole’ says the poet, and we also know that the threads can be undone and in a suture they help with the healing.
In her creations the artist will use photography quite often, family portraits, in solo or in couple, as a base on which she will regularly interfere adding colour with paint, sewing, scratching and hacking with ink, shaping thus shadows or leaves or bars. This technique of masking the man’s face will be repeated until totally erased on two pictures that fascinated me; one in which a pinkish colour dominates with a face swallowed by a paper rose, a flower symbolizing eternal passion, and for the other the picture of a couple where the groom’s head is missing and replaced by some vegetal form that changes him into a monster man, eyeless, mouthless but with multiple ears. A flower bunch in a red purplish colour, looking innocent as such but which takes in this montage the phantasmagoric aspect of a nightmare.
Like a real fibulanophile, the artist includes quite a number of buttons in her constructions made of layers and accumulations. These buttons always appear in their original beauty made of motives, images, in nacre or material. No sewing or no thread will appear on their surfaces; they are just set there or glued. We might see the button just like a brooch, or a hyphen just hanging on a thread: but this was not what the artist wanted. They appear like some punctuation in the faces, faces being constructed in which worries have not set in yet. Objects coming from far away, loaded with souvenirs and living, fashioned with artistic intentions, becoming protectors floating into space, like our guardian angels. They herald the gear that we are to wear later, the piece of clothing that dresses us with light.
In the same way, we will see farther one assemblage made for a glass bell. This is made from the rococo frame of a mirror whose reflecting surface has disappeared, and a cascade of buttons covers it to create a visual opacity where the green blue colour predominates, like a submarine landscape sheltering coral of an unknown species. Thread coils, dark blue and purple are added aggregated to the rest. On each side of the frame two smaller mirrors in the same two colours complete the assemblage. On the base is a rag doll whose face has been taken from the photograph of a young child. On her fragile body a disproportioned blood red flower, as large as the cute face of the girl, has been sewn. The protective bell is included in the work, although it appears broken with marks of cuts, it is set on the side to confirm that here any narcissistic reflection is useless and that in the words of the Little Prince we could say again: ‘One sees only with their heart’.
Unless the child sitting on the shore made of gold and coils, without reflection projects on a trivial surface her own enchantment of a constellation of stars made of buttons; this the reversed version of the interior towards the exterior, and light emanates from nowhere except from poetry.
The artist will bring other creations presented under glass bells to interfere, either open or closed, these are her love reliquaries. See this creation where a woman with a very sweet face is kept in a protected world, translucent and enchanting. Our fairy appears suddenly from some imagined garden where flowers have not bloomed and whose shape evokes a chrysalis, and there some light butterflies with delicate colours come floating to celebrate the kiss of a bird. I sense some resurgence from Apollinaire’s verses: ‘And, I sang this romance not knowing that if my love similar with the beautiful phoenix dies on the evening, it lives its rebirth in the morning.’
On one part of a blue wall appear twenty-two figures as light as a breath. We can’t say if they soar or if, on the contrary they will dare come down; their disposition creates a perpetual movement. The threads that hang on appear like antennae or rootlets; they look out of time, floating and one cannot catch them. They are the seamstresses and the magicians that will make the work exist. They will save the child and later the button will become the mark of the artist.
Further down, on the side, on a shelf are some vanities either painted or scribbled in black, seven of them symbolically, and there we go again.
This exhibition was dedicated to Suzanne Césaire, who in the ninety-forties wrote a long text in which she opposes the striking beauty of an island with the tragedies lived there. We, children of the Americas have for a long time endured the burden of an untold history. Unfortunately individuals also endure more personal or family dramatic histories; the glorious artists use these to create. For the well-being of every one of us they turn us into ‘the delicate inhabitants of the forests that we are.’
Agnès Brézéphin has managed to take over in her turn, without pathos and with magnificent talent, the great camouflage from which she has created art.
Jean-Luc de Laguarigue
Martinique, March 13th 2016
Traduction Suzanne Lampla