Hoda Kashiha, Nelly Monnier & Eric Tabuchi, Alan Fertil, Caroline Thiery
Four exhibitions opening at CAC Passerelle for the spring season ?
I’m Here, I’m not Here
In her development of pop painting, ranging from uninhibited Cubism to a cartoonish streak, Hoda Kashiha at first sight presents a joyous selection of works yet they sometimes prove to be dark, strange and full of figurative meaning. She often uses humour to create an intimate connection with the visitor; this mechanism also allows her to tackle serious and sensitive subjects related to the social context and political climate of her home country. Her paintings nevertheless deal with major contemporary subjects found everywhere such as gender issues and the place of women in society. She recently declared in Maake Magazine that “my paintings do not conform to gender stereotypes. The significance of masculine and feminine, as well as their roles and behaviours, are a fluid concept that is constantly changing among the characters in my paintings.” For Hoda Kashiha, her protagonists are activists without saying a word, they present their differences openly and remain resolutely optimistic.
Her works are often constructed like types of collages. Various layers overlap and cut-out shapes appear while images are modified by drawing and by the computer. This way of fragmenting motifs results in an exuberant dynamism and vitality, as if the canvases were trying to grab hold of us and shake us, like the first painting in the exhibition bearing the inscription “AAAaaa”, such a noisy visual argument! The exhibition is organised chronologically and structured around two major series I’m here, I’m not here and In appreciation of Blinking. The words “I’m here, I’m not here” are taken from a set of recent works. Hoda Kashiha repeats the same motif of a woman who is joyous to the point of exhaustion. In every painting, the body is covered by a red mark, a black shape or is misshapen. This set of works shows us how we can be erased, executed or censored by a external power and by death. It also questions our ability to believe in the existence of anything or anyone: if we cannot see it, then that ‘thing’ does not exist. Self-supporting paintings, In appreciation of Blinking, arranged in the centre of the exhibition space, work in a similar way. For this installation of 8 canvases, Hoda Kashiha observes the inevitable phenomenon of the blinking of eyes. Alternating between blackness and a world of colour, she captures paradoxical moments and feelings of our everyday experience: love and death, jealousy and fulfilment, torture and happiness. A look, a pair of eyes, a confrontation between subject and spectator, these are omnipresent in her works, as if the works were scrutinising and sounding out the visitors, or as if we were always spied upon in the contemporary world. Are we not always followed by our telephones, and recorded by the GAFA Big Four – the giants of the Internet? The digital world and social networks also provide great inspiration for the artist: pixelated images as in retro-gaming rub shoulders with emoticon shapes – little stylised graphic representations that symbolise an emotion. With her abundance of shapes and colours, Hoda Kashiha has produced an explosive mix of genres in which Picasso wanders into the videogame Minecraft and norms of the past are joyously shattered.
NELLY MONNIER & ERIC TABUCHI
L’invention d’une histoire vraie (2)
The exhibition entitled ‘L’invention d’une histoire vraie (2) (Inventing a true story)’ follows the wanderings of Nelly Monnier (1988, France) and Eric Tabuchi (1959, France) through the French countryside. Following their recent exhibition at the GwinZegal art centre in Guingamp, this pair of artists presents part of their Atlas des Régions Naturelles (ARN) (Atlas of the Natural Regions) and a series of sculptural and pictorial works resulting from it. It all began with an idea that was both mad and extremely time-consuming: to photograph and document the vernacular architecture in all the natural regions of France – quite a vague notion – from French Flanders to the Outre Forêt area of Alsace, from the Freto region of Corsica to Béarn in the Pyrenees or Léon in Finistère. It was a huge undertaking, halfway between a quest straight out of a heroic fantasy novel and an absurd and comic adventure à la Monty Python. Monnier and Tabuchi bring back very varied photos from their travels, their primary concern being to document the built environment, but by extension to analyse the landscapes and understand the incidence of humans on where they live. The pair photograph astonishing landscapes, strange architecture, bizarre situations, joyful places and places fallen into disuse. It is a multi-faceted portrait of France, sometimes touching, sometimes absurd, never judgmental, which they produce in the course of their expedition. Back in their workshop, they sort their photographs by geographical location or by theme. The approach is reminiscent of that of Bernd and Hilla Becher, a pair of German photographers known for their frontal shots of industrial architecture, and of that of ‘La France’ by Raymond Depardon who documented France as it modernised itself, or the work of Walker Evans who made his name portraying the United States of the Great Depression from 1929 to the Second World War. Friends from the GwinZegal art centre in fact wrote that “in contrast to the speed of our age, Nelly Monnier and Eric Tabuchi work in praise of slowness and small country roads. They drive around slowly in a small car, discreetly combing the landscape, punctuating this imaginary atlas with countless stops.” There is no violence apparent in the works of Monnier and Tabuchi, but it can sometimes be detected underlying the image. The recent history of rural exodus and relocation is portrayed just as much as tales belonging to each region. The territories of France are shown in their full architectural plurality: slate denotes the roofs of Brittany whereas the ‘tuyés’ (large chimneys for smoking food) stand out in the landscape of Haut-Doubs, for example. The Passerelle exhibition reflects its own territory by being mainly comprised of images of Léon and Trégor, with pictures of menhirs, market gardens and landmarks that act as navigational aids for shipping, sometimes ‘enhanced’ by inscriptions from the now traditional ‘ACAB’ to the local ‘BZH Libre’ (Free Brittany). A series of paintings and collages introduces a certain strangeness to the more documentary corpus of the photographs, by seeking to extract the essence and soul of the places visited by the two artists. These paintings are in a way symbolic of their own approach: what they are aiming for is not an analysis of the architecture of France but a pointless and poetic quest for an intangible Holy Grail – a fictional history of our regions.
The Smoken Ridge
The exhibition ‘The Smoken Ridge’ is a chance to look again at the graphic work of Alan Fertil (1982, Quimper – 2015, Brussels). A graduate of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (National School of Fine Arts) in Paris, he spent his childhood and student days in Brittany, the United States and England. At the end of his course, he settled in Berlin then in Brussels in 2009 where he co-founded the collective known as ‘The Ister’, an association bringing together artists, exhibition curators and people working in art, with the aim of promoting young creativity. At that time Alan Fertil was known for his joint work with Damien Teixidor, focussed on street furniture, skateboard culture and D-I-Y. The pair exhibited in France at MAMO – Centre d’Art de la Cité Radieuse in Marseille, the 40mcube art centre in Rennes and in Brussels at MAAC, Maison d’Art Actuel des Chartreux. At the same time Alan Fertil was developing drawing which has never really been exhibited and is largely unknown. This part of his work was the subject of a book entitled ‘Alan Fertil, Drawings, Sketches and Notes’, recently published by Zéro2 with the support of the Antoine de Galbert Foundation, 40mcube and Passerelle. Alan Fertil’s constant travelling between English- and French-speaking countries and his taste for literature permeate his works in which he includes many texts and words, including poetry, slogans and reflections. His works are in turn methodical and sketchy, showing the construction of the space surrounding us as well as an evolving chaos. His drawings are marked by a use of charcoal and graphite, giving them a dark and obscure depth. We are present at the construction of a unique universe, the creation of a world conceived in the mind of the artist. The last series by Alan Fertil is entitled ‘Ether Triumph’, evoking both the primordial Greek divinity ‘Aether’ and the term ‘ether’ from preEinstein physics (before 1905). The definition of ether seems in harmony with the feelings and settings of the artist’s drawings. In astronomy, it meant the fine fluid that was supposed to fill the space beyond the earth’s atmosphere, whereas in physics, ether was a hypothetical milieu that was extremely tenuous and elastic, found universally in both the void and in matter. Writing about this series, Bitsy Knox says that “matter vibrates enthusiastically, it circulates and remains contained, at both celestial and molecular scales. Great theories are freely deployed; this is science under the influence of intuition.”
The exhibition title, ‘The Smoken Ridge’, is taken from a work by the artist. It evokes his reflections inspired by science just as much as an interest in the organic and in landscape. Although many of his works demonstrate total abstraction, being inspired by space and astronomy, some reveal more prosaic attachments, more rooted in ‘reality’, using the vocabulary of botany and anatomy. So, tongues are alongside hands inspired by leaves, and constructions recall the famous Atomium in Brussels.
Whatever remains from the ghosts
For almost three months Caroline Thiery (1997, France) took part in the ‘Workshop residency’ programme run by Document d’Artistes Bretagne and Passerelle at the art centre. The result of this is the exhibition ‘Whatever remains from the ghosts’ which includes works produced on site during the residency. Caroline Thiery’s ghosts are common and known to us all. They manufacture the past: vague feelings, memories of conversations, songs that keep playing endlessly in our heads, fleeting smiles on public transport and many other traces of everyday life. Generously sharing her experiences, Caroline Thiery plots a map of our social relationships, of love and friendship, family and culture. She looks in particular at our search for love and affection, subject to tension from the ambivalent desire for independence. She examines the new ways of meeting people such as the dating apps that have revolutionised the way we ‘consume’ relationships. The use of digital communication and the Internet, which does away with any notion of waiting or distance, has transformed dating behaviour both for better and for worse: the sending of dick pics (photos of penises) to strangers, the use of pick-up lines, little phrases intended to be romantic but in fact often clumsy or even offensive, and other new phenomena. Thanks to the digital world, seeking a relationship or a sexual partner has never been so easy for someone eager for passion, hidden behind his or her phone, lying under the duvet or scrolling while sitting on the toilet. The exhibition title also evokes ‘ghosting’, a very widespread practice since the appearance of dating sites, involving the ending of a relationship with no warning, by breaking off all forms of communication.
In addition to matters of the heart, Caroline Thiery questions our relationship with childhood and adolescence, creating various talismans and totemic objects which forge a possible past, like the ‘ghostly tartans’ with dog or swan motifs or a tropical landscape, decorated with texts. Where the adult world looks down on certain adolescent interests such as ‘fanfiction’ (writing stories based on works of fiction, films, games or series) or their attraction to pop music sometimes seen as kitsch, Caroline Thiery decides to take these practices and elevate them as symbols. She therefore produces a sculpture in honour of the singer Priscilla who found fame at the age of 12. Highlighting this French pop star means rehabilitating this devalued culture from an age of transition we have all lived through and which has made us what we are.
Text holds an essential place in the exhibition both because of narratives written by the artist, available to read in the rooms, and by the multiplication of phrases and words at the very heart of the works. The culture of the Internet meme (an element or phenomenon taken up and disseminated to a mass audience by the Internet, often an image with text added) is a vast source of inspiration. Memes are punchlines, slogans in a very particular context which sometimes require highly specialised knowledge of codes of comprehension. In the work of Caroline Thiery, they take on original forms, they are funny, intimate, often universal. The anecdotes and stories, visual and written, used by the artist, interweave across each other eliciting no replies; it is up to the visitor to create their own history.
Spring Exhibition at CAC Passerelle
Hoda Kashiha, Nelly Monnier & Eric Tabuchi, Alan Fertil, Caroline Thiery
CAC Passerelle, Brest
February 18 – May 14 2022
HODA KASHIHA – I’m Here, I’m not Here
Hoda Kashiha, vue de l’exposition I’m Here, I’m not Here, 2022 – Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest
Courtesy de l’artiste, de la Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris-Bruxelles) et de Dastan Gallery (Téhéran)
NELLY MONNIER & ERIC TABUCHI – L’invention d’une histoire vraie (2)
Nelly Monnier & Éric Tabuchi, vue de l’exposition L’invention d’une histoire vraie (2), 2022 – Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest
ALAN FERTIL – The Smoken Ridge
Alan Fertil, vue de l’exposition The Smoken Ridge, 2022 – Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest
CAROLINE THIERY – Whatever remains from the ghosts
Caroline Thiery, vue de l’exposition Whatever remains from the ghosts, 2022 – Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest
Photo credits: Aurélien Mole