Art of bronze
“Out of the world” (text of Philippe Staib in May 2012)
Val is an enchantment to me. The way she evolves fascinates me.
As I observe her latest creations, I strive to fathom what makes her strength.
Many of us can feel said strength, if the enthusiasm around her art is anything to go by.
I am not the only one who considers her with growing interest. Why is that?
A reflection about art in general and the now ritual question posed by Paul Gauguin “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we headed?” leads nowhere.
Are all of us facing complete emptiness, with no common past, wondering how to lean on our experience and cultivate our differences? These questions can spin into a potentially harmful, endless spiral, in which we may all lose sight of the importance of art in our lives.
I’d much rather stick to this definition of art as given by Tàpies (who has just passed away):
“A work of art should be a thing, an object filled by the artist with mental energy, a sort of electric charge that, once touched by a viewer with the appropriate sensitivity, triggers determined emotions.”
Val has all the necessary components to make us feel the electric charge that summons up our emotions.
Mental energy: Val carries her whole personal experience with sincerity: as she was young, she travelled the world, came across and observed many social and cultural environments… Then, she had a life-consuming job that requires great strengths and squeezes those who succeed in it like lemons… These phases nourish a personality if they do not obliterate it. Val has fed on her own life, which has not been a bed of roses. She has used it to enrich her personality and desire to exist by herself.
Electric charge: One day, the contact with clay triggered something that has been going on for ten years and is nowhere near the end. Val expresses herself modeling beings and situations and their environments with an eye that is hers only, full of the past she could not control and pushed her forward. She unloads her visions into a creative matter of clay or wax. It is every sculptor’s dream to live near a foundry, and Val does. This enables her to keep up the electric charge initiated at the creation stage throughout all the bronze reproduction process. It is a direct line between what she perceives and feels and the metallic outcome.
Very few sculptors have experienced the thrill of controlling their creations up to their metallic forms. She admirably masters the process, a key aspect of her work: the unlikely encounter between a perfectly genuine human being and clay, then metal.
We now have to understand why so many viewers with an “appropriate sensitivity” gather around her work.
At “Art Taipei”, I saw people show up early in the morning saying: “I have been looking to purchase a sculpture, I have finally found it”. They chose “Les Mariés III”. At the “Shanghai Art Fair”, a Malay couple told me they had flown in hoping to find a sculpture by Val. They went for “Parade”.
I can think of so many other examples.
How can this be accounted for?
Certainly not by describing her art within a current or through an inspiration by great predecessors.
Instead, I think we receive 100% of the electric charge generated by her mental energy. Her energy was not “enriched” by artistic studies which can turn out to be overwhelming for a young creator, not “enriched” by the veneration for a great artist who can influence but also imprison a young creative mind. Her life, her soul observes the world, she tells us what she sees, what she feels from her heart. Her simplicity, her honesty and her heart open onto the world are the focus of our tired eyes, exhausted by all the visual complications of our now-oriented civilization where all sorts of schemes abound to distract us.
It is the direct line between her mental energy and the electric charge she displays in her work that we all perceive so clearly. [ + ]
Now the years have passed, but her evolution has kept this direct line with the public.
For three years, Val has deliberately dived into a wider universe, the universe of Man: the individuality of the man who tells us about his fate, the interaction between men in a reinvented urban life, the interaction between men and environment. Few artists have dared take up this extraordinary adventure. “Urban Life”, “Home Sweet Home”, the outstanding “Ville Fantastique”, her works remind me of the way Frank Gehry talks about his constructions: they take us to his future.
Today, we have the privilege of walking through “Corridor” to discover “Agora”, “Le Toit du Monde”, “Walk the city” et “Urban Gathering”.
The end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 will definitely be recognized, at a later stage, as one of her great creative moments.
Her work offers her a unique position in sculptural creation. It finds an echo in Etienne Martin’s exceptional “demeures” (dwellings) or Dubuffet’s creations such as “La Tour aux Figures” and “Jardin d’hiver” in which viewers can walk around. Val gives us structures that play host to her representation of the fragile balance and serene uncertainty of our fates. I do hope that she soon will give us human-size structures.
Through the energy Val conveys to her creations, the electric charge that every “viewer with an appropriate sensitivity”, feels when confronted with her works, she is close to raw art. She may even be the first of a generation of artists who will one day claim to be part of the raw art movement or be dubbed so by art critiques.
I want to believe this for I love what she does and I want to believe that this kind of art will bring us great joys.
She gives each one of us the possibility of interpreting, like an ultimate Rorschach test, her representations, where her mental energy, conveyed through a unique electric impulse, attracts us like something very familiar.
May art writers now describe what they see, as they are in my opinion the actors of this card game between life and our relations with arts in all its forms in this sublime Rorschach test that is contemporary art!
Philippe Staib Gallery
Shanghai – May 2012