member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Friday, March 11, 2011

Perception is Reality

(please press image to see larger version)

Sakah Galerie is located in the Saint Etienne district of Toulouse, described by its owners as “a charming enclave where streets are intertwined and lost playing hide and seek with the light from the sky and the shadows of history .” From March 5- April 20, 2011, they are presenting the works of Anne Bachelier, whom I’ve written about before here, and Catherine Chauloux.

La Balade du Mandarin

Catherine Chauloux uses a fascinating combination of styles, textures, and techniques in each painting to create a layering so full it brings the painted fantasy into a multi-dimensional existence—into reality. Above, you can see the flat, one-dimensional representation of a beast in the yellow and red ochres and bulbous central shape of old cave-paintings, though thickly plastered on like a fresco. The figures in front join us, the viewer, straddling the gap between us and the creature painted on the wall—the fullness of their bodies and clothing contrasting strongly with the painted, stylistic creature, bringing them into three dimensions.

Aigle Royal Air

In Aigle Royal, she adds anachronism to further fill out the image: the huge bird lumbers along on its long claws, steered by a World War II pilot, pushing its head through the cave wall to look out into the future at its passenger, sitting down for tea on her European antique armchair, her opera glasses swinging freely. This is the new physics: this is all times overlapping, being seen at once, waiting for a viewer with his or her particular perspective to come and decide what is really going on. In her paintings, Catherine shows the world through space instead of the way we usually look at it: through the filter of time. One space across time?—The actual bird, the impression of the bird on a first artist, the cave or rock wall it was painted on, a plane flying overhead, a woman in a newly-built home with antique furniture—all of these melt together in the space you’re standing (sitting) in now, the painting in front of you. Maybe the filter isn’t space, after all; maybe it’s the impact of great heights, a meditation on flights of nature, of miraculous machinery, of fancy (hence the silver tea service and the opera glasses). Whatever it is, it’s a filter that Ms. Chauloux gives you, the viewer, artfully.

Note the head pulling itself off the wall, thus bridging the one-dimensional existence and the three-dimensional existence with his awareness and experience of both.

La Course

And in La Course, the cave-painting style is mixed with the much later fresco technique of thickly “plastered” on color. Notice how the outer edges of the thick blue material around the woman’s waist is still of that texture, still part of the “wall,” where the rest of her fills out towards you in an “easel” style that makes the figure all the more real for the contrast. She is pulling out of the past, out of the painter’s imagination and into your world. She is pulling you into the painter’s imagination. Or her memory. Or the memory of our shared consciousness.

Or, indeed, memories of an alternate history, as in the image above, where some hybrid cheetah-giraffe has been melded with a chariot. Or at least the plans were made, and the only “sketchy” part was the attachment of the wheels.

Autruche Gordini

Dame Chevalier

Moby Dick

But there is an even further effect: she is not suggesting—or it doesn’t seem so to me—that you be pulled in passively, that you continue to stand there until you’re bored and move on to the next painting. In Moby Dick (above), we can see a much higher purpose. Here, the whale who drives the tragic tale is thrice-underlined as man-made—for it is the idea of the whale, the idea of revenge, the idea of being completely lost in the vast depths of the chaotic (stormy) elements (think of the ancient Biblical tale of Jonas)that makes the story so destructive. Here, not only is the whale in the one-dimensional style, it is mechanical, and a man in period dress is calmly measuring its dimensions, as if still putting it together (still working towards his own destruction/demise?), his plans strewn about the floor behind him. There is a small joke in here: a “real” whale seems to have been swallowed by the monstrous mechanical contraption, and you can see its tail peeking out the back-end. But in the upper left-hand corner, the painter takes the entire story to task. She is escaping it, pulling her body out of the painting, and at the same time painting over it. No more whale.
You are creating what you see. You are choosing what, of all the things forming out of the atoms around you at once, to perceive. Chauloux is an artist after my own heart, energetically erasing the tragedy with a coat of fresh paint.

By Anne Bachelier

By Anne Bachelier

She shares her current show with another painter who draws her images out from the mists, pulling aside the curtains of the pre-formed universe so that we may, for a moment, meet the gaze of the actors in those mysterious events Anne Bachelier has chosen to make real. Above, you can see three levels of existence: the central red figure, the figures swinging around her head, and the ones marching along at ankle-height.

By Anne Bachelier

In Bachelier's images, you can see the many layers of volition, many creatures holding many strings, dreaming the world or directing its marionettes…

You can read my earlier post on the work of Anne Bachelier here and see her own gorgeous blog here .


  1. thank you Zoe. I'm going to send your link at Sakah Gallery.

  2. j'aime les peintures d'anne bachelier.. encore plus belles en réalité qu'en photo sur les blog..
    la panther-voiture de catherine chauloux est aussi sensationnel !

  3. oh, lucky you elfi!! i wish i could see her paintings in person :P

    i'm glad you're happy, anne, and thanks for sending it :)- i wish i could be there to see the show!

  4. a perfect blend of whimsy and otherness!
    I love your post!

  5. I'm very curious about the central figure in the painting, "La Balade du Mandarin", who looks like a Chinese wise man. Confusius? or Lao-tzu? Love the beast in the yellow and red ochres. As for Anne Bachelier, "you can see the many layers of volition, many creatures holding many strings, dreaming the world or directing its marionettes" Hmmmmm.... Really interesting. Thank you, zoe for introducing to us these fantastic artists!!