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Anne Jallais

From the gesture of painting to the threshold of the visible, 2006

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Interview with Anne Jallais by Christelle Desbordes, Papiers Libres, january/february/march 2006

CD : You quote Brice Marden : « Drawing is graceful, painting is strength » ; Can you explain more precisely what you find interesting in his work ?

AJ : Marden’s work, actually, amaze me with very few tricks, because his painting is like the unravelling of a thread, from a continuous skein, from an uninterrupted and rhythmic  gesture, that is almost musical.  In it I see a body print, and that is also what fascinates me in  Pollock’s work : the lines and stains here untangled, accumulate in a different rhythm and  without any illusion of depth, but suggest a physical experience which is both visible and without form.  I see in it a link with my work, in the thread that curls and rolls around itself in a continuous gesture, in a discontinuous space where drawing and painting are entwined.   

CD : In « des rencontres » I see, in fact, many things ; I’m thinking spontaneously of Fautrier’s « Otages » (the passage background/form – except in the thickness of his layers), the fluidity in some of Sam Francis’ work, (the Blue Balls series), and also Rothko.

AJ : I’m not familiar with the work of Fautrier, as for Sam Francis and Rothko, I recognise the freshness of Francis’ work, the transparency of his liquid paint; and in Rothko certain aspects of ‘tinting’ rather than ‘painting’ – a diffusion as if in suspension.   

CD : You talk about ‘toiles à matelas’ which, in fact, evoke the Support/Surface Movement…

AJ : Yes, that interested me, mainly for its manipulations such as plaiting, knotting, folding, ‘fraying’, in brief, everything concerned with weaving, the weft, woof and the autonomy of the fabric  (Textiles was the subject of my M.A. in  History of Art.)  The reactivity of the canvas is necessary for me and I like it to be under tension : resistant to gesture, alive. And for the practical reason that I can then alternate more easily between action from the front and moving around on the ground.

CD : What retouching  in painting represents for you ?  How do you define retouching in your work ?

AJ : I have always painted immediately and definitively on the one hand, and on the other, used layers of transparency with relatively creamy and greasy paint.  In the « rencontres » series, which concentrates on the idea of water and fluidity even more than on the idea of ‘grease’, this milky film is put aside. I think that the retouching is used as a trampoline which springs back, in exactly the same way as liquid allows a vertical line to multiply, creating others which are unforseen : the retouching then become a very exhilarating tool of knowledge where rubbing something out actually confirms it, and covering allows discovery, partly masking and partly superimposing the forms, like constructing an experiential discourse.  

CD :    Do you think its possible to talk about ‘feminine painting’ ?

AJ : I find it amusing that you talk to me firstly, about the secret of life and then, feminine painting. Yes, no… I don’t know… By definition feminine painting should be different from masculine painting. Last summer I went to London where I saw Rebecca Horn’s exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and her series of drawings from 1988 to 2004 ; and I have also looked at her drawings from 1965 to 1968 in the catalogue, which are feminine figures in corsets. This theme is particularly familiar to me because I am clearly preoccupied with the body and its envelope, but what also strucked me was her way of drawing  which is very much like De Kooning’s studies… I’m getting away from the question, but I would like to reflect more on this subject later.

CD : What are your criteria for originality in creativity in general and painting in particular ?

AJ : Novelty, through a criteria of cunning, tricks, beauty, ugliness, strength, impossibility… ? Originality is what seems obvious and, at the same time, incomprehensible…a sort of  intrusion that is, at the same time, indispensible.

CD : It seems to me that in this series you are holding on to something that was already germinating in your precedent works… that you  have found what you were looking for : a relationship with your way of expressing yourself that is both intimate and cultivated, over and above discussion of abstract/ figurative and the anti-formalisation of certain contemporary art.  What do you think of the current myth of the ‘return to painting’?  And who are the young painters that interest you today ?  

AJ : They talked about the ‘death of art’ before the ‘death of painting’. I don’t really like the expression, ‘return to’ in referring to art and painting as a fatal cycle that finishes (or would, perhaps, start again ?). Maybe our observation of painting – out of purgatory – changes. Concerning the young  painters, I think of the Saatchi Gallery’s proposals, for example ; but also of more mature artists like Artschwager : I like the incredible effect of his economy of effects (!), especially in his work exhibited at Kerguéhennec in 2003.

CD : I like your way of resolving the questions that we ask painters, because it seems to me that you are dealing with the fundamental problem of your work, this enigmatic thread that relates the artist to the  world, even though your painting is not political.

AJ : Engaging in the action of painting, seems, to me, to be more of a philosophical attitude than political…

CD : That reminds me of Merleau-Ponty when he said : «The painter, whoever he is, while he paints, practises a magical theory of vision… »

AJ : I would like to talk about an image as a ‘revelation’ in the photographic sense of the word, an instantaneous image captured by the immediate meeting of a before and an after… The act of painting becomes a way of revealing hidden and instant experiences…


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