Galerie Nathalie Obadia presents Là-bas…Toi, Carole Benzaken’s eighth solo show since 1993, and the first to simultaneously take over both gallery spaces, on rue du Bourg-Tibourg and rue du Cloître Saint-Merri.
In her nearly thirty years of rummaging through image feeds in search of snapshots, Carole Benzaken has methodically developed a polysemous and homogenous body of work, while also allowing heterogeneous ramifications to form. The artist questions the sheer profusion and speed at which these images constantly assault us, provoking a feeling of satiation, despite a visual multiplicity that is never quenched.
At the Bourg-Tibourg gallery, Carole Benzaken will present the series Greffes (Grafts), eight paintings of identical format, in which the chromatic variations shift between acid green and the sweetest of pinks. The subject of the work is hidden by the paint, to the point that it is impossible to recognize it, concealed as it is by the fluctuations in speed. A few vertical lines alone mark the frenetic horizontality, punctuating the artist’s unfettered brushstrokes. Eloquently verbal and musical (“I paint like I speak,” says the artist), these paintings take the viewer on a frantic race through space and time.
Similarly, the series Au réveil, il était midi*, presented at the Cloître Saint-Merri gallery, challenges our understanding. While we feel like we can perceive trees, houses, walls or a snowy landscape, the succession of frames like windows of hypertextual screens that are superimposed on the crumpled bruises of white paint (teeming with forgotten letters or swarms of birds) foils any attempt at reasoned identification. After the (Lost) Paradise works, these paintings speak of archetypal places where the human presence is blurred by the pictorial process of superimposing variously translucent layers. These landscapes are lit by a perceptual confusion akin to the luminous, chromatic vibrations emanating from modern screens.
The works on paper, Portée d’Ombres, perpetuate this feeling of malfunctioning representation, of a figurativeness so misleading that it becomes abstract. Echoing her technique of division into vertical slices and strips, these oil-stick drawings return to a motif dear to Carole Benzaken: a tree’s branches, as the manifestation of filiation, from root to transmission. While the small Germes Rouges, which she bakes between glass plates, punctuate the gallery with their colorful vivacity, acting as counterpoints to Greffes, the two large Trees tone down the hanging with the intense impenetrability of a forest of birch trees.
In the tradition of African landscapes, of (Lost) Paradise, I-Bowa, Od drzwi do drzwi or Saviv Saviv that once embodied traumatic and textual questions about memory, this new group of works allows for a novel foray into the artist’s personal genealogy. While contamination continues to spread (unfold) in space, Carole Benzaken pursues her pictorial experiments and necessary shifts, by informing each technique with the next, thus addressing issues pertaining to her desire to paint and to think of images today.
* From the poem L’Aube (Dawn) by Arthur Rimbaud.
Born in Grenoble, in 1964, Carole Benzaken lives and works in Paris.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)