In Henry Miller’s “Black Spring”, published in 1936, there is a short story, “The Angel is my Watermark”, which Laura Lamiel, by fortunate coincidence, recently added to her book collection. This text quickly found its way in our recent conversations around the works we wanted to show today. It also relates to the fascinating series of “cells” and the installation of the very majestic “Figure IV” which was shown at the gallery in 2012. This exhibition is a whole, organized so as to include the dynamism of a creative process that’s always finding new possibilities for observing realities unfold or fold, without truce.
Miller deals with the process of creation in the form of the somewhat banal story of a horse, drawn and then painted, whose appearance is maliciously delayed. I do not think Laura considers creation as a struggle as Miller does. Where they join, it seems to me, is in the writer’s words, tinged with oriental thought: “A simple sentence can contain all the struggles of a year”. Miller hated to delete what he was producing, be it writing or painting. This watermark angel crossing all of Lamiel’s work and which she also carries within her is a form of creation that never renounces, that absorbs anything and only gives back what’s essential. It’s a sense of vision without flaw that reminds us that at the bottom, at the bottom of everything, lost in “incendiary efforts”, there is “the horse”.
Having become so accustomed to being in the presence of these installations that the artist calls “cells” or “capture chambers”, I had forgotten that their names spoke of something that is more visible when several items of these series are on display at the same time. These works reproduce, just like cells do; the definition of which associates them with the notion of a small unit. “Monk’s cell” or “chambrette” are the images that one superimposes on the abstract reality of cell life, they are its hidden dimensions, not detectable by the naked eye. Through the use of stable materials, Laura Lamiel’s works seek to make an absent body reappear. There it is! This body! Present in a structure that invites it while doubling it too, in a certain way. Painted steel’ and copper’s wonderful surfaces are eager to reflect the bodies and their fluids. Facing the work, what I see is the formal adaptation of a mental space, the kind of projection that maintains a touch with our body while being mobilized by the exercise of seeing. When in front of a painted steel cell, my body seems light for a while, while my mind is cluttered with images and then, blank. Nothing anymore. My eyes are rinsed. With copper, it’s a different thing. Copper also has a color and a temperature but it is as if it carried them towards us, a corporeal and carnal address. Copper is a flesh or a skin, turned pink or scorched, slightly cold or purple, flaming. I remember a copper chair placed in front of a panel, made of the same material, resting on the wall. This installation, done for Brussels’ La Verrière, in 2015, had motivated me to correspond with the artist trying to explain my fascination for this copper reflection. How it was at the same time terribly powerful and defiant, thick, dense, heavy. The reflection of the chair seemed to say: I am more than a chair. I am “an angel who kills time”. I am what “overflows from the frame of ideas” as Miller would say.
It’s curious to see how the image within the copper seems to have taken time to form, just as innumerable touches of pictorial matter make it possible to grasp a subject, to approach it through a materialization springing from the encounter between a searching mind and a material that’s excited by the frictions and attentions so finely directed toward it. Laura Lamiel has a gift in choosing her materials as if they were conscious. She knows how to question and transform them into actors. This copper cell you are about to discover is the very image of a bare and naked presence from which one dares not really approach. Troubling vision indeed, that of this empty space delimited by large copper plates held by clamps. The fine copper bars which energize this void make me think of the arrows in the various pictorial representations of San Sebastian, so close to the translucent skin of the martyr; most of the time so mute also, when it comes to showing the encounter between the arrow-object and the flesh. As in Laura’s cells, the point of junction takes place under the guise of a mystery. Looking at the large copper tracts of Laura’s pieces is like trying to name a color that has become unstable in fighting the onslaught of a long fever, a color that could contain all of the others.
I recall the painted steel cell we presented in 2012. As a space in itself, it somehow canceled out the gallery’s own space, leaving it vague and inactive. Copper has something more elegant to it, one imagines it more likely to match the warm tones of the gallery’s floor. I imagine it soaking up what is on its side like a sponge, in a few furtive flashes, as it does with the colored shadows of visitors standing still or in motion. Copper could enter into the myths of painting that deal with life and its representation, allowing both to bathe in the same lake, in front of which one can attempt to separate all things (water, color, air, reflection, texture, surface, background, etc.) or mix everything up toward black.
With Laura Lamiel, darkness is never far away. Black has often settled down as a damp powder, a smoke, billowing the icy glints of enameled steel, or even: soot coming from a place where work is measured by the weight of the remaining dust. Black is also installed through the collection of personal objects that the artist integrates into her installations. She recently used it with dry pleasure at Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes to create an installation that was designed in several stages and allowed visitors to peruse years of research. This threefold installation was accessible from a point in the exhibition space where, if it had been in nature, would be the place where light is absent and where the path narrows so that it forces us to retreat. An entirely white cell and some fifty framed drawings, for many in heaps, not accessible, objects that revolved on themselves and a plate of copper bringing before us what we turned our backs to. There is no doubt that nothing can be erased; that many years of struggle are recounted in an installation, unless, as with Miller, we’re facing a life of questioning, reflecting angels and visions.
Laura Lamiel lives in Paris. La Verrière, Brussels (cur. Guillaume Désanges) ; The Kunstverein Langenhagen, Germany (cur. Ursula Schöndeling) ; La Galerie – art center, Noisy-le-Sec, France (cur. Emilie Renard) ; Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, France (cur. Anne Tronche, at the occasion of the AICA award) or Musée d’Art Moderne, Rio de Janeiro have all organised solo exhibition of her work. Her works were recently shown at The Rennes Biennale, FR (cur. François Piron), La Biennale de Lyon, FR (cur. Ralph Rugoff), Villa Vassilieff, Paris (cur. Mélanie Bouteloup and Virginie Bobin) Mac/Val, Vitry-sur-Seine, FR (cur. Frank Lamy), Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona and Centre Pompidou, Paris. Laura Lamiel is also represented by Silberkuppe in Berlin.
Laura Lamiel: Un ange en filigrane
Thu 9 Feb 2017 to Sat 1 Apr 2017
Open: 11am-7pm Wed-Sat
Writing via press release