01/11/2020 | 31/03/2021

Andrea Tardini Gallery Venezia, Giudecca 282


The French artist Christelle Labourgade has now returned to Venice, with an exhibition of works created over a considerable period of time, covering almost fifteen years. During her life she has travelled to and lived in many places: after the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts her studies brought her to Florence, following which she set out for Africa, where she remained for a number of years: the Comoros, Mali, Guinea, Tunisia. She then settled in Marseilles and a few years later moved once again, to Venice, staying on the Giudecca Island. In 2013 she returned to Paris. We met her in her new Parisian atelier and were dazzled by her most recent paintings, in which bright yellows are composed and decomposed in stratifications created with new experimentations in oil technique.

Labourgade’s highly distinctive visions, which take shape through a skilful use of chiaroscuro and the creation of scenographies of light and shadow ranging across wide expanses of colour, bear the influence of one artist in particular, who ranks among her most noteworthy artistic precursors: Mark Rothko. Rothko maintained that what he was most interested in was expressing the scale of human feelings, and not the relation between form and colour; observing his paintings, we notice that the surfaces tend to expand or else contract, closing themselves off towards the interior. And so, between these two movements, one can grasp all that this great artist intended to communicate. We encounter similar dynamic movements in Christelle Labourgade’s paintings, towards the interior or the exterior, towards darkness or light. The bond between Labourgade and Rothko lies precisely in the transcendent nature of painting: all that truly counts is the vibration, the first breath.

The rarefied solitude sensed in her work seems to have become even more tenuous in recent years; alongside this, the idea of a true encounter, while retaining all of its dreamy and profound overtones, now takes on a sombre materiality and a certain dynamism that restores spontaneity and implies that the encounter is a real possibility.
Hers is often an architectonic or urban space, rather than natural, which delineates full and empty areas, square or rectangular forms in which light and shadow alternate; a few stairs, a place to rest, an arch. Frames, horizons, definitions. Overlapping meanings or possible readings, and at the same time simplifications, folds instead of limits or borders.

Christelle Labourgade is a political artist, in the sense suggested by Camus when he spoke of the impossibility for humans beings to live outside of relations with others. This is her mode of being present, with art, and without being tied to any specific ideology. She remains faithful only to her own system of truth: painting is, for Labourgade, a necessity, no more and no less than breathing. This is why she paints angels in the style of Caravaggio, that shatter today’s indifference towards the Other. An angel that plunges into the terrestrial world, passing through the dust of a life that seems to have no sense.

Adopting this same philosophical outlook, she has created a series of large-scale drawings in charcoal and pierre noire on paper, preferring the absence of colour in order to grasp the sense of abandonment belonging to those who have been forgotten by the way, at the periphery of existence. These drawings reveal a delicate mastery in the way they restore the real alongside the essence, with a particularly attentive gaze towards denied truths. The French weekly Le 1, grasping their force, decided to publish them.

There are cities, places in which one has lived, and there is Venice. The Piazza, the canals, the mysterious sottoporteghi and silent human figures, apparitions of love, fine dust, mist, and then light. These pastel works and large oil paintings dedicated to Venice mark a new stage of her work, a fresh beginning that emerges out of a re-composition of meanings discovered in various locations around the world and within her own sensibility.
Several of Labourgade’s pastels bring together this highly tactile presence made of colour with the particular lightness of a passing encounter on Venice’s fondamenta. Others seem to be theatre stagings, with wings and gaudy set designs and oriental figures. Some are an open homage to Zoran Mušič, and still others return to nocturnal, mysterious scenes or to the greens and blues of the lagoon.
Dreaming of the beach of Venice’s Lido, she opens her paintings towards something completely new, something that is arriving. An adventure through possible worlds.