Jean-Michel Fauquet Sacha Ketoff Macon&Lesquoy
Myriam Mihindou Célia Muller John Stezaker
“There, in the twilight, everything becomes pink” finds its origin in certain passages of Maupassant’s travel book La vie errante (The Wandering Life) and more particularly in its final lines: “On this calm and soporific soil, so captivating that the legend of the lotus-eaters was born there in the island of Djerba, the atmosphere is sweeter than anywhere else, the sun warmer, daylight clearer, but the heart does not know true love. The women are beautiful and ardent, and yet are ignorant of our tender caresses. Their simple souls have remained strangers to our sentimental emotions, and their kisses, it is said, do not inspire the dreams of true love.”
The author begins by expressing his weariness of Paris and his dislike of the Eiffel Tower, which has just been built. He decides to travel to Kairouan via Italy, Sicily, Algeria and then Tunisia, which he crosses from north to south.
La vie errante tells the story of this journey, like the passage from one world to another, a modern and gloomy world, antagonistic to a primitive and luminous world. Maupassant seeks exoticism there and his story is tinged with it. If he detects something true, a genuine emotion, when he speaks of the light of twilight, of all the shades of pink in the sky or of the nature of the landscape, his observations on individuals, on the contrary are imbued with racist prejudices, typical of its time. In the end, these landscapes so wonderfully described, leave the impression of a poisonous paradise. A contrast is made between a landscape that seems to satisfy his expectations of exoticism, and women who turn out to be far removed from what he had in his mind. From this feeling of disappointment, I imagined that another account could be born.
If the kisses of these women didn’t give birth to the dream, perhaps they knew how to give birth to something else?
Through the drawings, bits of images, snippets of objects and sentences, a story takes shape. That of women linked to the sun, to the light, and to the twilight sky by a supernatural power. Infused by the rays of the setting sun, they travel through time, crossing eras and undergo metamorphosis until they become kinds of divinities, at the same time protective, threatening and unpredictable. Seemingly harmless, they would secretly influence the movement of the world.
In the continuity of the New Flesh project, I approached Maupassant’s story by probing the images relating to the culture from which I came, to highlight the transformations that shake it, the ghosts that haunt its representations .
Yesmine Ben Khelil
“Tout devient rose, là-bas, au crépuscule”…
Correspondance avec l’artiste
1.You exhibited for the first time at the gallery as part of a collective exhibition called Cut & Paste, in November 2020, several works referring to Salammbô by Flaubert, under the title of “Oh Tanit, you love me don’t you?”. In your new series inspired by Maupassant, it seems you have kept this figure of a goddess – how has it evolved?
With Salammbô what interested me was, on the one hand, the “exoticisation” of Carthage and on the other, the confusion that exists in Tunisia, between Flaubert’s fictional story and the real history of Carthage. In the Tunisian imagination, Salammbô is a character from Punic history, whereas it is a fictional heroine of the end of the 19th century, that Flaubert imagined by drawing inspiration from several female figures, a mixture of Eve, of oriental dancers and of Punic goddesses. Without really realising it, it’s this shift from fiction to reality, from reality to myth, that I have in some way reapplied in this new series. With the same idea, of treating characters, from the early twentieth century or contemporary, real or imaginary, as enigmatic idols that one would have found in excavations.
- Among the artists who have influenced you, is there an area of surrealist influence that affects your work – I am thinking in particular of Max Ernst’s collages (A Week of Kindness), and of poets and writers, with Eluard (Rose), Bataille (L’oeil)? Where the colour pink has a special role.
Yes, unintentionally, Max Ernst’s collages certainly influenced me, but for this series, it was surrealist artists like Leonor Fini and Dorothea Tanning who inspired me. Georges Bataille also influences my work; there is in him this idea or this consciousness, that we are no longer in the historical process, but in insignificance and that from this insignificance could spring subversion, which would be a form of resistance. I don’t know if it comes across in what I do, but it’s something I think about a lot.
- In your creative process, do you deal with the literary work first, the excavation (which we find in Treasure of the Bardo National Museum and your collection), how do you construct the image?
In reality, I am constantly searching, I don’t structure the things I find, so whenever I come across an image, text, object, sound or phrase that appeals to me, I put it aside. Each of these elements point me to something else, so in fact it’s an endless process. Then the moment I build the image is where I make connections between the different elements, but I couldn’t really explain how; it’s often very instinctive.
- How do you work in the studio – how do you organise your work?
I don’t really organise my work; it’s quite complicated for me to explain how I do it. I try to lay out everything I have collected in front of me and as I go along, I introduce certain elements. Usually, I start by developing a first idea, and it’s as I develop it that other ideas come to mind and then I keep what I think works the best. Most of the time, I start with small formats, which lead me to larger ones, with collages which lead me to drawings, then to objects, or vice versa; I go from one medium to another, always with the idea of weaving connections.