“Painting, for me? The desire to create a space in front of which I can stay until the end of the world.”
Let us come to the painting of Aurélie Gravas, French artist established in Brussels, to signify straight away that we will appreciate it in these lines through the prism of specificity, not of uni- versality. The manner of Aurélie Gravas belongs only to her. Developed by collage, by brushing, by tracing with a very worked sense of arrangements, it escapes all narration, oscillates between figuration and abstraction, does not reject tradition, embodied unvarnished by the references to great elders, although by tracing asingular way. Another singular point that we will take into consideration: the title of this new series of paintings presented this winter in Brussels, “Tipees”, rather sibylline. The tipee? This Native American habitat, of canvas and wood, has the character- istic of being more precarious than solid, and nomadic as much as sedentary.
Plenitude and mystery, in these unqualified places, compete for the space of the canvases, a space that the artist does not occupy all over, often left blank, under the kind of ample reserves. The result, which tends towards Miro, Morandi, Calder, Paul Klee, the Picasso of La joie de vivre (1947), Yves Tanguy, catches the eye and rests it, in the same dynamic and posed movement. Some rare portraits emerge in this little humanized set. They are not exactlly definable, and rath- er archetypical. Let us note, between these, that of a green frog or the colorful silhouette of a woman treated in Sonia Delaunay style.
When she paints, Aurélie Gravas proceeds not with great final gestures but, on the contrary, by the accumulation of gestures different from each other, singularized. This artist, always, cerebralizes her words and her gesture. She only undertook her paintings with caution, and by her own admission, after a long period of reflection. First moment: Aurélie Gravas arranges on the canvas, before sticking them, some pre-cut shapes in paper, a technique used in his time by the last Matisse with his Gouaches. These cut shapes, which may have been painted separately, are then accompanied by lines made this time directly on the canvas, in a non-homogeneous way. Some of these lines are spray-painted but others are in oil, others are drawn in charcoal. Fragmentation of the executed gestures, division of the various elements coming to combine in the canvas: this factory is assimilated to a groping creation, to a construction coming from the arrangement if not from the game of patience. Just as one would open a path or, as the wording Tipees calls it, as one would build a house but a non-prefabricated house, brick to brick, without any assembly plan.
Aurélie Gravas uses art as a strategy for life and survival. To create, in his specific case – without the slightest desire to demonstrate something, or to teach – is to build a place of protection, a haven against everything that threatens life. The studio, a cloistered environment and apart from the world that she greatly appreciates, where she spends long days, sometimes just contemplat- ing her paintings, is a shelter. The bunker of protected, preserved individuality.
Although contemporary with a heavy and often cruel topicality, her painting intends to keep the distance with all painful realities of our present. Instead, from a perspective of escape and overcoming, she uses art as well as this armed practice which allows life to escape from these dra- mas. Indifference ? No. Change of territory, in this case. Aurélie Gravas paints to not let disarray, scandal or fear take control, to spare the possibility of serenity, this fact that has become so rare in our stressed lives.
It is in fact the act of painting, for Aurélie Gravas, an artist at the same time powerful and fragile, like an act of self-protection, against two potential destructions. On the one hand, the destruc- tion to which the outside exposes – nothing is just soothing for a long time, and multiple threats always lurk on the edge. On the other hand, the destruction to which exposes the fear of not being up to the harshness of the world, a fear which makes you prefer sterile confinement, even preventive self-destruction. To paint in the workshop which has become a “tipee”, to generate a painting which is like the existence in the “tipee”, in the hollow of the workshop, this place among all chosen by Aurélie Gravas, her Promised Land, allows for better negotiate with your- self. Helps to control possible panics by converting them into forms. To contain them, these pan- ics, but not to extinguish them completely or suddenly, let us specify: the tipee is not a fortress, it remains a fragile habitat, it is also a floating inhabitant which moves with the movement of life without always being able to escape its constraints and its problematic vagaries.
Aurélie Gravas: her art is linked with the hope of peace, rest, life changing into a qui- et eternity. Painting, in this singular form of nesting, opens a parenthesis, and stabiliz- es the experience, while the threat does not end but remains at the door of the tipee.