Chapel of Saint Elmo, Villefranche-sur-Mer
From March 18 to May 14, 2023
The Citadelle is partnering with the Eva Vautier Gallery and presents from March 18 to May 14, 2023 Puissantes, a group exhibition based on the work of five women artists and their relationship to the sacred, the divine, and the feeling of mystical presence in everyday life.
Taking place in the Chapelle Saint-Elme in the heart of the Citadelle of Villefranche-sur-Mer, this exhibition is an opportunity to offer visitors a dive into the worlds of Mona Barbagli, Natacha Lesueur, Frédérique Nalbandian, Caroline Rivalan and Anne-Laure Wuillai, five artists who are well established in the national artistic landscape.
Exhibition open every day from 10am to 6:30pm. Guided tours by appointment at 04 93 76 33 27 & [email protected]
Born in 1995 and graduated from the Pavillon Bosio and then from the Nantes Saint-Nazaire School of Fine Arts, Mona Barbagli is an artist who uses as her main medium her own emotions and her feelings about real-life situations, which she recreates alone during performances.
On the occasion of a trip to Senegal, in the city of Dakar in 2019, she imagines a work entitled “Paroles ineffables” around the word and its translation, in contact with griots, figures of poets musicians passing from village to village and custodians of an ancestral oral tradition. Her idea took shape and she decided to establish a relationship of trust with a griot woman, in order to develop a “discussion weaving”. She records her conversation with the griot, directing her questions to his conception of oral transmission and his role in society. Listening to this recorded conversation, Mona Barbagli tries to retranscribe the rhythm and the essence of this exchange by coloring a white thread with different colors. The word then takes an aesthetic form by being constituted of colored full and empty spaces. A thin layer of beeswax is then added to the wire to protect it. Finally, the artist weaves the thread which becomes a strip of fabric retranscribing the dialogue in a poetic and enigmatic way, a physical and memorial work of art of an initially intangible memory.
With “Aqueous Batik”, his work around the fabric continues with an ancestral technique of printing on fabric: the pattern to be represented on the fabric is made thanks to a wax reserve, which, once the fabric is dyed, is removed to reveal the drawing. The artist considers this piece as a frozen moment of emotion, contemplation, a moment of communion with his inner world, calling the viewer to reconnect with his body, his mind and his soul.
Finally, with the series of “Lames vives”, the violence that underlies the object is counterbalanced by the fragility of the material used: not sharp at all, these brittle axes are engraved with symbols, leaving the viewer to imagine their use, evoking mysterious rites.
Natacha Lesueur is a French photographer born in 1971 in Cannes and based in Paris. She realizes here photographic settings with a model replaying the character of Carmen Miranda.
Portuguese-Brazilian actress and dancer born in 1909 and died in 1955, Carmen Miranda was famous in the United States in the 1940s, nicknamed “the Brazilian bomb”. With more than fifteen successful films and musicals, her character embodies a certain caricatured exoticism – outfits covered with fruits and flowers, exuberant colors, always positive attitude – mixing South American cultures without distinction, in a media construction of any piece promoted by Hollywood and North America. Natacha Lesueur has endeavored to reproduce, through a skilfully worked staging, the attitudes of this myth of tropicalism, a woman who has become an icon and who, before our eyes, unfolds here in a serious, even grave version, casting disillusioned eyes on the spectator.
Carmen Miranda – Chica Chica Boom Chic feat. Don Ameche
With the work “Fée couronne”, Natacha Lesueur continues her exploration of the female figure by questioning its relationship to the sacred and the status of women in our society: her model, dressed in white, displays the iconographic elements of the bride, such as the crystalline veil, and seems distant or indifferent to the gaze of the spectators, exhibiting an attitude that is both determined and melancholic.
The artist considers her works to be collages, as she draws with pencil on the photographic print. The hyper-realistic drawing imitates photography while opening new perspectives. A contrast unfolds between the young face, the grey hair and the incandescence of the hairstyle: the model takes full possession of her body and her individuality, symbolizing through this heterogeneity the contemporary woman par excellence.
Frédérique Nalbandian is a French artist born in 1967 and based in Menton. Sculptor but also draughtswoman, she is interested in specific materials like plaster and soap.
The latter constitutes the main material of the work “Fragment amoureux” (2020), an image of a ruined column in which rose motifs are carved, all placed on a Carrara marble base. In a constant relationship of struggle with the material, the artist explores here the paradox of a vertical, solid, phallic architectural element while associating it with the fragility of the soapy material and the symbolic evocation of the rose. The immanence and whiteness of soap are among the characteristics that interest Frédérique Nalbandian:
“The soap is incredibly durable when dry. It keeps perfectly, and ages very well, “nobly” I would say, away from humidity. Francis Ponge said “Water evaporates but soap remains” (cf. Le Savon). Its possibilities to change states and aspects are extraordinary. These characteristics interest me most closely. “
In his “Archangel” series, the roses are drawn with a wash of blood ink and added elements enrich the composition: feather, foam, soapy water, freshly crushed red rose, carmine pigment are added to evoke the sacred flower, symbol of passionate love and the power of beauty. In his series “Appassito” which means “withered” in Italian, the artist uses dry pastel and soapy water to reproduce the rose motif on velvet paper. Bloody aspect and intimate curves form flowers of which some petals are dying, in an ode to the passing of time and a tribute to the vanities. Finally, in “Remonter le temps” and “Brevis III”, the artist gives us to see some kind of timeless ex-voto, a celebration of beauty evoking a breast or a cloud.
A graduate of the Villa Arson, Caroline Rivalan, born in 1981, lives and works in Nice. Through a work of appropriation of found images that she retranscribes through montages, Caroline Rivalan explores female myths.
Mixing with irreverence and sarcasm images that are sometimes harsh, sometimes funny, she creates a very particular universe where historical facts are intertwined, creating new narrations. In her stories, the feminine holds a special place and the desire to cross the destinies of her inspirers is present: patients of the Salpêtrière “treated” for hysteria meet the hectic life of the Gellert sisters, two Hungarian cabaret dancers of the 1920s, known as Nita and Zita, who performed all over the world with total creative freedom, managing their career in complete autonomy, without the control of an impresario.
In the series “Insulting wink”, the dangling tongues of the sick are associated with the faces of the two dancers, in a powerfully evocative antithesis of the insulting paradoxes regularly associated with the female. Here the body of the hysterics is not constrained any more, it follows the step of the emancipated body of the burlesque contortionists, in a sorority restored by the artist.
Born in 1987 and graduated from the Beaux-Arts de Paris, Anne-Laure Wuillai is a French artist living in Nice. At the heart of her practice, our relationship as human beings to the natural environment: using samples of sea water, grains of sand, stones, algae and many other materials, she recomposes biotopes in her workshop-laboratory where stills, solutes and observation boards rub shoulders with brushes and pencils.
In her installation “Sisyphus”, she places natural slate disks on the floor that she has covered with Mediterranean sea water surrounded by a hydrophobic liquid. The sea water thus imprisoned can only escape by evaporation, leaving behind the iodized traces of its passage on the stone, evocation of the myth of the absurd and of our relationship of domination of the natural elements.
With the “Poudriers”, Anne-Laure Wuillai continues to explore her relationship with the landscape by recreating an ecosystem in the hollow of an object, as she has done with snow globes or drawers of antique furniture. Finally, in her recent series of “Little Handkerchiefs”, she explores the refinement of a disposable object at first sight devoid of aesthetics – the paper handkerchief – by proposing it in the form of a sculpture delicately placed on the corner of a shelf.
“I like to question our ways of inhabiting the world, the standards we produce to put everything on our scale. This way we have of domesticating water and the sky too, elements whose immensity however in any point exceeds us “.