Foyer, Galerie Isabelle Gounod, Paris, 2015

Text by Nanda Janssen


For her second exhibition at Isabelle Gounod Gallery, Maude Maris presents her new project “Foyer”. In this new works , painting, sculpture and architecture are even more closely aligned. Her ideas in this respect are definitely not restricted to the canvas but will extend here in a scenography staged specifically for the gallery space.

Maude Maris makes a name for herself with her tranquil paintings halfway between landscape and still life.

Small objects found on flea markets or on the street are cast in plaster. By doing so the artist can manipulate the object, give room to the unexpected by allowing little ‘accidents’ to happen, and preserve the texture. Children’s figurines, the arm of a doll or statuettes of the Holy Virgin or the head of a dog, anything can offer an interesting shape. Maris is interested in the transformation of the object. Formal analogies are key: if the head of a dog is turned ninety degrees, it suddenly seems a molar; if a figurine is decapitated, it resembles a landscape; a dolls arm corresponds to a branch; Virgin Mary’s pleated dress to a rock. Very recently, the artist also casts natural elements that she gathers from her direct surroundings like small branches or stones. To complete it, she sometimes uses rocks or fossils directly, without casting them. In the paintings all these objects come into play: casted natural and artificial objects and real, natural objects.

Each painting is the result of an elaborate process: collecting objects, casting them, create a composition, photograph it and finally paint the photograph. Each step adds a new layer of distance and flattens the objects. This detachment is enhanced by the painting technique. The brushstroke is discreet and the objects are translated into artificial pastel colours. However, the palette is changing: black and greys have recently made their entrance. On the whole, the use of three-dimensional software in her early work has left its mark on her current work. It has caused this artificiality and a smooth and plain aesthetics. Maris applies the stroke, the shadow much used in computer programmes to suggest depth, to pin down the object in the undefined space.

At first the objects were depicted in a neutral, white room hinting to both the museum space and the living room, and thus to the sculptural or utilitarian function of the depicted objects. The space has opened up now that these three walls have disappeared. The (faint) horizon is the only suggestion of space. As a result the depiction floats between a landscape and a still life.

Clearly sculpture is very present in Maris’ work. Not only in the working method (the casting of objects) but in her subject matter too: the focus on shape. As said before, in her paintings the objects hover to and fro an autonomous, sculptural position and utilitarian use. Since 2010 the painted shapes have stepped out of the canvas and have materialised in real space. The recent solo show ‘Nemeton’ in Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes (2015) for example presents an installation( paintings and sculpture). Like her paintings, sculptures are made with an economy of means. The works in ‘Nemeton’ and in ‘Foyer’, Maris’ current solo show here at Isabelle Gounod Gallery, explore both the early beginnings of architecture.

The source material that inspired this new body of work are drawings from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century that depict how nature lies at the basis of the Greek temples, for example tree-trunks became pillars by simply cutting off the branches; in the same vein abbot Laugier promoted in his ‘Essay on Architecture’ (1753) to renew architecture by returning to its origins, the publication contained an illustration of a primitive hut; and Mario Merz’s stone slab igloos underline the relation between architecture and sculpture. Maris mixes in her current work her interests in antiquity, prehistory, primitivism and even fantasy. Stones, rocks, branches, fossils and other shapes that are part of Maris’ vocabulary are stacked, piled and arranged in a simple and straightforward manner. The compositions evoke associations with Stonehenge, Greek temples, pyramids, primitive huts and fireplaces. Thus, with all these constructions Maude Maris shares with us the universal and primitive gesture of stacking.