Introducing Art press, n°407

Text by Julie Crenn

Translation : C. Penwarden


Combining painting, volume and drawing, Maude Maris constructs a visual and mental universe of carefully articulated forms, objects and colors.

When she left art school in Caen in 2003, Maude Maris painted artificial landscapes, gutted houses, caves and aquariums, gradually articulating a meditation on the ruin and an idealized representation of nature. Her landscapes seemed frozen in time, bathed in soft light and unreal colors. The latter came from synthetic materials used to make environments and from objects conveying a reassuring vision of nature as something mastered. She is also interested in architecture and space, which is why she spent a year in the Hubert Kiecol’s atelier at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. « With him I was looking to find the rigor and high standards I needed for my own explorations. »(1) There she worked in collaboration with architects and produced mainly three-dimensional objects. She was also inspired by some of the German art she saw : the photographs of Frank Breuer and Thomas Demand, sculptures by Imi Knoebel, paintings by Thomas Huber and architectural projects by Gottfried Böhm. Maris’s intensive visual experimentation gave her work a new dimension. Between 2009 and 2010, she collected Internet images and reprocessed them using software. « I wanted to get a grasp of all the different parameters related to the question of viewpoint ».

She sets out her objects in a virtual space bathed in artificial light, composing her still lifes on the screen before transferring them onto the canvas. The software enables her to modulate the intensity of the light and create zones of shadow which divide up the space in another way. But while this gives her increased control of the light effects, she loses the relation to material and color. Consequently, it is necessary to appropriate. « I couldn’t see the point anymore of working with objects and images that didn’t belong to me. » So she then started looking for objects related to the idea of a controlled nature : toys, everyday junk, decorative elements. After cutting, polishing and casting in plaster, the trace of the object is painted in synthetic colors such as blue-green, silver gray, pale pink, beige or gold-brown. The new objects are then laid out in a three-sided box open at the front. These compositions are photographed and then painted on canvas. The final work is thus a result of a long process punctuated by filters leading to a smoothed image. By getting rid of thickness and texture, the artist aims to preserve an almost surgical effect of distance in relation to the object.



Initially Maris worked with a single object, developping a meditation on isolation, the solitude of an object placed in an empty, neutral space. Gradually other objects came to colonize this same space. They contribute to the theatrical character of her work because they perform the function of both props and characters. As her casts accumulate, so the artist builds up a collection of objects, which she classifies in families defined by form, color and power of evocation. She sees them as « characters that share the same stage. »The colored casts are set up in a room whose appearance may be natural or domestic. These silent, enigmatic actors call on our memories, our imaginary and our history. Maris thus extends the art of memory put in place, among others, by the Italian primitives, one of her main sources of inspiration. Their paintings feature open space which convey different time frames and, consequently, generate several different narratives within a given work. Maris’s still lifes are frozen in time and space. It is for the beholder to move around within them mentally so as to penetrate their secrets, which are at once alluring, appetizing, and fascinating but also disconcerting and unusual.

Based as it is on constant sampling, the imprint constitutes a driving element in Maris’s work. Casting found objects is a first kind of imprint. Her three-dimensional pieces are also imprints of painted works. Indeed, the sculptures represents the hidden side of the paintings. The artist uses the floor-plan of her objects, taking their outline and cutting out their silhouettes in sheets of colored polystyrene. The sculptures can thus be read as ghosts. They partake of the creation of environments in which photographs, paintings, sculptures and drawings come together. If we are able to enter the paintings, and find our way round the objects, we will come up against the things that exist behind the scenes, off-camera, out of the frame. « Volumes are the exterior and the paintings are the interior of the space. » Maris encourages us to enter her soft, unsettling world. She recently started knocking down the walls of the boxes she works with, letting in natural light. Each action, however slight, has a host of consequences. Reflections, colors, brightness and shadow, are no longer the same. The theatrical dimension is gradually fading to let in the real-complex, impossible to control and unexpected.


(1) All quotations are from a conversation with the artist in July 2013