Propositions concerning the paintings of Maude Maris

Eric Suchère, Artothèque de Caen, 2012
Translation : Stéphanie Levet


Let us say once again, after a few others, that Maude Maris makes objects, that she moulds them, and then places the shapes she has cast into small boxes, models that are open on one side, that she then, under given lighting conditions, takes photographs of her compositions, and that it is finally from these photographs that she paints her paintings.


Maude Maris’s paintings thus undergo a process or, rather, the implementing of a setup which may recall Giorgio Morandi’s—with Morandi the setup consists in real objects covered in whitish paint and arranged on a small stand being year after year submitted to minor displacements—or Nicolas Poussin’s—Poussin staged figurines before starting on his compositions—, a setup which, as with Morandi, is not shown, but which is nevertheless underlying the painting, being its basis and not its end. We can suppose that, contrary to Morandi who checked after nature—even though it was a theatricalized nature—, Maude Maris conceives of her setup as a way of putting things at a distance: she is not painting an object, but the photograph of a positive she has obtained through casting. Her painting is thus the result of a series of filters whose aim is to abstract the object. The object is denaturalized not only through the casting process but also through photography, which flattens its reality, and then again through painting, as the colour given to the object in the painting has nothing to do with that of the initial object.

And the same goes for materials, which take on a hardness or softness, a brightness or dullness that bear no relation either to the original document. A pictorial arbitrary is being projected—as if through the use of mapping in 3D computer graphics software—onto a basis of interpreted reality.


What is at stake, then, is not only measuring what space there is between things or how one object is made to vibrate near another—which was what Morandi’s painting was essentially concerned with—, but also building a space that will seem plausible with these arbitrary objects in it. The box in which these artefacts are placed is a neutral place where tangible relationships between nevertheless abstract objects are established—abstract in the sense that they bear no resemblance to anything but themselves, and that they are only remotely connected with reality. How does one go from one mass to another, from a diagonal to a curve, from a piling-up to a scattering, from a hollow shape to a solid one, from a shadow to light, from a reflection to its absorption…? Maude Maris makes abstract objects visible to us, but the pictorial means she uses to show them to us are figurative. With her, painting is a way of making us believe in abstractions. She resorts to an anomal illusion—just as Yves Tanguy did in his paintings, although I do not think she claims him as an influence.


So the means Maude Maris uses tend towards likeliness thanks to imitation through light, relief, shadow, perspective… Maude Maris’s painting may evoke a language that is quite classic, yet it seems to be much closer to digital imagery—to those images commonly referred to as computer-generated images which today dominate representation, and will even more in the years to come, from our computer screens to the big cinema screen. But the type of computer-generated image that is being called to mind here is more archaic than that used by James Cameron in his movie “Avatar”. Maude Maris’s paintings seem to be made like digital images (3D modeling and mapping), but they show that they are artificial, they do not attempt to deceive us, they insist on their being artefacts, on our being faced with simulacra. The illusion is minimal. The point is to build a paradoxical abstraction.


Abstracting, abstractions… We can suppose that such a setup is used to build an analogical space that it will be possible to connect to the real, but without it being nameable or assignable, or to represent a mental space—via the series of means deployed in the setup we go from a reality abstracted from the real to a reality seen in a mind’s eye. Or, put differently: we can see virtual objects in a plausible space and light without being able to say what it is we are seeing. Likewise, we do not know the scale of the objects and it is not necessarily inferable from the dimensions of the painting.

All we can say is that they are contained within a room—except for small size works which show objects that are simply placed on a floor whose depth is indicated by shaded tones. We are facing representations of a world that is familiar—the language that is used aims to make it seem so—which are yet entirely devoted to representing virtual realities that do not say much—except through those analogies already mentioned, which even so remain uncertain, as all analogies will—, representations which do not designate anything, which remain secret.


Maude Maris’s painting is all the more secretive as the means implemented for its realization are remarkably discrete: no impastos, no gestural marks, no dripping… only what is necessary to a visible yet homogeneous brushwork, to a neat and meticulous execution that shuns virtuosity. Maude Maris’s painting is smooth on the surface and discretely expressive in its effects. The only effect that is emphasized is that of the objects’ reflections on the floor, an obvious evocation of a cliché of our times, the graphic interfaces of computers and Apple MP3 players—and as such, they are just as inexpressive stereotypes. Maude Maris’s painting is detached, egoless—and it is mostly in this respect that it reminds me of Ed Ruscha’s painting. It is devoid of any symbolical content, any expressivity, any reference to any kind of real… It is the representation of a scenography which is waiting for no actor, no human body and text, to come into being.

It is staging its own power to be in almost complete silence.