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From left to right: Manon Wertenbroek, My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, David Rappeneau — © Manon Wertenbroek
From left to right: Manon Wertenbroek, My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, David Rappeneau
From left to right: David Rappeneau, Manon Wertenbroek — © Manon Wertenbroek
From left to right: David Rappeneau, Manon Wertenbroek
From left to right: My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, David Rappeneau,  Manon Wertenbroek — © Manon Wertenbroek
From left to right: My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, David Rappeneau, Manon Wertenbroek
Derouillon, Paris — © 2021, Manon Wertenbroek
Derouillon, Paris — © 2021, Manon Wertenbroek
Derouillon, Paris — © 2021, Manon Wertenbroek
Derouillon, Paris — © 2021, Manon Wertenbroek
Derouillon, Paris — © 2021, Manon Wertenbroek
Derouillon, Paris — © 2021, Manon Wertenbroek

Derouillon, Paris

Scratching the Surface at Galerie Derouillon, Paris, France
With My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, David Rappeneau, and Manon Wertenbroek
Curated by Marion Coindeau
From July 2nd to 31rd 2021

The exhi­bi­tion Scratching the sur­face” evokes the kind of fee­lings where attrac­tion flirts with dis­com­fort, pro­vo­king without ever actually cros­sing that fine line. The sen­sua­lity in the work of My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, David Rappeneau, and Manon Wertenbroek comes from a desire to find direct contact with the mate­rial. Yet the lat­ter often has a dual cha­rac­ter, ope­ning up a cri­ti­cal space bet­ween an inter­ior and an exte­rior, where indi­vi­dual and inti­mate exchanges with the world play out. The hyper­tro­phied, constrai­ned and hyper-sexua­li­zed bodies of David Rappeneau’s dra­wings, My-Lan Hoang-Thuy’s object pain­tings made of thick layers of acry­lic paint prin­ted and then rewor­ked manually, and Manon Wertenbroek’s vis­ce­ral sculp­tures all ques­tion this ambi­guous rela­tion­ship to the sur­face of the work.

David Rappeneau bor­rows the fami­liar codes from Japanese anime to por­tray the fan­ta­si­zed body. Despite the fron­tal nature of these naked bodies, offe­red up for our gaze, our desire becomes confu­sing when we stop to look at their yel­low or pur­plish skin, their ema­cia­ted faces, and their bul­ging muscles. The skin tones glow through the strokes of the colou­red pen­cils and the neon light effect. Their intri­guing iri­des­cence stands out from this grey uni­verse and seduces us with a mena­cing charm. Confined in clo­sed spaces with off-axis pers­pec­tives, the cha­rac­ters in this hal­lu­ci­na­tory uni­verse are the embo­di­ment of fan­ta­sies that that evade us – just as their gazes evade our own. They also escape the frame of the dra­wing, from which legs, arms and hair emerge and appear. The non­cha­lant atti­tude of these beings smo­king ciga­rettes in las­ci­vious and apa­the­tic poses reveal a latent melan­choly, a gene­ra­tio­nal lethargy. David Rappeneau depicts an expe­rience of alie­na­tion that of the cha­rac­ters but also that of the audience. Exuberant sexua­lity has made way for bore­dom. These heigh­te­ned fan­ta­sies are the pro­jec­tion of a desire so intense that it can­not be satis­fied. What we see here is a sen­sa­tion strip­ped of all fee­ling, super­fi­cially ero­tic” shells of a body, to quote Audre Lorde in her essay Uses of the Erotic”. A cold vibra­tion, simi­lar to that of a tele­phone screen, ema­nates from the scrat­ched sur­face of the paper, which condemns its cha­rac­ters to impos­sible encoun­ters and simu­lates a fee­ling of clo­se­ness.

Conversely, the works of My-Lan Hoang-Thuy dis­play a subt­lety that recon­ciles her prac­tice of dra­wing and pain­ting through a sen­sua­lity that is expres­sed, above all, through her work with the mate­rial itself. What we see above all else are My- Lan Hoang-Thuy’s ges­tures: the paint has no can­vas but has become auto­no­mous, a mass of pig­ments that she models through drips and then prin­ting her dra­wings on the sur­face, some­times with pen­cil lines etched on the sur­face of the paint. In this new series, My-Lan Hoang- Thuy ties her dra­wing to her pain­ting work. Photographs of the artist’s dra­wings meet her tou­ched-up self-por­traits prin­ted on the thick sur­face of acry­lic paint. The dra­wings, some­times at a dis­tor­ted angle or stret­ched out – which is then repli­ca­ted during prin­ting, form more abs­tract com­po­si­tions, flir­ting with the figu­ra­tive. The sen­sua­lity of both the mate­rial and colours is mat­ched by tri­an­gu­lar shapes pier­cing clear curves, enhan­ced by geo­me­tric pat­terns done in pen­cil and felt pen, giving the false impres­sion of lace. The dra­wings are no lon­ger just pre­li­mi­nary sketches, but are wor­ked into the pain­ting, beco­ming an essen­tial ele­ment of the com­po­si­tion.

From this work of syn­the­sis comes a free­dom roo­ted in move­ment, where there is no lon­ger hie­rar­chy, but where the ele­ments meet to create a new for­mal lan­guage. My –Lan Hoang –Thuy is not loo­king to give a straight­for­ward defi­ni­tion to things, but enjoys blur­ring the lines bet­ween genres, brin­ging mate­rial to life, and playing with the contra­dic­tions that appear on the sur­face of the work.

The ambi­guity of desire which stirs the crea­tor and the spec­ta­tor is at the heart of Manon Wertenbroek s prac­tice. Her sculp­tures evoke the body without ever por­traying it directly, func­tio­ning as synec­doche, skin without a body. She uses mate­rials directly rela­ted to the body – lea­ther, latex, metals, jewel­lery – and appro­priates their ero­tic poten­tial. For Tombe cor­po­relle et bien-être, the pin­kish-purple lea­ther, simi­lar to the colour of a bruise, is pin­ched, crea­sed and stret­ched. It looks like inter­nal organs, an enve­lope, a craw­ling snake, or intes­tines diges­ting. It is always a dive towards the inter­ior and the inti­mate through this opaque win­dow – an attempt to go beyond, to detach from the skin in order to bring the true iden­tity into play. This meta­mor­pho­sis is embo­died in Urine-sang-eau de mer, «soak your­self with sea salt since it holds a par­ti­cu­lar power, that of arou­sing thirst», a latex and mesh skin sus­pen­ded from a wall that almost seems to be decaying. While soft at first glance, the pas­tel colours (beige, bluish, pur­plish) qui­ckly evoke a cold, cada­ve­rous body. The cen­tral cavity gives this enve­lope an ope­ning, from which a vis­ce­ral crea­ture could have emer­ged. Although it’s open to our gaze, this inter­io­rity is inac­ces­sible to us and is as frus­tra­ting as the way the Zipper H85 undresses – in vain – the wall in which it is embed­ded. Manon Wertenbroek’s work is nou­ri­shed by an essen­tial tac­tile contact with the mate­rial, which contrasts with the almost feti­shis­tic rigour of her tech­nique.

Each of the three artists works with ambi­guous care. Their ges­tures both heal and do damage, sha­king the pre­cious nature of the for­mat and contras­ting meti­cu­lous­ness and imper­fec­tion. David Rappeneau’s dra­wings are meti­cu­lous, but their sharp, inci­sive lines vigo­rously scratch the paper. The scenes depic­ted take place in bathrooms, in theory a place for self-care, but are popu­la­ted by dis­tur­bing bathers, punc­tua­ted by streams of blood or a bro­ken mir­ror. Although the acry­lic layers of My-Lan Hoang-Thuy’s pain­tings seem to be thought­fully cares­sed, spread with deli­cate care, the artist also seeks to dis­turb the resul­ting pre­cious object. The irre­gu­lar and flo­wing edges of the paint, the rough nature of the mate­rial, and the spon­ta­neity of the pen­cil line all free them­selves from any deco­ra­tive feti­shi­za­tion. Finally, Manon Wertenbroek’s extre­mely meti­cu­lous work is pai­red with an obvious vio­lence that pierces, tor­tures, and tears the lea­ther or, on the contrary, uses a slow move­ment that plas­ters a wall torn by a zip. The sen­sual sur­face of the works is imme­dia­tely scrat­ched to bet­ter reveal their com­plexity, thus arou­sing our desire to touch them, to get as close as pos­sible to them to try to grasp their nuances.

Photo cre­dits: ©Grégory Copitet /​all images copy­right and cour­tesy of the artists and Galerie Derouillon, Paris

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