En préparation à mon exposition de décembre 2015 Mr Nahas m'a soumis ce questionnaire qui m'a permis de synthétiser mes réfèrents dans ma démarche artistique.
- Your selection /choices of colors, tones, tonalities: which colors do you feel best suit the cosmological and numinous aspects of your aesthetic?
- As I told you for my last exhibition I often use natural pigments reflecting the natural colors of the earth, including a vast range of ochres - materials linked to the earth in earthy tones.
I sometimes use warm colors; a strong presence of oranges or, in some « openings », yellows: I use colors that radiate light and “stir up” the space, emitting powerful energy.
I also use whites to create depth, extending and giving breath to the painting. The colour black is used in a thicker density.
Water, of course, is a vital element. I use my colors with abundant water for transparence, sometimes juxtaposing thicker densities to show heterogeneity of colour and matter. The flow of the water allows the colors to be set into motion.
- Please describe the various physical /phenomenological conditions of mark-making in your practice: do you work on a flat surface/that is table or floor or do you engage with yr surfaces as they are hung flat against a wall? Or both? If both, please describe.
1) I have written about my presence in act of creating – the movements of my body, in motion, around the canvas on the floor.
There is no top or bottom to the canvas. No set viewpoint.
Afterwards, I must decide how the canvas should be displayed, taking into account multiple viewpoints. In an ideal exhibition, the painting would be able to displayed showing all four possible viewpoints, in rotation for example.
As I mentioned above, my movements and the colors’ movements embodied in my paintings are facilitated by the use of water, a vital element which enables me to move the colors in a fluid motion.
It is like a choreography, a dance. I named my paintings« corps et graphie / chorégraphie» prior to 2007. I think of it as a body calligraphy. I showed it in Japan in 2004 for my first solo exhibition in Osaka.
My canvas always maintains a relationship between its dimensions and my body. It is a constant “hands on” fight as I work. There exists a continuous link between my body and the support.
2) Colour is not applied in brushstrokes as it is important to keep the colors free as I work with, and in the movement of, the flux of colour. I work with that which is escaping, nothing is fixed. I must capture what appears during the process of painting. Something always appears, revealed by colour and the elements.
However, in « Openings », one action was new to my process:
At the beginning there is always a first gest within a first movement, which places a mark in the space of the canvas. If it was music, it would be a like a gong that sounds, a first resonant percussion, a resonant entrance; it is an open circle - not a drawing, not a sign. This first gest creates the energy necessary to enter into the act of painting, creates an open tension. From this moment on, the energy circulates in open space.
At the end of the painting, accents, points of intensity can appear, as if taking a last risk. In fact, there is always a risk that all will be lost if this last gest is not right. Generally, however, in this final moment, the intensity becomes amplified in the painting.
- Are there any filmmakers or writers that have affected you in the securing of your aesthetic?
- I like to go to cinema see a lot of movies and retrospectives. However, if I had to choose only one for my « Openings », I would choose « Pandora », where Albert Levin experiments with the « essence of time » and Ava Gardner goes back to her origins.
As for writers, I would choose some philosophers to express the form of my thoughts and my work.
Leibniz / soul-body-world / To be in articulation on the world. Every thought for Leibniz is in relation with the universe.
The capacity of humans for universal communication. When something new arrives, everything is played anew.
He is the philosopher of the event - nothing really fixed
harmony of the accord of the “ monades »: all the points of space are in relation to each other ; there is a common order in everything , a harmony, the idea of the “globality in the universe”
(It brings to mind Michel Jonas singing Leibniz « unis vers l’uni » !)
Spinoza /question of joy/ l’Ethique
Joy as it affects the deepest part of an individual.
In the same time, no one time but timeS, (perception is turned back onto itself)
As the «coexistence » of all life experience. That which is alive at every moment, in a state of continual fluctuation.
There would therefore be no line, no geometry of time but a sort of vertical time.
François Cheng « Vide et plein » ( empty and full ) and his poetry.
In Asia, the painter as the calligrapher using lines to create and the act of placing a clear accurate line in the white of the empty paper (or the silk ) without the possibility of a redo. Only one chance. The true breath of life.
I know that in my paintings I need to keep this “breath” circulating.
Empty space is as important as the filled space.
I need to preserve some white empty canvas and I often keep reserves - reserved space for the original canvas, which amplifies the space.
Henri Maldiney, for example his two books « l’art l’éclair de l’être »”art being lightning” or « ouvrir le rien, l’art nu »
About what appears when we remove the appearance: (l’apparaitre quand l’apparence se retire)
The openness. The state of flux. The relationship between color and space. How transparency is linked with the openness.
The painter is not front of a blank canvas as somebody who has to show .
He is open to the canvas and the canvas is open to him. The painter opens the space.
- What affinities do you have with artists that are working contemporaneously with you either in Europe, the USA or worldwide? ( I want to explore other systems than the usual (and self-evident) modernist ab-ex stream of influences such as Pollock, Hantai etc.)
- The All over of course is important with the question of open space and the absence of a dominant viewpoint.
The abstract expressionist, The color fields about the relation between space and colors
Mark Rothko expecially about the relations between colors, space, light and spirituality…opened spaces (In 2011, I went to see his chapel in Houston.)
Pollock, of course. I am working on the floor so he is essential but there are big differences.
Firstly, I stretch my canvas on a stretcher. I need resistance to be able to control the different possibilities of movement and to keep the colors immersed in the canvas. Also, I build the space into the movements, mine and the flow and flux of colors.
Hantai he worked in the reserved space… with the circulation of the «breath of life» - as it is tied to the universe, which is of course important to me.
Donald JUDD about question of the relation of spaces : no center, multiplicities and harmony between the elements; As in Ley’s mathematics. He built with principle of continuities.
All the points of space are in relation to each other and envelop the space in folds which reflect light materials, It is a concrete universe always in movement.
- Your work is evidently intuitive as are the choices you are making in terms of color/mark making etc.
With that understood and out of the way please answer the following question that pertains to your use of intuition if we are to understand that intuition isn't hocus locus but draws upon subliminal knowledge and allows the unfiltered, unfamiliar and unknown to enter your work: what role does intuition play in your work?
- I think I have to understand « intuitive » in the sense of « thought representation ».
Perhaps. Yet I have answered this through my choices of artists or philosophers to shed some light on my research.
- Please speak to the subliminal knowledge or knowledges that have been allowed to emerge into consciousness because of your use of/trust of intuition as a practicing professional artist. In your own words please answer the following double-sided question:
As someone involved in visual philosophy WHAT are you describing in and through your work? How are you describing (it)? in and through and as your work.
- I can’t be the actor of my creation and its interpreter at the same time…
I could give some references which may help to understand the nature of my work.
I am not describing; I am not in a logic of intentionality.
Every space is a unique space in which I find myself in the presence of the action.
Every painting triggers my surprise.
I have to be receptive to what the painting is showing me.
I discover my painting for the first time I am some time in the surprise
The unpredictable nature of my work allows me to remain open to the act of creating.
- Please speak to your titles in your work: how do you select/choose your titles? From your perspective what is the importance/lack of importance of titles in an art work/in the making of an art work?
- I don’t like to give titles to my work because they can often limit the way my work is perceived by the viewer. Titles can close their imagination. I prefer to provide a more open terminology, such as « Cosmogonies » or, in this case, “Openings” .
However, I did name a Cosmogony : “Microcosme Macrocosme” (shown in December 2010 at the Wickiser gallery). This painting was an exception to the rule but I understood the necessity to name the Universe released in my painting.
« OPENINGS »
I chose this title because it is in relation with what I show (through space/light/colors) and its internal meanings.
The paintings evolve from the first mark of an open circle, through light and the circulation of light, and through the spaces of color. Nothing is closed.
I added a number for every painting as representing a unique moment, a unique element in this continuity, a tempo to my creation.
Texte de Dominique Nahas écrit à la suite de l'entretien, paru dans le catalogue de l'exposition "Magali Léonard - Openings : Worlds of Transparency and Flux", 1er décembre - 26 décembre 2015
Openings: Worlds of Transparency and Flux
By Dominique Nahas
Magali Leonard’s “Openings” series of acrylic paintings are invitations. They propel us into pictorial universes in which the beholder is beckoned and beseeched to bear witness. In experiencing the artist’s surfaces, her markings and ovoid shapes, what we sense and feel is flux, the very nature of beholding and of becoming, at once anticipated and then withdrawn. The principle that underpins Leonard’s apparent fealty to exploring the dialectical fluctuations of appearance and dis-appearance, of integration and dis-integration, of ceasings and beginnings in her work is the principle of revelation. Leonard also skillfully pours her pigments to create veils of colors to, in her words, “stir and wake up the space and spacings of light” that permeate each painting. Transparency and opacity, through pouring, are mixed and matched by the artist, coloristically, to convey the presence of prima materia—the formative elemental condition leading to alchemical alteration, change, and ultimately, transformation.
In Opening 8 (2011), Leonard creates an explosive dynamic field of interactive marks and forms that excite, mystify, and delight the eye in equal measure. Leonard’s palette is unforgettable: she selects a wide range of ochers, yellows, and oranges to suggest radiant light in some areas of the canvas, while suggesting volcanic and subterranean terrains in others. The artist builds upon the advances of pioneer American color field painter Helen Frankenthaler, as well as those of Morris Louis and Clyfford Still, to create supercharged color-soaked and color streaked surfaces that compete for the eye’s attention in an all-over manner.
Vitality and vibrancy permeates Opening 8. Leonard uses her natural acrylic pigments as dynamic agents in their own right; pouring them on her pictorial surfaces, some of these colors are allowed to soak into the canvas, while others build up in thicker consistencies, and still others manifest in the form of rivulets, splatters and dribbles. The composition consists of different coloristic scenarios where shapes and marks seem to erupt naturally from within, like emerging fields of energies spreading beyond the edges of the canvas.
Such a promise of transformation is manifest in, for example, Opening 27 (2012). Leonard’s painterly pours are used to create the suggestion of a floating nighttime world, of moody coronas and lunar eclipses. Leonard applies—or perhaps “choreographs” is a better term—a spectrum of thin and thick washes in her paintings to suggest a fluid dynamic between “emptiness and fullness” a term used by the French art historian Francois Cheng to describe the aesthetic principle in play in classic Chinese painting.
In Leonard’s aesthetic vision, dynamic positive and negative spaces nestle and interchange within circular motifs, spheres and ovoid forms. These interactions, tinged with coloristic bravura if not ferocity, are tremulous with vitality. Their energies infer the realms of the natural and of the unnatural, of the earthly and of the cosmic. The results are painterly masterworks charged with resonant energy, drenched with transparency and flux.
Dominique Nahas is an independent curator and critic based in Brooklyn.