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Magali Leonard, Fugitive Feathers


Every morning, the artist walks near an ornithological center in the Woods of Vincennes.

This rendezvous in communion with nature is a meditative and creative approach that allows her to reveal, through her photography, the transient passages on our landscape in a series entitled “The Sphere of Birds”.

With an ethereal realism, she takes note of curious anomalies, zooms in on tiny movements between sky and earth.  Magali Leonard photographs in the moment, without staging, feathers of swans and other birds, which she happens to come across. The feather is an apparition which becomes the anchor, the aesthetic mark of the artist’s delicate, fleeting and aerial vision of nature.

The down of the feather is highlighted when exploring this world of black and white. This texture effect, without retouching or filters, focuses on the fold of white and that of light; themes that are dear to the artist.

Shadow and light, death and life, are at the fringes of the disturbing strangeness evoked by Freud, where the beautiful and the shapeless, the void and the full, the domestic and the foreign converse.

A torn wing reveals this balance of forces. The dramatic tension slides from the overall picture to the smaller details, which give meaning to the seemingly insignificant. A drop of rainwater, frost, a fly… are among the many details that draw the eye.  From left to right, our gaze advances then turns back to probe the nature of the visible space more closely.  This oscillation creates a distance from reality; between the possibilities of recognition and fictional associations.

“The Sphere of Birds” is presented on a roll of canvas, 8-meters long, resembling photographic film in large format.  With neither beginning nor end, one is free to move around this imposing structure. Part of the work has been voluntarily left unrolled, hidden from the spectator, still to become. We are invited to imagine and “develop” the end of the film for ourselves.  Five columns of photographs printed on aluminum accompany the rolled canvas.

In skillfully planned continuity, the ensemble’s dynamics reveal the afterimage.  The feathers are in motion, always different, never captured in the same place. Under our gaze, each has a story to tell. They stir our senses in an exhibition space, the perfect backdrop for the further expansion and unfolding of their ever-changing tales.  From one reality to another, though the passage of sight and touch, they lead us into a shared space.

Fugitive and almost dreamlike, Magali Leonard’s photographs generate the vague sensation of being in the presence of an elusive phenomenon. They provoke visual experiences with a fundamental link to Space and Time, with loss of reference as the central notion.

One is free to wander and lose oneself, cultivate one’s own interpretations, to follow the trace of a hidden meaning, while contemplating these natural, beautiful, enigmatic and poetic scenes.




Absorption of the Real


From paper to canvas, a photograph becomes a painting.

Her works portray a new way of perceiving the world; a world of open spaces, continuous and illuminated movements, where black and white give way to colour, allowing the tangible to etch itself into the background.


Physically acting out her body’s inner impulses, her arm gestures fluid and free, she spontaneously projects and releases the paint from above as she circles the canvas. This pictorial choreography distances her from the all-over technique that occupies the entire surface of the composition.


In unctuous fluidity, the liquid colours escape onto the canvas and, in places, perspire.  

Reserve areas, born of the unpredictable, appear as light. Appearing spontaneously, these luminous haloes in shades of white create a palatable tension between the spaces.

These recurrent halos appear in moments of intense creation. They are the reflection of the act itself, of its origins,” explains Magali.

The creative act, the original source, cosmic and initiator of life, constitutes the research theme developed in her “Cosmogonies” Series, in search of the creative elements; fire, earth, water, air…


Air and the dynamics of breathing are a common thread.

A new breath is taken in the “Opening” Series, where an opening, made by a circular gesture, holds the echo of a line between mastery and contingency.

If it were music, it would be the sound of a gong,” she explains.

The almost instrumental atmosphere is received by the viewer as a sensory experience. 

Gesture and colour resonate in curved beginnings; colourful, radiant and never closed.

This gestural and marked engagement with the canvas is felt in the very fibre of the painting. Like the Japanese calligrapher, Magali Léonard works in rapid, flowing motions to capture the moment.


Circular gestures lead her towards line. “Crossings” recalls the artist’s express journey by train across America, from New York to San Francisco.

Echoing this spatial continuity, a series of independent and adjoining panels, which intercommunicate, are brought together. This connection forms a whole amounting to more than the sum of its parts. These mental landscapes are the vehicle of a fragmented universe; a succession of atmospheres capable of exposing a point of view.

My painting is the idea of presence in the world.”

Executed in the moment, each unique piece of “Crossings” creates a distinct mood; a suspended pause in time that invites interpretation.


Like a return to photographic sources, her latest works are a coloured rendition of her photos. They are based on a black and white photo of a large feather, chosen for its tricoloured appearance.

This flag brought by nature is a wonderful sight that I could not fail to notice.”

On Velin d’Arches paper, a thick and absorbent medium, the photo of the feather is integrated and enlarged on a greater scale in order to fit its new support. With her tools, she intervenes, paints, scrapes and builds with what has emerged. The feather becomes a pretence and blends into the image in resplendent harmony. A myriad of traces are left behind, full of the memory of the original feather, no longer apparent. The three stripes of the feather disappear and are cast into the dominant tricolour tones of the canvas. The combination of colours creates impressions of depth and relief. In this visual absorption, the artist re-envisions reality in an abstract form.


Through her constant movement, Magali Léonard seizes the moment. In the curiosity of an Elsewhere, able to reveal itself at each glance, her works are an invitation to grasp the evanescence of pictorial art.


                                                           2017 May       Canoline CRITIKS