November 22 – December 10, 2017
What is it about painting that makes it such a phenomenon of human visual history? Is it the materiality of paints themselves—oils, acrylics, their composition of pigments and binders? Perhaps it is the process of applying the paint to a number of different surfaces and the unique effect that occurs. One could examine the many facets of painting in all of its forms and still, there may never be one single answer as to why painting prevails in the world. When describing painting as a visual form of art, there are many keywords commonly used such as colour, pattern, shape, contrast, light, and texture. This is the language used when speaking and writing about painting, however, artist Marie Bineau’s current work goes a step further so as to apply these terms literally, as she examines painting as subject matter.
While the majority of her paintings in her recent exhibition at Galerie Luz were non-representational and largely geometric, there is a sense that Bineau’s work points to the way nature is reflected in painting. Forms that appear in the natural world, like patterns, textures and volute spirals, are strewn about canvases, wood boards and prints alike, tying art and nature together. Overlapping shapes and gestural lines intersect each other energetically while patterns wrap around the edges of the canvases as though alive and wanting to spread onto the walls. These forms create an intertwining barrier, like the perimeter of a forest wall, unable to see beyond, disrupting any possibility for the illusion of depth.
The placement of canvases is sculptural in and of itself, moving beyond triptychs to combinations of four, six or seven. The canvases are staggered, leaving negative spaces in their arrangement, a design that leaves the viewer wondering about the voids and their function to the artwork before them. The piecing together of the multi-canvas paintings also allows the viewer to wonder whether the artwork functions only one way—the way it has been presented by the artist and curator—or if it could be shifted and if so, would it tell a different narrative? This manner of playing with numerous different sized canvases evokes dynamic movement unlike the traditional static salon style of exhibiting paintings. This, along with the gestural and lively configurations of shape, pattern, colour and texture that appear on the canvases are what aide in the visualization of how nature in its most abstract forms is reflected in Bineau’s art.
There are a few pieces that do feature representational content: one painting and two digital prints. The painting, named Paysage aux trois Vénus, features three Klimt-esque women or Venus figures. Each on its own individual long, narrow canvas, they are placed atop and alongside the geometric portions of this piece. They do not appear separate, but rather are molded to their surroundings and integrated with the earth tones, patterns and sweeping circles that make up the painted surface of the sculptural seven-canvas collection.
What is most interesting about Paysage aux trois Vénus is the way that Bineau depicted each Venus as peeking through shadow or blending into its landscape. The reason they are somewhat reminiscent of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt is due to their thin, extended bodies which are immersed in pattern and paint. The topmost figure is the most visible as she is placed horizontally despite her standing pose. Nearly three-quarters of her face is discernable while only parts of the rest of her body poke up from the dark paint, just as though the face, a hand and knees break the surface of the water while floating on one’s back. She is either coming out from underneath or is being pushed down further by the opaque black paint that envelops her.
The second-most recognizable Venus appears on the right of the piece on her own vertical canvas. However, unlike her sister above, this figure’s portion is taken over even more so by the rest of the painting, with overlapping circles and many long strokes of colour pouring down like a waterfall acting as a veil covering her body. All that remains to be seen is a much darker face, almost a silhouette with only a few features highlighted roughly, and the hint of a neck and shoulders.
The third Venus takes a keen, searching eye to see. It is this figure who has become most immersed in her environment and one with her landscape. What could be described as an abstract valley-scape contains subtle indications of a Venus figure laid horizontally. Do we know for sure that she is there, or are we just assuming she is following the painting’s title and the two other figures in similar compositions, letting our mind fill in the blanks that our eyes cannot see? Nevertheless, what is apparent is that all three together form an evolution, the order of which is ambiguous.
Evolution, or better, metamorphosis could very well be a theme of this exhibition. In a more literal sense the metamorphosis of painting, which Bineau analyzed in creating each piece. The metamorphosis can also be represented by a single motif that is ever-present in these works: the spiral. In some cases, Bineau emphasizes this motif even more so by incorporating the words “volute” “spire” and “spirale” written into her work. This is the case with Tondo 1, a painting of vibrant reds, yellows and oranges on a circular wooden surface. Here Bineau painted her own snail shell volute, spiraling around the circle in its own wild manner. Nautilus, a digital print on mylar features an image of a real mollusk shell, as its title suggests. All contained within a circle, the overlaying, transparent images on mylar give a similar effect of her larger paintings on canvas that are made up of overlapping forms. In Casa Playa, Bineau digitally manipulated an image of a palm leaf to form a volute of its own. The ripples of texture and alternating light and dark pattern found in spirals are mimicked here by each individual strand of the palm leaf that turns in towards its beginning.
The thing about metamorphosis in nature is that there is a clear beginning and end. Perhaps then, in the case of Marie Bineau’s undertaking of representing the nature of painting, it is less so about the conception of painting or the final product and more so about the process itself that is significant. One thing that is evident when looking at Bineau’s current work of large geometric formations, multiple Tondo’s and digital prints, is that while they are complete works, they still appear to be moving, changing and reshaping before our eyes.