January 30 - March 23, 2013
galerie jerome de noirmont

Sans titre, 2012. Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas. 65 x 50 cm.

exhibition release

Marjane Satrapi has always painted ...  Even if she has never shown it until now, painting is nevertheless the basis of all her creation, whatever its final shape.  This passion for painting was initially revealed in the form of comic strips or films as Marjane Satrapi wanted to create works for a larger audience, accessible to everyone.

For the first time, from 30 January to 23 March 2013, Marjane Satrapi unveils this hidden side of her artistic talents with 21 paintings, new or recent, all portraits.

All these works are indeed conceived as portraits whether showing a single subject or larger scenes with two or four subjects.

Marjane Satrapi analyses painting as a means of expressing her unconscious and yet the artist finds her inspiration in her familiar environment.  Even if the subjects depicted in her paintings are anonymous, their features are physically inspired from characters from her childhood.  In an approach that is paradoxically unrelated to feminism, she always draws women.  Their faces inspire her more and at the same time seem to her more varied and easier to draw.

The faces have very expressive features and are always represented with the mouth closed.  They are the only nuanced part in these paintings and are painted in shades of color that express the subtlety of human emotions.  By contrast, the subject´s body just as the rest of the scene are painted in a clear-cut chromatic range of colors and are the object of very constructed compositions where straight lines and flat areas of bold and lively colors contrast each other to put the subjects into better perspective.

Marjane Satrapi admits her enchantment with Balthus’s interior scenes and their very elaborate composition as well as her admiration for Mondrian’s geometric constructions.  However, the simplification of the lines as well as the color intensity inevitably bring to mind the sensual painting of Matisse who praised color as a "privileged instrument of communication and emotion."

Though the Matisse analogy is obvious, here it is conceptual, intellectual and non-pictorial : "My models, human figures, are never extras in an interior. They are the main theme of my work” (1)   “I don’t paint things, I only paint their relationships.” (2)

These words of her illustrious predecessor perfectly apply to the creative process of Marjane Satrapi who is herself primarily interested in human relationships.  Her portraits don’t attempt to feature the only representation of one or more subjects.  They have an obvious narrative character that presents the human relationships we experience every day.  For this reason, none of the subjects in these portraits are shown from the front.  Instead, their look always given from the side invite us to decipher the mystery of these women’s thoughts ...

Twelve portraits (65 x 50 cm) show single women in full reflection, at a side-glance, always turned outward.  Sometimes they seem lost in thought or by contrast determined and expressive.  The artist emphasizes that what attracts us here is the "off-field", what is not seen and what you look at when you are alone with yourself. (3)

In the six duo portraits (150 x 100 cm), the "off-field" has disappeared.  The suggestive look between the two subjects gives tension to the composition because when there are two, one is always monopolized by the other. (3)  The three paintings (140 x 140 cm) featuring four groups of women are like lively family portraits where one sits, poses or plays...  As soon as we’re with others we make concessions, so we pose.  We are no longer exactly ourselves. (3
This series of paintings is thus part of the continuity of all her previous creations.  This includes her comic strip Persepolis (2000-2003) and Broderies (4) (2003) in which Marjane Satrapi sought to portray the complexity of human nature with a simplified yet remarkably expressive pictorial expression, always treating the classic aesthetic criteria of human representation with a lot of irony and humor.

With total creative freedom that overcomes all technical or pictorial dogmatism, she reunites here the paradoxes of her personality; a character at once exuberant, highly externalized and surprisingly introspective.  She manages to bring together a logical and rational reasoning with a dreamlike expression of feelings and emotions from a personal experience that mixes Eastern values from her family culture and the Western values from having lived in France since her youth.

1 : Henri Matisse, « Notes of a Painter », in Le Point, 1939.

2 : Henri Matisse in Louis Aragon, Matisse in France, 1943.

3: The words in italic belong to the artist.

4 : In English : Embroideries