Contemporary art publications — Visual artists in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Marie-Anita GAUBE

update January 13 2021

Texts below :

  • Interview with Thomas Bonnote, 2016
  • Marion Delage de Luget, 2016
  • Pierre-Jacques Pernuit, 2015
  • Viviana Birolli, 2014
  • Marc Desgrandchamps, 2014



Excerpt from ÉTAT DES LIEUX

Interview with Thomas Bonnote, 2016
Translated by Lucy Pons


One can guess that some of your paintings are inspired by social realities or echo contemporary events. How do you make today's world part of your work? Is it safe to talk about reification ?

- I need to be moved to start working on a project. I need a specific event to bring out feelings in me. My latest series of paintings partly refers to events linked to migration, uprooting, and loss.
Most of the time I am hit with an image, like a flash, a reparatory image. I mention reparation here because most of the time it concerns events one tries to forget and bury, either because they have become overwhelming (when they get too much media coverage), or because one no longer wishes to face them. In this case, I shift the object out of its typical context and place it in an unusual setting. I let it exist outside of where it is normally found in order to gain better understanding of it. I use this reparatory process to bring the images that inhabit us back to the forefront.

- The motif is a significant element in your work. However, its importance has varied a lot. Where do you stand with this research now ?

- For a long time I saw the motif as a refuge, or rather as a tipping point in my paintings – a place where the eye could drift off. I think that through its repetition, the motif always invites us to get lost in it, to let our minds drift off in contemplation.
The use of motifs came to me when I was looking at Renaissance painting, particularly in the way they are repeated on fabric, constantly opening up new perspectives (in Hans Memling's San Sebastian or Dirk Bouts' Ascension, for instance). A motif is a window.
The irregularity of shapes and refusal of flat surfaces are also consequences of my will to treat the motif as an opening onto a new space, a new landscape. They also function as a pivot that articulates both aspects of the picture. (...)

- Your palette is both rich and very colourful, with an increasing use of gradations. How did you come to this use of colour ?

- I'm not sure how. I love colour simply because it enables me to give life to what I am depicting. It also allows the figures in the painting to exist “elsewhere”. For instance, colour might turn a cactus into a strange and imperceptible glowing mass. A body layered with coloured washes will blend or turn into a waterscape or island of greenery...
I think colour is what provides the most freedom in painting. It is the second step after drawing, allowing us to break away and drift a little closer to a different vision of things, a different understanding. The evolution of my palette somewhat eludes me, depending on the mood, the season, the light, the subject...
Colour is a language per se. When I look at a painting by Peter Doig or Daniel Richter, for instance, all I need is colour to escape into the picture.

- The titles, compositions and visual rhythms show a will to open up the possibility for others to make up stories. There is something of a riddle about them, which often remains unsolved. What is it that prompts such a partial enunciation ?

- My painting is not a story. It does not claim to be a narrative, but rather an event that combines several temporalities, with only a few clues given for each of them. There is the time of the past, the time of the viewer and another time which remains open.
I compose so as not to lock down what is happening, what I am showing. In fact, everything in my painting remains to be done. I am not trying to come up with answers, but rather to propose arrangements, forms that are more interrogative, and for which I don't always have a solution.” (...)

Text by Marion Delage de Luget
Published in Semaine 28.16, Analogues, 2016, for the exhibition Out of Place organised by Esox Lucius

Could the title under which Marie-Anita Gaube groups together her last paintings have been more explicit ? Out of place – that which has been moved, literally and guratively – to indicate the astonishing mobility that is part of her paintings. She is already well-known for her games of juxtaposition, the superposition of elements and disparate plans that already used to encourage a certain circulation between objects and places reunited on canvas. Here she succeeds in making this geography even more complex, in particular by accentuating the discrepancies in scale in her landscapes. Exaggerating the differences between the fore and backgrounds in order to better dig vertiginous rising perspectives : tiny profiles of birds sailing out at sea on frail and weak barges, concise outlines, sketched in a few translucent strokes, miniature characters, going about we don't know what under cover of the trees ; and this tiny cabin squeezed onto the horizon of the body of water, huddled in front of a grove of thorough vegetation that we imagine to be rich despite the distance. These playlets, which are almost out of range, make us continuously adapt our vision, or better still, make us come closer – and they invite us to a paradoxically intimate reading, as close as possible to these considerably large sized paintings.
Marie-Anita Gaube depicts distant lands abound with a mass of tiny details. And as with other Flemish Primitives, many strange activities take place there – in unique contortions, the characters are abruptly catapulted overboard, or they brandish flares to inspect the depths. In Pluton they bathe, naked, taking on incongruous, grotesque positions which are sometimes reminiscent of the grotesque figures by an artist like Hieronymus Bosch. With his head underwater, a man is trying to get his balance, one leg half folded, revealing his genitals ; and this completely crazy pose summarizes the inappropriate nature of the exhibition's title. Nearby, another character, standing with his back to us, is covering his shoulders with a towel. This time the gesture is disarmingly daily. With Marie-Antia Gaube the body is often clumsy, betraying the abandon which only happens in the most ordinary situations. Finally, a body is totally domestic, even though, conversely, it is part of an improbable wilderness. So much so, in fact, that it willingly loses some of its corporality. It is another constant in the way work evolves : broken up, smaller and becoming marginal in these oversized environments, here the gure is often close to decay – like this individual taking an unsteady step in Hidden Space, with the few highlights and weak links used to draw him almost ready to collapse into a pile of shapeless pictorial matter. Using transparency, overlapping, the figure sometimes even changes enough to become inextricably intertwined with the depths. Liquefied, scattered, the body that Marie-Anita Gaube delivers ends up by no longer existing. Freed of the limits of its initial phenomenality, it brings this utopic dimension attributed to it by Foucault : “Itis the ground zero of the world” 1, this absolute place, simultaneously here and elsewhere, from which point “[...] I dream, I speak, I move forward, I imagine.” 2
And after all Marie-Antia Gaube's painting is always shown in this way, by the contrasting of antithetical concepts. Furthermore this is why she fragments, unlevels the pictorial space, in order to create unpredictable passages between these radically opposed places that she likes to introduce. In this way, everything is linked and yet everything is in contradiction : the foregrounds at the front, with solid surfaces – the jetty, the canoe's bow, slats of wooden flooring which is slightly dipped in order to emphasize the alignments – that project towards the unfathomable expanses of water which seem to bathe everything. Within, without, inextricably entangled. Everything in this painting is represented, contested, inverted all at once. For example, water keeps changing state – it runs down a waterfall, is raised into monumental icebergs, is scattered as u y snow akes. With Eldorado we don't seem to know anymore : one character wanders across the lagoon as he would across an ice floe, while another dives into it. Unless the horizontal line that radically splits the painting in two actually indicates the shift of mirror symmetry with this other blue beach, these polar skies in which broken ice seems to float.
This potential for reversibility is the main means used by Marie-Anita Gaube to find a way around the logical form that image and reality must have in common. In this way she blurs what would otherwise be a representation. Even more, she is not content with organising an improbable closeness of things, but she also seeks to make the site itself impossible for these things to come close together. She does everything so that we intentionally lose the place where the painting unfolds ; everything to stop it happening, in a radically plural spatiality which is reminiscent of these other spaces, that Foucault called heterotopy – these locations where, he says, “[...] the world feels less like a great life that will develop through time than like a network that links points and intertwines its web.” 3

1. Michel Foucault, "Le Corps utopique", Le corps utopique, suivi de Les Hétérotopies, Paris, Nouvelles Éditions Lignes, 2009, p 18.
2. Ibid.
3. Foucault, op. cit., p 32.

Text by Pierre-Jacques Pernuit, translated by Najma Sachak Pochard
Nouvelles aires, cahier de crimée n°24, Françoise Besson Gallery, 2015

The first thing to do is to find a fixed position. The onlooker must have cause to enter, to penetrate into the world of Marie-Anita Gaube. However, a patient quest is required in order to achieve an analytical review, to apply a knowledgeable eye. The images which are presented before us do not make it easy. We must approach them along crisscrossing paths. They do not surrender to, as much as they stride across, the observant eye. The eye explores, its routine perturbed.

What does one see ? What is it at stake in this painting referred to elsewhere as « hybrid » ? What does one really see ? By Marie-Anita Gaube's own admission, the titles speak to us in riddles.

The image resists a single interpretation. Should one, in order to grasp the mystery, undertake a comparison of the different canvasses in order to establish an ultimate « difference » amidst the differences, something which would unravel the workings of a definitive painting style, give away a glimpse of the broad outlines of a particular style, a world ? And yet this would go against the grain of the disposition to take vis-à-vis the paintings of Marie-Anita Gaube. Such a disposition would suffer the misfortune of the painting being reduced to a mystery frozen in a single word, when it is really intrinsically unsettled, in motion, yet to arrive. The mystery is essentially not quite born, still in the making.

There is never one single scene portrayed, but a crowd of them, a plethora of actions and references in time, the different facets of a singular narrative from which logic has fled. It is, as Marie-Anita Gaube puts it, « the theatre of the canvas », something « out of time » which witnesses the comings and goings of the figures.
The tableau is sprinkled with ghosts, where individuals appear and disappear. It thus gives the impression that a complex mental construct as a « grand image »* has preceded the canvas. In the beginning, therefore, was an idea.

Nevertheless, what is the nature of the mental construct implied ? Is it elements of a landscape ?
Or is it there to outline the space of the painting to come ?

L'antichambre, here, is a word which echoes throughout my encounter with Marie-Anita Gaube : This idea of an undetermined flowing space, not frozen, inhabited by characters from nowhere. Hence, this « grand image »* which precedes the act itself of painting is revealed to us only through cursory glimpses. We can see only certain faces, fragments which show the impossibility of seizing the totality of the mental space.
One could conceive the « grand image »* as a free-standing sculpture which does not give itself away other than from one angle at a time. There is an admission of the paintings' narrative limits set by its figurative constraints, which evokes something unseen, an « otherness » drawing upon a deeper mystery.

It is truly a painting of « movement », a flow, an image which anticipates and precedes the scene. The characters, their backs turned to the onlooker, perhaps just on the verge of turning away, are set towards an asserted identity, while one remains unaware if this has been accomplished or still to be. The only certitude : The transitional state, the task to be accomplished.


Border handles the themes of migration, uprooting.
The landscape is subjected to a similar lack of definition. It is a Paysage poreux (a « porous landscape »), a Poursuite in the « pursuit » of a reliable spatial quality. The gouache and graphite pencil drawings exist between two temporal states: A monochrome suspended in time as in a memory retrieved, in contrast with a more present, more conceivable vision, bursting forth with colour.

The resulting impression of the painting is of something destined for the creation of « a place » which does not really exist. The brush-work of characters in a pattern, as if borrowed from classical painting, has been diverted away from its narrative role. The perspective which governed the arrangement of figures, according to their significance in a painting, has now become a tool of the unreal, one of the deconstruction of the topos. But this diversion is not meant to be derisory or to ridicule, it pertains more to the process of deconstruction.

Marie-Anita Gaube's painting induces one to see beyond the frame set by the image, to open up a path to imagination, to raise oneself beyond the one-dimensional surface colours. She says, « The colour is there to stir up a disturbance. It has been applied as if to contradict. It sets it apart ». There is a discrepancy between colour and reality; it is a lever leaning the sight towards an opening into the picture.

It is a painting of the point of access, an approach, a painting of the waiting room, whose finality is not fixed ; it is still in motion. One looks upon the painting of Marie-Anita Gaube as one would retain the memory of a cinema sequence. It is an invitation to enter an area to be, one of anticipation.

* François Jullien, La Grande Image n'a pas de forme. Ou du non-objet par la peinture, Paris, Seuil, 2003

Text by Viviana Birolli
Exhibition's catalogue entitled Dérives, Progress Gallery, 2014, with the support from the Centre national des arts plastiques

“[...] instead of being that from which discourse comes,
I would have been at the mercy of its unfolding,
its tiny lacunae, the point of its possible disappearance”.
Foucault, L'Ordre du discours, 1971

Marie-Anita Gaube paints worlds that have all the instability of fantastic tales, fleeting memories or other-worldly obsessions. By turns lyrical and hallucinatory, her paintings are the result of interwoven references and suggestions collected during daily searches for new images. They are composed according to a principle akin to surrealist collage or film editing.
Constructed via a process of framing and unframing that is both visual and narrative, her works are palimpsests, rebuses made up of spatial and temporal fragments embedded within one another. This process of embedding makes the images into epiphanies, constellations where time is crystallised into pictures: “Like a double door or the wings of a butterfly, the act of apparition is a perpetually repeated movement of closing and opening, of swinging out and back”.1
But they are also capricci of modern ruins. The real and the fantastic, erudite intertextuality and flights of the imagination combine along an axis that leads from Canaletto's impossible vedute to Goya's disturbing allegories.
The figures that underpin the syntax of Gaube's work are somewhat evocative of major painters of fantastic imagery such as Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Doig, Odilon Redon and James Ensor.
On the canvas, her sometimes shy and clumsy figures come together in a precarious world, a theatre whose paper sky might tear asunder at any moment, as in Pirandello's The Late Mathias Pascal. The atmosphere is sometimes that of a Beckett-like huis clos, sometimes that of luxuriant forests where all is luxe, calme et volupté : diaphanous settings for narratives made up of visual clues and dreamscapes imbricated within an intermediate, enigmatic space.

In Marie-Anita Gaube's most recent works, echoing the squares in de Chirico's metaphysical paintings, the human figure often signals absence or virtuality : pushed out onto the margins, conjured up by details, or subliminally evoked, man inhabits the space of the canvas like the memory of a presence that will shortly become anachronistic or which belongs to the future : a figure of suspense or expectation arising from a desire for something to happen.
At once a stage, a setting and a landscape, the tense space that remains becomes a wounded background ; the objects that dwell there are idols reminiscent of Francis Bacon, while disparate perspectives, scales and motifs stand as invitations to pass through the looking-glass.
These scenes are constructed in counterpoint, shifting between different depths and levels of transparency, intricate pigmentary details and bare surfaces, figurative references and reflexive gestures involving both material and medium, in a hand-to-hand struggle between the painter and the canvas. The painterly form is built up by and in colour, using an anti-naturalistic palette rooted both in expressionist and Fauvist tradition and in contemporary techno-artificial imagery.

The resulting paintings evoke instants where reality meets and slips inside fantasy, on the same ambiguous threshold that has characterised the timeless fascination of fantastic realism from the early 20th century to the present.
Although rooted in classic painterly tradition, Marie-Anita Gaube's works establish a network of enmeshed temporalities where the past short-circuits the present on the naturally dystopian plane of the imagination.
A tiny detail—a man wearing a gas mask, a veil of chemical colours—might suggest scenarios typical of contemporary science fiction. A simple shift in perspective might turn a funfair into a hellish banquet, comedy into tragedy, man and his world into a carnival of grotesque masks or a psychedelic forest of confusing and confused symbols.
At the heart of these ambiguous interwoven tableaux, where each image suggests, evokes and conceals its own flipside, are borrowed rituals, Ubuesque mythologies made up of drifting fragments, “quotes without quotation marks”, dysfunctional signs, and silent cracks where webs of discourse are spun.
In Marie-Anita Gaube's capricious paintings, the dream becomes a narrative chronotope involving the time and space of every image that reveals itself and every action that unfolds. As Queneau wrote in his introduction to Fleurs Bleues, quoting Plato, it is “ôvap àvxi ôveipaxoç” : a dream for a dream.

1. Georges Didi-Huberman, Phasmes. Essais sur l'apparition, 1, Paris, Minuit, 1998, p. 91

Text by Marc Desgrandchamps, 2014
Written for Dérives's catalogue exhibition, at Progress Gallery from 15 november to 20 december 2014, with the support from the Centre national des arts plastiques.


I first saw Marie-Anita Gaube's paintings two years ago. She was a student at the School of Fine Arts in Lyon and was working on a large format painting that I was only to see finished in a  photograph and which has since been stolen.
The painting depicted a world of human and animal figures and plants of varying sizes, in a setting featuring a river flowing through meadows: a landscape whose horizon was delimited by a chain of mountains worthy of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.
I was intrigued by this painting, whose whimsical atmosphere reminded me of the playful spontaneity of English Pop Art, especially early David Hockney.
Seeing her subsequent work has only made me more deeply intrigued.
This feeling is linked to the mysterious arrangements that give structure to the compositions, accompanied by titles that are no less enigmatic. It is hard to make out a subject. It seems that these paintings are like the life—or rather the lives—we lead, made up of instants whose meaning only becomes clear to us later, when the actions or projects that motivated us and blinded us have vanished. The fresh, sometimes acid colours contribute to this state of things, along with a representational freedom that seems to combine fragments of dreams and figures from reality. A t-shirt with a target on it becomes the central feature of a moonlit, dreamlike scene. Two headless bodies, one of which could be from a painting by Francis Bacon, face each other. A head in the form of a mask lies on the grass, and all is bathed in moonlight. The title of the work envisions dialogue, even if this dialogue remains wordless to us. It might be a peaceful nightmare, the harmony of certain colour shades and a few warmly lit cold colours creating a sense of the ambiguous sweetness of this world.
Paradoxically enough, the apparent spontaneity of certain paintings is the result of a long process of adjustment and superimposition. The colours are not laid down without remorse : they are contradicted by other hues that qualify what a distracted eye might see as mere expanses of solid colour. Like the red that Daniel Arasse glimpsed under Matisse's blue, it might be the source of visual pleasure where painting, beyond onesided determination, materialises in the subtlety of a colour scheme built up in successive stages. It's the last brushstroke that matters, but it's amplified by everything that came before.
The substance of the paint is not uniform ; instead we see varying thicknesses, as in Métamorphose, a work whose title seems to refer both to what is happening to the figures and to the way they are depicted on the canvas. Métamorphose also reminds me of a painting by Martial Raysse entitled Les Deux Poètes in which seated two figures face the viewer. The same frontality is at work in Maria-Anita Gaube's painting, but in her work the figures remain uncertain, and only a few precise details—hands or a shoe— elliptically identify their presence. There's also a kind of encryption of the scene, seen as a fact of painting rather than the encryption of a representation that depends on a story that must be discovered.
And yet the viewer can be tempted to undertake an interpretative exercise, prompted by recognisable elements borrowed from other realities scattered across the paintings. The red chevrons in Diagnostique de la Mélancolie recall Frank Stella's early work, and less obviously, the space located immediately above this reminiscence is somewhat evocative of Brice Marden's fluid work of the last thirty years. Linking Stella—whose name also means star—, the chevrons, and the astronaut standing to the left of them might seem a bold move, even if it reflects the fact that Marie-Anita Gaube's compositions can be seen as rebuses, or more fundamentally as repositories of clues based on which a meaning can be imagined and even reconstituted. The intrusion of emblematic elements from abstract art akin to minimalism shows that the artist's visual culture allows her to work from various sources that she recombines as a painter, assimilating them into the world of her canvases. Here we have all the key elements of an approach which, beyond the artist's current successes, promise a broad-ranging experimental territory for the future.