26 Feb - 21 Apr 2011
The Art of Watching Birds
February 26 – April 21, 2011
Let's Ask the Kobolds
The phenomenal painting cycles on which Valérie Favre has been working for over ten years are borne by a provoking realm which, to signify the entire "potlatch" as a conglomerate promising freedom, could well carry the title "societal mirror of spectacle." Favre's productivity is a rebellious aggressiveness, a radical reasoning between that very spectacle society that refrains from declaring Guy Debord's posthumous popularity either a success or failure and that lonely but ingenious process of self-conveyance that quickly volatilized every solidified image of the "persona" (still potent today) of the era of New Objectivity in Berlin of the 1920s. Hedonism, social glaciation, and separation anxiety. Today we should consider Debord, the painters of the 1960s or 1980s, but also the painter Valérie Favre in this (or a similar) way: conception of humanity is an attempt at life! Favre's apprenticeship period in Paris—she was born in Switzerland—may have reinforced this mindset and working approach of hers; yet a real workplace she has found in Berlin, as she herself notes. As an autodidact and hands-on explorative media theorist, she has arrived at painting, whose inherent radicality is fed by the tension between figuration and abstraction, in order to create the beautiful, the decorative, the facile, the brutal, the grotesque, the absurd, and the ugly through the exploration of eclectic methods. Her erratic technique of perpetually and suddenly changing her way of painting speaks of self-evaluation, and at the same time she is using these means in an attempt to snare our attention, encouraging us to again and again accompany her work and her quest anew. Yet she thereby slips into a (rather uncomfortable) antithesis of tradition since she neither flees nor affirmatively tags along, but rather figuratively (speaking) stumbles along. Here truth and reality manifest as natural painting—the freedom of which is not hampered by any order of style, color, theme, or (finally) institution—and as individuality. The path to this state is—and one must say unfortunately—harsh and cruel. Thanks to several figures and image metaphors, Favre has found outlets, pictorial and textual platforms in the paintings as stages or images carriers. Intercepted upon these is energy-laden impetus, its critique, aggression, and diffident power. It is a way of painting without blinders, without fear of mistakes and errors—a liberating means of painting which does not hesitate to interpret a visibility of forgetting.
Inhabiting her canvases since 1999 are the Hasenfrauen, and they are situated next to Lapine Univers in a symbolic cosmos. In "Die Antwort der Zwerge" there are jugglers and variety-show artists shown in a state of exposure, where from the left their symbolic despair, along with the subtle- to naïve-erotic presence (la pine is also a term for the male penis), forcefully emanates from the dream of surrealism into reality on the right side of the painting. Almost literary and at times reminiscent of Oskar Kokoschka, seized by the enchanted reality of the dolls, they skip slightly entranced through the mystical pictorial space. Favre thus seems to have found—in addition to the frequently thematized (dark) forest—a figurative link between her Swiss roots, her visual experiences in Paris, and her German approach to painting: a woman who suffers from strange excesses. Whereby suffering can and should be understand here in terms of the connotations of the (German) root "leid," namely, "erleiden" (to suffer), "gut leiden" (to like something), and "leid tun" (to feel sorry). This time she cites Debord: "I will never forget that he meant one should never spare spectators." And one can just as easily call on Antonin Artaud, whose "Theater of Cruetly" demanded everything from everyone. And it is also certain that the dwarfs' answer harbors a surprise.
Absurd groupings (or individual persons and animals) inhabit Favre's paintings; they have become individual canvas characters
through the process of painterly mechanisms. From the depths of the pictorial imagination of the subconscious—like in films
by David Lynch that originate from that strange, peculiar studio world of cinema as a dream factory—Favre's paintings virtually
spring from the studio painting of anti-commodity aesthetics of society and art. With dream images frequently evoked, we
experience neither beginning nor end. Her treatment of subjects, forms, breaches, repetitions, of a change in intensity and
tempo, of shifts on pictorial surfaces like the Kafkaesque transformation of the protagonists and the ever-respectful yet
inscrutable disclosure of a dark side of the subjective world view. Death is lurking everywhere. Favre paints the picture as a cut
through the surface of things, thus dichotomizing the public into dreaming aficionados and reality-avoiding repudiators. In her
images, the kobolds have initiated a new, eerie-lovely potlatch—and we are watching the production with alarmed fascination.
(Text: Gregor Jansen)
Valérie Favre was born in 1959 in Evilard, Switzerland, and began her artistic career in Paris near the end of the 1980’s. She has been living and working in Berlin for the last ten years, where she took on a professorship at the Universität der Künste in 2006.