Agnès Bourély artist
Spring Street Studios
Text by Mary Lambrakos
Agnès Bourély creates an intuitive map of subjectivity in the explosion and layering of color, form and material. She manipulates the abstract to convey and elicit emotion and meaning to counter the formalist narrative of abstraction that pursued and prioritized the crystallization and perfection of content-as-form in iterated and patterned geometry. Her canvas is a synesthetic delight, using the visual to portal into realms where you can hear the rhythm, the pulse of the artist’s hand in the crossing of gouache and the twisted sharpening of colored pencil shavings that coagulate on the surface. It is a topography and cartography of her soul.
She articulates her vision via the mediums of the canvas, drawing paper and Yupo paper. She uses these different backdrops, allowing the medium to influence how she works her materials to reveal her content. She differentiates medium and material based on its potential for change in her artistic distillation. Acrylic adheres to the canvas creating a solid field of color that coats the surface. Drawing paper creates an inherent limit to revision, the transparency and porosity of watercolor and colored pencil reveal the underlying paper’s texture and color. Yupo paper’s polished surface reorients her process as she works on the floor to capture the slide of watercolor, gouache and ink.
When I was with her at the Museum of Modern Art, Paris, we attended Zao Wou-ki’s exhibition L’espace est silence. She sifted through the galleries and came to sit on a bench to enjoy a panoramic piece, an extended medley and consolidation of earth tones. She volunteered the first mark is the most important and most difficult. I asked her why. Because the first mark is the initiation; the first mark comes with something. It is akin to Fontana’s slice per say, the punctuated act of mark-making that in essence is the beginning and the end. The ontology and teleology of the creative act. And as such it must be discerned, anticipated and then built upon.
A cut into her work reveals a spatial dimension in her process and development over time. As a viewer, it is wondrous to see this intimacy take form and transcend the seemingly inscrutable; that within her work, within the gesture, within the embodiment, is an outward motion towards the viewer’s eye and cognition in dynamism and narrative. Quand j’eté dans la ventre de la mere c’etait bien. In the womb, we are suspended in the aquatics of transformation. Her works spill out from a center, assuming a c-like shape, where a deep mass spins to the edges of the canvas, and inversely the edges and the margins, funnel towards a dense center. As she scrolled through one timeline of a painting, the significant changes over time were revelatory. I’ve seen her toil with her paintings in her studio, rotating the canvas, questioning form, balance and color. Some details remained, others, colored over, re-worked to concentrate and manifest artistic choice in the development of the piece.
While each individual work expresses a boundless energy, an architectural and structural grid underpin the format and arrangement of her pieces. The arrangement of these groupings impacts the perception of the intrinsic relationship of part to whole. She composes combinations of work as narrative, her triptychs read left to right, and her content elides the frames’ structure. Other times, the stacked composition, elicits a scopic zoom of in and out as a background detail in one is magnified to the foreground.
Her paintings are bound by her presence and differentiate Houston, Paris, Venezuela as her art is a product of where she creates. Agnès work transgresses objectivity, as her work creates a web of interstices, points, positions, landscapes, portals, spaces, ponds, rivers, that unify a topography that she associates with the specificity of her location. In the refined and edited context of the gallery, the art is the focal piece; in her studio, her walls are strewn with all the pieces of her process, remnants of paint and text demonstrate and play with the poetics of remembrance and time. “La coulure est le chemin du désespoir qui cherche le chemin du souvenir »( the dript is the path of despair that seeks the path of remembrance). Each piece, every gesture, carries the expression of Agnès Bourély’s lived experience, and thus traces her life.