Nov 09 – Dec 21 2013
von Bartha, Basel
Between sacrifice and seduction, alienation and violence, Charlotte Beaudry explores the female lifeworld without recourse to feminine painting per se. In soliciting screaming colours, vast surfaces, careless strokes, and dripping paint, she quite on the contrary affirms the violent nature of painting and appropriates its aggressive encounter with matter and materiality. In contemporary art, painting is anachronistic and therefore insolent. It pays no lip service to contextual art and ridicules its criticism of commodification, institutions, and traditional forms of representation.1 At its most victorious moments, it diffuses a vitriolic cynicism with regard to the pretence and ambition of contextual art.2 Beaudry has reached these cynical heights in some of her most popular series; see for example her blown-up series Slip (2010) and Sac de filles (2011), or her endless tracings of the young girl Julliette. On the gallery wall she outlined the spectacular point of no return of commodity culture, at the centre of which she not surprisingly placed the girl.
Being a woman painter however is not only an act of cynical anachronism; it is also utterly risqué. Women artists generally prefer other media and tactics to painting; the history of painting is a silenced history of exclusion and objectification of women, its smothering lurks around each brushstroke and naked canvas. It is therefore only cautiously and with great suspicion that women penetrate this pornocratic world as constituted by the materiality, action, and representation of painting. The woman painter is transgressive, an ambiguous colonizer of men’s land; she is perceived as brutal and scandalous both to men and as woman. It has been a constant endeavour of Beaudry to question these limits of painting and female subjectivity; she meticulously explored the twofold sacrilege of painting after painting and of the woman painter. As Juliette she embodied both a ruthless and insecure stance; shifting from one leg to the other, she realised in painting what Julia Kristeva called “the open-structure of adolescence.” Indeed Beaudry not only painted adolescent girls; her practice was also one of painting-as-adolescence, an open, doubtful, and ambiguous exploration of painting and the woman painter.4 In her recent work on display in this exhibition (MOCAK, 2013) however, Beaudry seems to reappear at the affirmative end of this exploration. No longer reactive to the insulting grimace of the canvas, she now takes the lead and masters dimensions, movements, and colours with ease and carelessness. In response to art theoretical questions, she answers with the insolence of materiality and the pleasure of deranging the spectators’ expectations. Beaudry testifies here to a strong and mocking affirmation: “I paint and paint, again and again.” It is not in the numb or presumptuous adult state of contentment or knowledge that she has overcome the open structure of adolescence, but in the stubborn female affirmation of painting against all counter-evidence and expectations.