Dowload press release
Leurs printemps

Curator Léa Chauvel-Lévy

Pierre Ardouvin, Grégoire Bergeret, Stéphane Calais, Erik Dietman, Morgane Erpen, My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, Emmanuel Le Cerf, Thomas Mailaender, Jérôme Robbe, Alice Robineau, Elsa Sahal

May 26 - June 19, 2018
Opening Saturday May 26, 12 - 9pm

My grandmother was a florist. After she lost her memory, shortly before she passed away, she could still remember the names of flowers. Her daily, iterative gestures at Les Halles, the Belly of Paris, and then at Rungis, had fixed a vast number of species in her mind. Robert Doisneau had photographed her friends, her gang. This turned out to be the starting point for an exhibition which would become a form of tribute, although I didn’t know it then. Despite its personal origins, the adventure of Leurps printemps is collective as it brings together the works of eleven artists who employ the flower as a form and a sign. Artistic representations of flowers have multiplied since the 16th century, when they became secular. Through various installations, paintings, drawings, photographs, postcards, ceramics, this exhibition ties several notions together: flowers as formal grammar, flowers in the Anthropocene, flowers as embodiments of a precarious desire. Stéphane Calais and Jérôme Robbe each experience the need to draw or paint flowers in their own way – daily in the former’s case, in intensive phases in the latter’s. It is their formal grammar, close to Hockney’s, which is quoted here: “I draw flowers every day and then send them to my friends, so that they get fresh flowers every morning.” Stéphane Calais embraces, exhausts and renews this motif every day; Jérôme Robbe offers his painted bouquets to people who have helped him throughout his life. The nature of the flower, its very essence as a sexual reproduction organ, brings about cultural constructions that turn it into a metaphor for the cycle of life. It is there at the beginning. It is there at the end. Thomas Mailaender’s printed lava stones illustrate this continuum, for instance with the image of a tombstone and a white rose whose heart symbolizes a skull. Why do we put flowers on graves? Because flowers are sexual. They are tokens of life since the two sexes are present in them: male and female, stamen and pistil. A matte, dense and attractive black pistil by Elsa Sahal stands at the entrance of the exhibition. At the threshold was life… This female organ engages in a flirtatious conversation with a photograph by Emmanuel Le Cerf, a sensual and fluffy poppy flower pierced so as to let a leather lace go through it, the same way one would incise it to collect its opium. The immortalization of a flower as the last photographic gesture of an artist who will then move to sculpture. Equally immortalized are the daffodils which Alice Robineau picks in Les Batignolles and resinates while they are still alive. It is very difficult indeed to turn one’s back on the implacable clichés of memento mori and vanitas – on the “grace in death” which Georges Sand saw in Delacroix’s flower watercolours. This is what Pierre Ardouvin’s bouquet of eternal flowers is about: artificial, withered forever, this set placed on a pedestal table puts us face to face with the ultimatum “of time that passes too quickly, fragility and the triumph of death”, in his own words. Conceptualizing flowers through the prism of precariousness, the ephemeral and finitude is legitimate; the lily flowers tattooed by My-Lan Hoang-Thuy do not escape this since she voluntarily lets them die over the course of the exhibition – but an optimistic dialectic is also possible. One by one, the petals fall but, on each one of them, the implacable beauty of a naked woman is printed, arousing our desire and life force. Let’s bet that the artist can colour and metaphorically brighten disappearance. This disappearance is both inevitable and ecological in Morgane Erpen’s work. Her installation Carduus, which turns thistles into torches, reminds us that Man tends to domesticate nature until its exhaustion. Any act of flower representation is a latent attempt at domestication. In this respect, it is interesting to remember, like Valérie Chansigaud, that “the place of flowers in the arts precisely follows the development of flower gardens. . . the first flower portraits from the late 16th century and early 17th century were made up of cultivated varieties only.”(1) Wildflowers are underrepresented pictorially, and often non-existent. With Grégoire Bergeret, a flower opens, explodes, it is a rebellious shell, stopped in its race. Frozen in a specific state, the raw metal defies the organic and the living. By exploring the contradictory nature of flowers, Leurs printemps wishes to celebrate life and rebirth as a producer of reminiscences. “The real tomb of the dead is the heart of the living”, Cocteau had decided. After the disappearance of Erik Dietman, Claudine Papillon found an envelope containing a very limited edition – three copies – dated 1963: three quaint, flowery cards, on which the words “happy birthday” had been covered with plaster. The man who would become the former King of Plaster panse/pense passing time with these flowered wishes.

Léa Chauvel-Lévy

(1) Valérie Chansigaud, Une histoire des fleurs : entre nature et culture, Paris, Delachaux et Niestlé, 2014.