Essai de John Mendelsohn

John Mendelsohn critique et artiste plasticien ,New York, décembre 2011 « Essai » about Magali Leonard

Art compels us to ask fundamental questions. Art can make us enquire into how we regard an image, and by extension how we relate to any representation of our lives. This is especially true of abstract art whose physical presence is in the actual, but whose ultimate reality is virtual, in an imaginal dimension.

These concerns are particularly relevant to the art of Magali Léonard. Her paintings are complex experiences, full of contradictory movements, flows of pigment, unexpected incidents, and interruptions. Her surfaces are animated with skeins or blooms of thin paint that break into multiple fissures. The drying of color can leave a kind of phantom of the original form.

There is in Léonard’s paintings a willingness to employ the forces of dissolution: the dessication of fluid mediums, the cracking open of an expanse of color, the excavation of a layer to reveal another below. This engagement with disintegration coexists with processes by which the painting seems to grow organically into existence. Large lakes of pigment extend across the picture plane, archipelagoes of color rise to the surface, surprising gestures made by human hand appear.

The result is a choreography between destructive and constructive forces, set in an animated realm where we are witness to its very creation. At times this domain reminds us of nature, with water streaming over rock and the luminous light of dawn. We can imagine ourselves in a primeval cave, in a tidal pool, or the surface of a just discovered planet.

In some works, like Microcosme, Macrocosme, Léonard places us in a troubled atmosphere through which can make out trees on the edge of a cliff bathed in light from the flashing heavens. In other works like Cosmogonie 10, it is as if we are thrust into a watery world beneath an arctic iceberg. In Untitled, 2007, we are suspended in a kind of time warp, where a clock face is subject to the same morphing as the auroras around it.

It is important to recognize that in relation to Léonard’s images, our position is indeterminate. Gravity shifts from top to side, a sky seems to appear only to dissolve into a tidal surge. We may feel that simultaneously we are in many states at once: geological, meterological, and psychological. This sense of simultaneity is both primal and emotive, as if we are seeing in a single space many worlds that includes our own private cosmos of surging feeling.

                                                                          John Mendelsohn NEW YORK  DEC 2011