Soudain dans la forêt profonde
17 Feb. to 26 March 2022

Galerie Kamel Mennour
28 Avenue Matigon
75008 Paris

. www.kamelmennour.com

The Artists :

Lucas Arruda, Baya, Hicham Berrada, Marie Bovo, Eugène Carrière, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, Marc Desgrandchamps, Latifa Echakhch, Petrit Halilaj & Alvaro Urbano, Victor Hugo, Tadashi Kawamata, Per Kirkeby, Alicja Kwade, Félix Labisse, Gustave Le Gray, Eugène Leroy, Robert Longo, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Joan Mitchell, Gustave Moreau, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Gina Pane, Giuseppe Penone, Francis Picabia, Paul Rebeyrolle, Odilon Redon, Gerhard Richter, Léon Louis Riesener, Ugo Rondinone, Nicolas de Staël, Zao Wou-Ki

There are places that rustle with whispers.
The exhibition “Soudain dans la forêt profonde” (Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest) whose title is borrowed from Amos Oz's philosophical tale, offers an immersion into woodlands through the eyes of modern and contemporary artists on landscape. Trees and forests appear as a source of inspiration, addressed through various mediums and prisms both as a natural subject and a cultural object. According to the artists' gaze, the forest is in turn an inspiring refuge of romantic solitary reveries, a receptacle of ancestral myths, the nostalgic symbol of an idealized past, a subject of pictorial experimentation or a reflection of our relationship to our natural environment. As Gerhard Richter observed “the forest in general has special significance. You can lose your way in forests, feel deserted, but also secure, held fast in the bosom of the undergrowth.”

In this exhibition, the sun appears between the branches of the tallest trees (Latifa Echakhch), or disappears in Obscure Gardens (Marc Desgrandchamps). We dive into the wood (Giuseppe Penone), we offer ourselves to the metamorphosis of the living (Alicja Kwade), to the memory that it imprints in us (Gina Pane). It is the specificities of the places, or the universality of the emotions which they convene that the artists retain: a field close to a wood (Francis Picabia), the Pastret garden (Gustave Le Gray), valleys of the Loue or a brook in a clearing (Gustave Courbet). So many places carrying an intrinsic poetry which artists have made their subject.

As the poets of which Gaston Bachelard spoke, the painter who “lives the forest” is also in front of “a fix immensity” that they feel and capture. A temporal and emotional immensity gathered in one place. Some works materialize a poetic sensation. Ugo Rondinone's Italian dancing olive trees branches and Petrit Halilaj & Alvaro Urbano's palm tree seeds give shape to a memory, embodying cherished people and places. The twigs of Robert Longo's Study of Brain Tree extend like our neural network collecting memories. For Victor Hugo, the forest is a mystery whose contemplation “fills the heart with love3”. In the mythopoetic universe of Félix Labisse, the forest becomes a surrealist sensual Amazone, a hybrid form between plant and human. Odilon Redon renders it in a dreamlike female allegory. In the work of Eugène Leroy, the paint matter itself becomes a landscape, in that of Nicolas de Staël, as well as that of Per Kirkeby, Simon Hantaï, Judit Reigl, Zao Wou-Ki, Joan Mitchell and Paul Rebeyrolle; nature becomes the subject of visual experiments in a dynamic tension between figuration and abstraction.

An Italian-style display reminiscent of the way scène de genre paintings used to be presented in the 19th century also brings in dialogue the ethereal landscapes by Eugène Carrière, the pictorialist abstractions of Gustave Le Gray, the portrait of a tree in majesty by Eugène Delacroix, the romantic old oak by Léon-Louis Riesener, the imaginary landscapes of Lucas Arruda and the unforgettable palette of Gustave Moreau. In the same room, a masterful realist work by Gustave Courbet paying homage to the “country he knows so well” dialogues with the video Céleste by Hicham Berrada. If the work evokes the views of the Renaissance, the green landscape is flooded with blue smoke in a poetic gesture.

In contrast to an idealistic contemplation, some works focus more on what the landscape says about our contemporary relationship with the living world. With poetry, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy diverts the military use of aerial views to assemble a landscape-camouflage with acidulous tints. A bird's eye view over the borders. Tadashi Kawamata makes wood his subject and medium. In his series Tree Huts, Kawamata recycles the debris from the ephemeral huts he perches in the heart of the forest to create an archive of his installations in retrospect. The ecological dimension of his work echoes nature’s process and speaks uncompromisingly of the human desire for permanence in the face of the forces of nature. Marie Bovo uses the frame of the train to capture fragments of a moving landscape contemplated during a train journey through Russia and Eastern Europe. The series entitled Stances superimposes Soviet memory on land stretches emptied of human presence which appear to be timeless.

Through the exhibition, we take a journey through the multiple ways artists have collected and retained their experience of nature. Immersed in the memories of the out-of-the-world refuge that the forest constitutes, we could in turn say “Here I am crossed by rays, surrounded by sun and shade... I dwell in this comfortable depth... The shelter calls me. I fold my neck in the shoulders of its foliage... In the forest, I am whole. Everything is possible in my heart as in the caches of ravines. A bushy distance separates me from morals and cities”.