Monday, December 20, 2010

Walking with Genevieve Asse

I've recently made a friend who has been launching me on a precipitate tour of all manner of French writers and artists, particularly those who hail from this region.

While this is bringing home to me my own ignorance in a salutory fashion, it is, on the whole, more of a pleasure than a penance.

'You've not heard of Genevieve Asse?'  I get the quizzical and somewhat disbelieving cocked eyebrow, 'she's really very well-known...' followed by the sigh which only kindness and detachment prevents from being despairing of me.

'That may be so,' I shrug '' but...I really should take notes when you talk to me!'

But I remembered about Genevieve Asse, and glory be to the internet, I went home and looked her up.  She's 87 now, still looking magnificent, at least in all the photos I saw, and when she was younger than Maxime she was driving a wartime ambulance, and when she was the age of his big sister Anais she was present at the evacuation of a concentration camp.  She was born on the Rhuys peninsular, where we went this year, and lives on the Ile de Moines, in the Gulf of Morbihan.

I learned of her quest for blue, of how her surfaces, as she expresses it, change like the ocean, and her subjects are space and light.  This appeals.

I spent a nearly lightless snowy early afternoon looking at her work on-line, and though that provides a taster, and the photographs of it in exhibition space give more of an impression of how it appears, I wished I could stand in front of it for real.  There was an exhibition of her paintings in Rennes earlier this year, but I didn't know about her then.

Then I looked up, and the snow was melting a little and the cloud lifting, and there was a strange, partially illumined mist outside.  Why stare at a screen and hanker for galleries? 

Here were blue near-monochromes, bisecting lines, and space and light, and liquid changing surfaces. ( I've only done the minimum of editing of these.)

But it is not either/or.  The kind of romantic puritanism that says that the works of the human hand, art or making of any kind, must always be inferior to what nature can show us, that we should always be seeking some source or origin is missing the mark.  I looked at the space and the light with freshened eyes, having seen it, in some measure, through hers.  Art, great or small, does that, it takes the raw matter of the world, transforms it, but intensifies rather than dilutes it, so that we then turn back to it and see it more truly as itself.

We agreed, my friend and I, that abstract art is an unsatisfactory term; all art is abstract, it takes elements from the world and makes something else of them; sometimes more immediately recognisable than others.  I'm not sure though, that I would have fully appreciated this at an earlier time.

It is never too late to learn, to be educated, in the proper sense, led out.  I am easy on myself for what I don't know, and trust that it is the right moment for me to learn, and I am grateful for the people I find who help me do so. I hope it always will be so.  


[ There's no one site I could really link to on Genevieve Asse, though there is plenty about, much of it in French.  The images I've reproduced are those which a Google image search yields easily, mostly from exhibition previews and such like, so I've lifted them as I've found them, and reproduced them small which I hope is acceptable).


herhimnbryn said...

Dear Lucy,
Thankyou for this. I shall go and explore now. Such blues, yours and hers. I could happily get lost in them.

Anonymous said...

Such blues, indeed. I am about to head out into a blizzard to shovel up another foot of snow, and these blues calm and soothe me. Thank you.

Rouchswalwe said...

True blue.

marja-leena said...

Gorgeous work, hers and yours together, like two sides of a coin, amazing!

christopher said...

I agree that you have put your photos of the French landscape alongside Ms. Asse's work to startling compare. No wonder Genevieve chose to work with such color.

And bless you for your willingness to continue to learn. I think it is a deeper story than just you or me, even though it is just you and me (and of course all the others who continue to learn). It matters in some timeless deep way, I think.

Lately for me, as I chase quotations I also learn who the quoters were or are. Then I sometimes place these people in my posts along with what they said.

Barrett Bonden said...

Assuming none of us is invoking The Great Designer (and even he bollixed up one or two of his projects, I fear, as for instance the dirty end of the Rhone Glacier) the word "inferior" is the give-away, implying an invidious rating system. If art and natural phenomena are to be judged side by side it is simply a matter of resonance or absence thereof; there are no absolutes and beauty is simply a personal reaction. I like your "romantic puritanism" since it skewers an attitude I have never had any truck with. Truck? Where did that come from?

A couple of the pictures you post could well have been scissored from late Turners and I can't say better than that.

Your friend has stirred a painful instruction from my early days as a journalist. The phrase "well-known" is, possibly, otiose. If the thing or person it describes is in fact well-known then the qualifier is unnecessary, if the thing/person is not well-known saying so will not bring it about. I remember things like this because newspaper education proceeded via a single medium - humiliation.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

The world is so full of a number of things, none of us can know about all of them. It's easy to be discouraged from friendships where the other seems to be able to reach much higher than you can, but to avoid them for fear of being shown up is to cut off one's nose to spite one's face, I'm resolved more and more not to back away from opportunities, whilst trying not to undervalue myself and what I can bring. My friend is not seeking to make me feel small.

But to attribute 'well-known' to things, especially perhaps ideas and assumptions, in an attempt to give them validity without actually having to justify it is indeed flawed.

Because I haven't heard of something or someone does not, of course mean that they are not well-known! However, I suppose we are all solipsistic enough to assume that our knowledge and evaluation of the world is the normal one, or at least only one that matters.

I suppose their is also an inverse kind of assumption that artifice is always more interesting than that which gives rise to it. It may be just a matter of taste, I suppose.

Fire Bird said...

Beautiful images - hers and yours, and the dynamic between them.

JMartin said...

"Blue as you enter it disappears. Red never does that. Every article of air might look like cobalt if we got outside ourselves to see it. The country of the blue is clear."

On Being Blue (Gass)

Zhoen said...

Best to make friends of those smarter than yourself, they pull you up, and enjoy doing so.

There is so much to learn, plenty to last a lifetime. Some only gets in at certain ages.

Thank you for these images, they draw me in.

A Write Blog said...

That photo of the trees in the hedgerow reinds me of some recent walks I've been on.