A paradoxical spatiality

Marie Rosen’s paintings present a deliberately reduced iconography, as if smoothened and stripped by memory fixations: confined spaces that enforce an impression of emptiness, despite the occasional presence of a seat, ladders or metal barriers, boxes or empty bins. The occasional plants seem petrified. Sporadic, human figures float in these places without really inhabiting them; they seem suspended, often even defying gravity. Impassive, static, de-individualized, they communicate nothing, nor do they reveal interiority. They are all on the surface, like the extremely smooth texture of the paintings, sanded to suggest the decrepitude of a wall, to allow a colored underlay to surface, to evoke a tactile softness. And in terms of representation, it is truly about surface: monochrome walls, sometimes altered with wear marks, upholstered with repeating patterns or tiled, screens, curtains of a disturbing immobility. Even the rare landscapes ooze flatness, despite the delicate shades of color.

Perspectives, however, are ingeniously studied. Skewed or slightly slanting angles do not give way to frontality. The corner of a room delimits a portion of space, the partitions follow one another. The play on surfaces determines depth variations, disjointed walls - a recurring pattern - and openings, reveal possible escapees. But paradoxically, the perspectives make no promises of somewhere else. In these environments, the air itself seems to be absent. A mysterious light caresses the surfaces but does not infer any fluctuation. The shadows are like glued to the walls.

From there, perhaps, the feeling of strangeness emanates from Marie Rosen's paintings. More than the incongruity of the characters, the plants coming from nowhere beneath the tiles or the unreality of the architectures, the settings while showing their spatiality inspire a sensation of confinement. The corners become nooks, the basins do not allow diving, and the escapees no way out. When it appears, nature unfolds only as the wall of a stage.

The surfaces structure a space immediately constrained by their opacity, thus reaffirming the plane of the painting against the illusory depth. One even feels a certain pleasure in the layout of surfaces put in perspective to better, in the end, obstruct the spatial incursion, perhaps even to play with optical illusions in the arrangement of forms, of which one cannot discern volume or flatness. A pictorial pleasure that is also perceived in the mimicry of wall coverings: the strict representation of wallpapers, slabs or chipped walls affirm, in layers yet devoid of any impasto, the painting itself. The painterly processes combine illusion and visibility of the making in a quiet symbiosis.

Places imagined by the artist, closed rooms, bathrooms, disaffected pools, emanate an unusual imperturbability mixed with a touch of muted distress that evokes the atmospheres of Yôko Ogawa's fictions. Romanesque paintings and sets are imbued with a suspended temporality following an enigmatic desertion, or a distortion of space-and-time. Out of this world, the places depicted are polished, aseptic, the contours are precise; « But here and there, chipped tiles would let the cement of the wall appear. And this gave shape to overelaborated motifs ¹ ». They are littered with memories like traces of abandonment, enveloped in silence and in « a perfect tranquility announcing dereliction ² ».


Catherine Mayeur


¹ Yôko Ogawa, Le réfectoire un soir et une piscine sous la pluie, Actes Sud, Arles, 1998, p. 12.

² Yôko Ogawa, Les abeilles, Babel, Arles, 1998, p. 91.