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Let's take a walk in the woods...
promenons-nous-dans-les-bois - ARTACTIF
December 2023 | Reading time: 21 Min | 0 Comment(s)

A stroll through the inky, woodsy world of Astrid de La Forest, to coincide with her recent exhibitions in Vevey (Switzerland) and Yerres (91).

An artist called 'de La Forest', whose light-flooded studio opens onto tall trees that hide the Seine, whose canvases are populated by foliage of ink and paper... I don't know about you, but it makes me fantasise. It makes me want to set down my caravan in this "hermitage so near and yet so far from the bustling capital", as Valérie Bougault wrote in the October issue of Connaissance des arts. To visit this mysterious den on the water's edge, nestled in a former boathouse. To sow small pebbles as I wander through the woods. To pick up a big brush and paint Japanese calligraphy on parchment...

While you're waiting to do all that, perhaps, Valérie Bougault's fine article is already a delight to read. Especially if you haven't had time to go all the way to Vevey (Switzerland) to see the exhibitions "Astrid de La Forest. Figures du vivant" and "Gardiens du silence" at the Musée Jenisch, which closed on 29 October. Here we learn, for example, that Astrid de La Forest, born in Paris in 1962, is a French artist, painter and printmaker who works among "hydrangeas and peonies in profusion that would not have displeased Caillebotte", that "the promiscuity with the river would have delighted Monet", and that "Edgar Degas, for his part, would only have had eyes for the large engravings, fascinated by the battle of black and white, the infinite poetry of the tangled lines". Now that's impressive!

The journalist makes no secret of the fact that "evoking the patron saint of engravers makes the artist smile, standing in the middle of her works, wrapped in her midnight blue apron like a suit of armour". And Valérie Bougault is keen to follow "the dance of her busy hands, linking and untying words", while a "mischievous gleam passes through her constantly alert eyes". In short, the Beaux Arts Magazine journalist is in for a treat, sharing with us her encounter with the artist as well as a visit to her studio, where "the air smells of ink and jasmine". And because she writes so well, we're in for a treat too...

"As far back as I can remember, I've always been drawn to printmaking, to the expressive power of black, so striking in the work of the German Expressionists or Munch," Astrid de La Forest confides. "I was captivated by printmaking without completely abandoning painting. In the pressure of the press I found an ally, and a gesture that revealed things I hadn't suspected. It's a real delight when you lift the swaddling clothes of the press and discover what you've done.  Further on, the artist reveals that in the end, even though it has an alchemy full of mystery, she works with the monotype like a painting. "There's this phenomenon of the ghost: after the first pass, everything fades away and yet a new sheet pressed reveals an invisible presence. A very pale image that should have been lost and which can become the matrix of a new image. On the plate, I trace a new painting and I reprint, I deliver the same sheet to several passages, three or four, and suddenly the exit of the press reveals repentances that we thought we had removed and that reappear like strata. In Switzerland, I sometimes brought back monotypes made on the spot from my walks, which were printed in the studio and, using the phantom proof, I reprinted after engraving on the matrix with drypoint. Mixing techniques allows for infinite variations.

Astrid de La Forest's work exudes a sense of urgency. After studying at ESAG Penninghen, a renowned Parisian establishment offering training in the applied arts, Astrid de La Forest worked for a time on theatre sets at the Théâtre des Amandiers, with Richard Peduzzi, and even as a portraitist for the then Antenne 2 (formerly France 2) television channel. All of which testifies to her undeniable talent for drawing and her quick pencil stroke. She then devoted herself entirely to painting, followed by engraving from 1995 onwards, when she moved to Burgundy. She trained in the workshops of the printer Lacourière-Frélaud in Paris, and Raymond Meyer in Pully, Switzerland. She met Jean-François Reymond, the artist who introduced her to the use of carborundum. She immediately realised that this was what she was looking for. A kind of printed painting. "It's this 'at the same time' that characterises her: the need for solitude in order to create, and the joy of the noisy conviviality of the studio, in the smell of ink and paper", writes Valérie Bougault.

For her works of art for sale, Astrid uses several engraving techniques: etching, aquatint, drypoint and carborundum, which she uses either on their own or in combination, as single prints (monotype) or limited editions. She favours subjects taken from the motif - landscapes, mountains, fields, trees - as well as animal subjects. Astrid loves to travel and immerse herself in new environments. She has completed a number of artist residencies in Morocco, Tasmania, Japan and Ireland, and has enjoyed the shores of Donegal and the hillsides of Lavaux in Switzerland. She now exhibits her art for sale in Switzerland, England and Paris, at La Forest-Divonne art gallery and Documents 15 art gallery. At the same time, she teaches plastic art at ENSA Paris-Belleville to the new generation of printmakers. A member of the Institut de France since June 2016, she is the first woman elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in the engraving section, in the chair of Louis-René Berge (1927-2013). To mark her installation ceremony at the Académie des Beaux-Arts and the publication of her catalogue raisonnée, Galerie Documents 15 devoted a major retrospective exhibition of her prints to her in 2018.

A section of the "Guardians of Silence" exhibition at the Musée Jenisch in Vevey was devoted to the Pins of Rome, a suite recently engraved by Astrid de La Forest during her stay at the Villa Medici. The aim of the exhibition, which brought together works from the Musée Jenisch Vevey collections as well as external loans, was to exalt the beauty of the tree, whether drawn, engraved, painted, sculpted or photographed. The Musée Jenisch Vevey paid tribute to these guardians of humanity by encouraging a poetic stroll, adopting the point of view of the artists who saw them as a mirror, a refuge and an unlimited source of material and metaphorical inspiration. The exhibition is over, but there's always the forest walks...

 

Valibri en RoulotteArticle written by Valibri en Roulotte


Illustration : Astrid de La Forest in Raymond Meyer's studio ©Cynthia Mai Ammann

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