At the Crevecœur gallery (Paris XXe), the hanging of Autumn Ramsey’s canvases spares long distances between them. No doubt because the paintings of the American give off puffs of vapor and they circulate in thick clouds beyond the limits of their frame. It is an image, of course. The depicted figures, rooster, lion, bird of prey, half-naked woman or cut flowers, remain in their place in the center of the canvases. But, the brush does everything to keep them away and make them flee, to blur them, to dilute their proud silhouette in the meanders of a cottony, vaporous and ultimately dreamlike background. Which, paradoxically, makes it a painting both loaded (with volutes, curves and arabesques) and fleeting. The animal motifs, the leafy landscapes, the lascivious bodies are posed conspicuously on the front, but quickly seem to renounce them and prefer to escape the scene, their role, faint, camouflage themselves, disappear.
Most of the figures are captured while they are resting. Birds don’t fly. They are placed on a branch. The lion, lying on its side, lazily licks one paw as the human creatures languish nonchalantly. At such times, everyone gets their health back. Relaxes. Painting too: Autumn Ramsey excels at thickening the fur of animals or their plumage and the heavy flesh of sagging bodies. The same goes for flowers whose petals look silky and greasy. This painting, which gives up chiseling the line, softly fluffy.
In this compact material, there is plenty of room to surreptitiously curl up shapes. Garden represents less than a garden, rather a bushy nook, planted with a few shrubs and wild grasses in the center of which, something, a shadow floats. A plump poultry? A game hanging headlong, which would bring Baselitz back into history? These ghost appearances are legion in Ramsey’s art. See this animal’s paw or woman’s finger which ends in a funny twist sketching the bud of a plant or an insect. It is therefore a painting of metamorphoses. Human bodies tend to become flowers, the flowers of beasts, and beasts, flowers. Identities are no longer stable. And the portraits of women are much less or much more than that: portraits of half-women, half-goddesses, half-men, androgynous ephebes.
The depicted creatures are full of all the realms of the living and pass smoothly from one to the other as one passes through the other side of the curtain. In this, it is an art of the marvelous which draws on the side of Gustave Moreau and his hallucinated visions, while softening however what the painting of the Symbolist could have of cruel.
Autumn Ramsey Galerie Crevecoeur, 9, rue des Cascades, 75020. Until October 10. Rens. : www.galeriecrevecoeur.com