Folded Memories
Nathan Bertet, Nicolas Gaume, Filip Henin, Shanti Shea An

21 May – 26 May 2024
Galerie Elsa Meunier — Galerie Mathilde le Coz, Paris, 15 rue Guénégaud Paris 6

With Folded Memories, Elsa Meunier and Mathilde Le Coz galleries present the work of four figurative painters from the Parisian and international scene: the French artists Nathan Bertet and Nicolas Gaume, the Australian Shanti Shea An and the German Filip Henin. They all paint freely between reminiscences and imagination, memories folded by memory, enhanced by thought, deployed by their paintbrushes.

Through her perspectives and the simplification of certain elements, Shanti Shea An unfolds on the canvas an image recomposed by her memory. In the oil on canvas Blue skies at night (2023) it is indeed the green interior of a Parisian apartment, a vivid memory of a past trip, that the artist represents. Night enters through the window, a blue square with a Haussmannian railing which alone locates the scene. In Fill and refill (2024), the colours pass from one thing to another and the objects, reduced to essential geometric shapes, punctuate the composition - on the sensitive surface of the painting, the artist captures the comings and goings of a gesture that is repeated, a gesture that carries the memory of its past occurrence.

Painter of memory, Nathan Bertet immerses himself during long walks in the landscapes that surround him in Palaiseau before recomposing them in his studio. An intimate studio without windows nor natural light, a studio without any visual distraction, a forge of memory which takes shape and colour through the prism of the painter’s eye and emotions. The two oils on canvas from 2024 presented in the exhibition are invaded by dense, tight vegetation, counterbalanced by a delimiting urbanity: a fence, an electric wire, a section of a house. A duality which embodies the artist’s hometown imbued with the memory of years of walks - Nathan Bertet has always crossed these spaces.

For the painter Nicolas Gaume, reminiscence allows the development of a motif that he exhausts through serial work. Initially painting from a model, the portrait of the person represented disappears as the painter captures the essence of his or her lines. The subject vanishes while the bones of a face are revealed which, from canvas to canvas, from gaze to gaze, bears its own individuality. For Nicolas Gaume, memory is a source that must be experienced through repetition to become this other who inhabits his canvas.

Imagination replaces memory for the German painter Filip Henin whose work, full of references, seems to detach itself from a tangible reality to unfold in a fiction of the strange, disturbing on the verge of a nightmare. In the oil on wood Il y a un soleil (2024), the painter takes us on a lonely nocturnal road trip lit only by the headlights of a car coming out of nowhere. The driver’s confusion and isolation activates in the viewer a memory of emotions, lodged near our unconscious, which houses our folded memories, put aside, our Folded Memories.

Photography: Margot Montigny

The world folding in upon itself
19 April – 7 May 2023
ANCA Gallery, Canberra

Which is the reality and which the projection? It is often not possible to say, for emulation is a sort of natural twinship existing in things; it arises from a fold in being, the two sides of which stand immediately opposite to one another. — Michel Foucault, “The Four Similitudes” in The Order of Things, 1966.

In The world folding in upon itself, Shanti Shea An approaches questions of folding and mirroring within painting. A fold can be understood as a crease or pleat, a doubling or an overlapping; it involves enclosing something, reducing its surface area but increasing its complexity and thickness.

Artists such as Dorothea Rockburne, Tauba Auerbach and Simon Hantaï have employed practices of folding within their work. This often leads to unexpected forms and compositions, whilst also making visible a certain tension that persists between our understanding of surface and space within painting. Looking to the art of the seventeenth century, folds also appear in various guises, from the drama and theatricality of folded drapery in baroque art to the depiction of folded paper in illusionistic letter-rack paintings.

In these works, the gesture of folding is explored through the formal qualities of mirroring and doubling. A sheet of paper might be folded to reveal both sides simultaneously, or a fold may bring two figures closer together—perhaps into conflict—suggesting an impending break or rupture. Throughout these paintings, the fold becomes a way of reconfiguring an image and meditating upon the processes of painting and looking.

Photography: Brenton McGeachie

Back to front
3 March – 19 March 2023
AIRspace Projects, Sydney

The works in Back to front extend Shanti Shea An’s interest in ideas around flatness, blankness and ambiguity within painted images. She considers these pictorial concerns through the depiction of scenes that appear still and almost silent, focussing her attention on moments where activity is paused or a sudden recognition is taking place.

The imagery in this exhibition is drawn from the artist’s own photographs as well as film and art historical sources. There are figures who face away from the viewer appearing to be absorbed in activities that take place just beyond the edge of the painting. There are also works which frame a field of colour or space. Blind spots and blank spaces seem to shift in and out of the frame, reflecting on the experience of seeing the world through a viewfinder.

Photography: Docqment
Fuzzy Logic
2 February – 23 February 2020
Tributary Projects, Canberra

For these two artists, the act of looking and re-looking remains a point of fascination. Both are concerned with the elusive qualities of what the materiality of paint offers us today, and therefore do not see themselves as working purely within the confines of abstraction or figuration. In Lani Shea-An’s recent works, the processes of painting are revealed to expose a multitude of material surfaces. Suggestive of topographical landscapes, cloud formations and architectural structures, these paintings-as-objects/objects-as-paintings gesture towards a layering up of ‘partial truths’, of scenes seen through foggy windows.

In Shanti Shea An’s paintings, anonymous figures are depicted in a state of observation or absorption. Placed in settings which appear simultaneously abstract and familiar, the viewer is invited to see themselves within the painting, as much as they are offered an encounter with ‘the other’. Though predominantly representative, these works conceal as much as they reveal. Fuzzy Logic brings together the work of two artists who are both intrigued by the “fuzziness” of knowing.