El Viento En Mi Pelo・2016
CAC Málaga, ES
June 21 – September 18, 2016
The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo of Málaga is pleased to host Miss Van’s first show at a museum. For The Wind in My Hair, the title of the exhibition curated by Fernando Francés, the Barcelona-based French artist has selected 39 paintings made in the last three years, some of which are now being shown for the first time.
Speaking of her working process in the studio, Miss Van (b. Toulouse, 1973) explains, “I find inspiration in everything around me and life in general: things I see on the internet, in books or other documents; I print off the images I like and go over them time after time, even though ultimately I don’t rely on them to make everything more original.” At her first museum exhibition, this French artist based on Barcelona will present a selection of paintings produced over the last three years. The Wind in My Hair comprises works in which we find the characteristic female figures that populate Miss Van’s artistic universe, marked by deliberate ambiguity (sensual and sophisticated yet simultaneously wild and innocent). Two decades ago, the artist began painting the walls and facades of her hometown. Today she combines her work on canvas with mural interventions across the globe.
For Fernando Francés, director of the CAC Málaga, “Miss Van’s women are energetically sensual and feminine, apparently docile but with a wild, defiant gaze. Riddled with ambiguity and confusion, her characters straddle the fence between reality and fantasy. Her art is based on emotion, on sentiment. In fact, Miss Van feels that her ‘personality is the only thing I can contribute to my work; the rest, the technique, is something that can be learned or copied’. In this respect, her iconographic universe is littered with beings that are half woman and half animal: female cats that manifest an innate desire bordering on the subconscious, sensuality and eroticism rolled into one. The cat as a symbolic animal also represents the mysterious side of woman, her malice and independence, her feline facet. The choice of an animal with claws, a beast that scratches, is far from trivial and anything but coincidental. There is a desire to represent stereotypical and real aspects of the feminine role. But at the same time the cat is an animal which, though kept as a household pet, has freedom and independence; a cat is autonomous and can never be fully domesticated. The cat represents the untameable domestic animal.”
Her women have evolved over time, concealing more of their faces and physiognomies. Almond-shaped eyes, long lashes, feline gazes and tiny mouths [p1] are their most prominent identifying features. Some of her figures are overtly sensual, wearing masks that conceal their faces yet provocatively reveal the rest of their bodies (I Feel Safer Here, 2016); others, however, have faces and torsos covered with a variety of ornamental elements (Sepia, 2015) that heighten the sense of mystery. She uses feathers, hats, masks and sequins—staples of feminine imagery—to emphasise the principal attributes of women. Miss Van takes these elements and reinterprets them with an aesthetic reminiscent of the classic ideal of beauty in the early 20th century, when women changed the way they dressed as a symbol of freedom and began revealing more of their bodies.
In her works, the artist depicts a world close to the land of dreams and desires. The pastel palette she uses creates an atmosphere verging on the oneiric, but the dark mask is an incongruous element that disturbs the peace of Miss Van’s idyllic scenes (Mujeres Pájaros[p2] , 2016). Over time, she has gradually covered up the faces of her figures, and in some poses she stresses their sensuality, but in other works their attitudes are quite the contrary, reflecting a more childish and naive behaviour. She strives to emphasise the sophistication of her characters while also underscoring their raw wildness, drawing spectators into a double game when they observe her work in the gallery.
Miss Van accentuates the most typical feminine features and, as a woman, she feels she must preserve the more emotional, authentic side, although she also likes to show several facets of the same figure, giving each a different look and feel. “I try to surprise myself in each of my works and start something without knowing how it’s going to end”, she clarifies.