Marion Colomer’s Melancholia is a study of the tension between desire and absence, Eros and Thanatos, sex and the void. The watercolors evoke the fluidity of life, but the pencil drawings freeze characters at the height of their desire. Time stops. Just as those who suffer from melancholy feel like they have been removed from their bodies, have been emptied of their organs, or have been erased, the figures here – entwined in a carnal sexuality – reflect a kinf of scandalous nothingness. The bodies are lost, but simultaneously center stage.
Skeletons make an appearances too, evoking XVIIth century still lifes, Memento Mori, or the vanities where death is bejeweled and draped in precious brocades. The paintings are imbued with the exuberance of the baroque – decorations, ornaments, and embroidery. The latter reminds us of careful female craftsmanship. It is not a feminist manifesto, but by combining elements like pornographic photographs and women’s embroidery, it attempts to present a paradox and thus challenge those images’ meaning.
Like the baroque aesthetic, this work is caught between countervailing forces. The individual is lost. Insensitive but exuberant, he is in despair but not in agony. It reminds us that humankind dreams of the hereafter; fearing it as much as they long for it. For Sartre the fundamental state of Man is both desire and lack. This paradox holds in the artist’s paintings: the human is absent and present at the same time, constantly in conflict. The full-frontal images expose intimate detail but their pallor makes their essence impossible to capture. At the moment of climax, the figures disappear; frozen in time when la petite mort arrives.
Miguel Bonnefoy in his travelog, Jungle, wrote: « All escaped me. No text about the jungle can make sense of the jungle. This juxtaposition of claustrophobia and immensity, that feeling of being subjected to its grandeur and the revolt it generates, this incredible which is palpable, that noble serenity of the early ages. We contemplate the jungle as we look at the stars: nothing moves, and yet everything seems inhabited. »
Colomer’s paintings show the jungle’s two faces: it is sometimes dangerous – a green hell or sometimes a paradise – a virgin Eden. In the jungle time stands still, like in fairy tale forests, stuck outside of time: a place of initiation, the place where boys seek adventure and become men and where girls like Little Red Riding Hood or Belle realize their sexuality.
For Americans, luxuriant nature often evokes the chaos of wars in the jungle, where it entombs the living and the dead. The jungle can fascinate and give life, but it can also stifle anyone who ventures into it. It is voracious and threatening. Its silence is disquieting. The jungle in Colomer’s paintings is both violent and gentle, but always omnipresent. The jungle fights with the bodies, devouring them. But its softening watercolors also depict it as subdued and welcoming.
Melancholia is intended as an immersive experience. The viewer penetrates a forest of twines. The perfumed jute vines touch the beholder, enclosing him. He enters a sensual world. The scent clinging to the skin is an intimate and lingering connection with the work. The sense of smell is primary, basic, animalistic. The smell is subjected to time – ephemeral and volatile. It fills the air, invisible, and almost intangible. The scent has a body, it is composed of top notes, a heart and a background, which makes it a living composition. Even with the passing of time, the scent evokes the experience of the viewing, like the Proustian memory of a madeleine’s cake taste, in In Search of Lost Time. As well as love or melancholy, the perfume oscillates between memories and imagination.
For this exhibition Marion Colomer has created a unique scent in collaboration with perfumer Dana El Masri. It evokes the rainforest, the smell of earth and water flowing over the green leaves, Virginia’s cedar tree and the enveloping softness of musk. This fragrance is an interpretation of our world, reminding us of the dreamlike, but dangerous virgin forest, deep but timeless. Like the jungle, the perfume is everywhere, pervasive. It saturates the air. We are immersed in its sensuality, yet we cannot penetrate it.