The McLoughlin Gallery and Mondapart Galerie are pleased to present Unique Dialogue, a
group exhibition of three French artists in San Francisco: Charles Giulioli. Pauline Ohrel and
Sophie Sigorel and four American artists in Paris: Daniel Healy, Christopher H Martin, David
Middlebrook, and Cristobal Valecillos
photo: Sophie Sigorel - "Le pas suspendu", huile sur toile, 114 x 162, 2013
"A city by day and by night. Passers-by. A blurred crowd. The gesture seems lively, and the depicted world seems moving.
However, we rapidly feel that Sophie Sigorel’s paintings are more than “urban” paintings, but a kind of work that talks about the contemporary world through the setting of the frenzy of the
Straightaway we should be tempted to classify Sophie Sigorel’s work in the area of atmosphere painting, like Edward Hopper
for example, whose universe can be related to hers in spite of evident differences: Hopper’s painting is “static” whereas Sigorel’s is in perpetual search for movement, especially when she
composes and centers her image in a theatrical and cinematic way.
Some effects, sequence-shots, and fades to black accentuate this feeling of an “atmosphere” inspired by cinematic
Yet, transcending genre painting, Sophie Sigorel tries to “dematerialize” the urban architectural elements and simplify
them to their generic forms. Blurred effects put off any resemblance to photographic realism, as the stake is to point out the contrasts of the chromatic and geometric rhythms, which link what is
“built” and what is “human”. Finally, it doesn’t matter if the painted scene takes place in Beijing, Paris, or New York. This scene is not viewed through a tourist’s eye and has no ethnologic
sense. Wherever we are, the main force is this omnipresent flow, more or less dense. There is this same human persistence everywhere, the same multitude of worlds that skim past and cross each
other like a crowd of monads. In this face-to-face between the “built” and “the living”, the artist chooses, like in a movie, to focus on the human being. The “living” wins, the bodies come to
For what Sophie Sigorel is deeply interested in is the human being caught in this dizziness. Here again, there is no need
to imagine fanciful scenes: the most ordinary situations are enough to grasp that the main purpose is not dramaturgy: a street at night, an airport hall, a bus, a square, a subway car at rush
hour. The living human figure, moving within the world she has created is at the core of her work, an experience of the world in which we are immersed and that we are then submitted to in nearly
full size images.
Sophie Sigorel’s work deals more with the question of the place of the human being despite the city than with the
place of the human being in the city. Mankind, in its multitude and its individuality, in its vital power and presence overcomes everything, every place, city, or landscape, though the
scenes take place in a town. Even though her subjects are just passers-by, like fleeting traces, they are never ghost-like. Even when anonymous, they are never reduced to a specter even when the
figure remains a luminous aura, a colored line, a red dress, the blue of a shirt, a fleeting shape riding a bike…In Sigorel’s paintings, all the “invisibles” and “anonymities” caught in their
movement are never disembodied, making possible the perception of a depth, a presence, a soul in their fleetingness and their fragility.
Sigorel’s exploration of the body, more precisely of the figure, explores the body not as matter but as a presence.
There is, for example, Sigorel’s series “In Corpore”, meaning without urban background. Here, everything is
concentrated on the body and its presence, its organic red aura. These portrayals, like x-rays, seem to be attempting to evoke mystery.
Sophie Sigorel’s paintings are never absolutely abstract and never really figurative. It is perhaps this in-between that
Jean-François Lyotard calls “figural”*. This work of representation is never unilaterally figurative. As Deleuze says about Bacon**, it has “no model to represent”, it escapes from a mimetic
logic, going “outside the remits” and beyond the classical contradiction between the figurative and the non-figurative. This freedom of figuration takes its roots from the will of representing
something close to a vitalistic sensation, the intensity of a presence, the movement personifying the life. Deleuze also says: “Any matter can become expressive” since it’s not a body –an organic
matter- that is caught, but a vital flow, the dynamics of strength at play in the future of the living.
As her paintings perceive the body like incarnate time, it can be qualified as “existential”. Paul Auster writes, “We don’t
build the world. We are surrounded with things and our bodies are soaked in this reality…The world is in my head, my body is in the world.”***
Once again, when we look at Sigorel’s paintings, what rises is the duality of presence and solitude, this ontological
“ultra-modern” solitude that we all experience, especially in the middle of the crowd, and this impassable alterity. The experience is also existential when, beyond the banality of the scene
overcome by an intentional vague, we feel a sensation of evanescence, the chromatic warmth of a world with its tensions, both alive and at the edge of the disappearance, of the “presque
For the artist, this evanescence, this in-between, is like an open door inviting the reverie and opening a poetic space of
freedom, a possible spreading out of the imagination. Even if her painting is not properly narrative, it isn’t even close to it, as she produces images like clues of a story, of a fiction that
everyone can build. In one of her paintings called “Se croiser” (“To pass each other”), she opens a breach in space and time, between the public area – circumscribed by the everyday life- and the
private area, between the anonymity and the occurrences of interaction (a kind of recognition of an “extraordinary” moment) causing the rise of an infinite field of possibilities, an escape, that
allows Sophie Sigorel to reach the essence of art.
*Jean-François Lyotard – Discours, Figure – Ed Klincksieck, 1971
**Gilles Deleuze - Francis Bacon. Logique de la sensation - Paris, Éditions de la
***Paul Auster – La solitude du labyrinthe, essai et entretiens – Ed. Actes Sud, 1999
Texte en cours de parution catalogue - Traduction angalis: Marie Deparis-Yafil, avec la collaboration de Stéphanie
Yafil et Joan Mc Laughlin
"Unique dialogue" -
MC Laughlin Gallery / Galerie Mondapart
September 27 to October 26 2013 – San Francisco, California
November 7 to December 7, 2013 – Paris-Boulogne, France
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