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21.6.04

Aurélie Nemours (b. 1910)

Aurélie NemoursWhen I go to France next month, I am sadly going to miss the Joan Miró exhibit at the Centre Pompidou. (I will, however, get to see the Calder-Miró show, reviewed in Libération, from the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, which reportedly includes a tightrope act. Not in Basel, but that show will come to the Phillips Collection here in Washington on October 9.) What is on my list to see in Paris is the Aurélie Nemours retrospective at the Beaubourg. It is the first real retrospective of the works of this French abstract painter (née Marcelle Baron), now 94 years old, who was interviewed by Geneviève Breerette (Aurélie Nemours, la loi de l'abstraction, June 19) in Le Monde. One of the approximately 100 canvases in the exhibit is shown at right.

Your voyage through constructed abstraction, wasn't it planned?

Planning is a word that should not be used too quickly, because we are always pondering/planning throughout our lives. One ponders one's own life, and one cannot say that one has not planned one's painting. But I did not decide at any given moment that I was going to work in abstraction. I always worked in abstraction because, for me, there was no other true thing. I had to go directly to the secret of form and color and not say anything else; and not to say except with the means that made it possible to speak of form and color. That's what I did each time that I tried to approach this work, because, after all, it's the absolute truth. There is not a whole range of truths, there is one truth that consists of using formal elements. Formal elements are precisely what create painting. If you focus on something else, you make a novel, literature. You make whatever comes out of your head, everything but painting. To paint is to make a painting.
Aurélie Nemours, Windows in Notre-Dame de Salagon, 1998One of the works Breerette asked her about was the stained glass windows she created, through a government commission in 1998, for the church of Notre-Dame de Salagon, a town in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The deep red windows she installed create an eerie effect on the interior of the church.
In the church in Salagon, what truth did you want to reveal with the red windows? Why that red?

It's not really a red red, it's a purple. I wanted to say something about light and about the relationship with the sun only with purple. What I found interesting in Salagon was the idea of putting one single color in all the windows and that that unique color would change only with the progress of the sun. There is in that, you could say, a connection with nature. I chose purple because it is a lived-in red, lived in by blues and maybe yellow and all the colors of the spectrum.
On the exhibit at the Pompidou, see also Hervé Gauville, Aurelie Nemours en formes, June 15, in Libération; and Maurice Ulrich, La peinture absolue, June 19, in L'Humanité.

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