3 December 2022 — 11 February 2023
"These movements, of which we are hardly cognizant, slip through us on the frontiers of consciousness in the form of undefinable, extremely rapid sensations. They hide behind our gestures, beneath the words we speak, the feelings we manifest, are aware of experiencing, and able to define."—Nathalie Sarraute
Painter Rosemarie Auberson took an experimental approach for her new show, Distant Though Near, held at Francis Gallery, Bath. “I wanted to explore our relationship with the space and objects we place around us,” says Auberson. “This also led me to elements of my Japanese heritage. The relationship between the object and space is clearly defined in Japanese culture: everything coexists, including people and the environment. It is said that for a long time, no word existed to describe the landscape, as it was not something to be observed – it was something to be part of.”
At first glance, the surfaces of Auberson’s paintings appear monochromatic, but as light conditions change, different layers of pigment appear and disappear, giving motion to their complex depths. “The larger scale of the paintings in this show allowed me the space to explore just one or two colours in each work – the sensation, transparency, and juxtaposition of the layers of paint,” she says. “In some lights, you may only notice one colour, but as the light changes through the day, different details emerge.” Auberson has used canvases of varying thickness and coarseness– having previously worked on wood or paper: “As I painted, I was entirely focused on my conversation with the support material, and how the paintings reacted. I used very rough, grey canvases, some more traditional examples that are primed with gesso, and some very soft, thin ones that feel almost like paper.”
Accompanying the canvases are five small stoneware sculptures that Auberson created in collaboration with her friend, ceramicist Juliette Teste. The pieces were inspired by the Japanese takamakura – a headrest that was often used by geishas to protect their elaborate hairstyles while sleeping. “There was a belief that while one slept, one’s soul entered the takamakura. We were interested in this object because while it is quite banal and domestic, it is filled with spiritual and ritual significance,” says Auberson. “Stoneware is a sturdy, domestic clay – there is a humility to it,” adds Teste.
Teste included an element of ritual in the creation of the work too. “Every time I fire work, I give an offering to the kiln,” she says. “I make half a nut in ceramic and place it in the kiln, as a good omen. There is a beauty to its uncontrollable nature; you have to be open to its mysteries. Ultimately, it is quite freeing that the kiln decides for you.” “I am a visitor to the ceramic world, so for me, it is an experiment,” adds Auberson. “It is something I cannot fully control. Because it is not my medium, I feel more free to play and be completely open to the process.”
French ceramicist Juliette Teste lives and works in Paris, and graduated from The Duperré School of Applied Arts. Teste’s work focuses on the visual surprise born from colliding references to contemporary culture and ancient worlds. Photographic sources such as museum catalogues or paintings act as a starting point; the work then develops as an instinctive mash-up of historical influences and personal fantasy. Often leading to meditative or theatrical pieces, her self-taught technique, combined with a keen eye for colours, underpins her instinctive and playful approach.