Guillaume Désanges presents Myriam Mihindou's solo show "ÉPIDERME”

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Guillaume Désanges presents Myriam Mihindou's solo show "ÉPIDERME”
Myriam Mihindou, Female (detail), 2000. Triptych, cibachrome photographs, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Maïa Muller © Myriam Mihindou.



BRUSSELS, BELGIUM.- For his last exhibition at La Verrière, Guillaume Désanges – the curator since 2013 – presents Myriam Mihindou's solo show “ÉPIDERME” from September 29, until December 3rd, 2022.

“Myriam Mihindou’s practice may be seen as curative, shamanistic and artistic in equal measure. As a traveller and nomad, Mihindou works in close physical empathy with the environments, situations, and people she encounters, applying herself to the healing of the individual and collective, physical and psychic ills inflicted by subjugation and domination in their many forms. Her art breaks the boundaries of representation proper, to take on a spiritual, therapeutic function: her sculptures and drawings are symbolic forms and objects of transmission invested with cathartic power.

Her first exhibition in Belgium, Mihindou transforms La Verrière into a space for the sensory experience of forms, materials and colours evoking the kingdoms of the natural and living world – animal, vegetable, mineral – in a spirit of collaboration and loving contamination between all three. Here, more than admiration or observation, sensation is key: the lived, physical and intellectual experience of the relationships between diverse entities.”

Caress all the curves of existence

Myriam Mihindou’s practice may be seen as curative, shamanistic and artistic in equal measure. As a traveller and nomad, Mihindou works in close physical empathy with the environments, situations, and people she encounters, applying herself to the healing of the individual and collective, physical and psychic ills inflicted by subjugation and domination in their many forms. Her art breaks the boundaries of representation proper, to take on a spiritual, therapeutic function: her sculptures and drawings are symbolic forms and objects of transmission invested with cathartic power. Often, her photographs capture the interaction of parts of the body (face, hands, legs, feet) with materials that stand as interfaces, obstacles, or projections. Incarnations more than figurative representations, rituals more than shows, her performances lead her to a trancelike state. For this, her first exhibition in Belgium, Mihindou transforms La Verrière into a space for the sensory experience of forms, materials and colours evoking the kingdoms of the natural and living world – animal, plant, mineral – in a spirit of collaboration and loving contamination between all three. Here, more than admiration or observation, sensation is key: the lived, physical and intellectual experience of the relationships between diverse entities. On the ground, set against a wooden floor, embroidered sheets laid one over the other enfold stitched sandbags that resemble textile organs, playing on the double, artisanal and physiological meaning of the French word tissu (both fabric and bodily tissue). Visitors are invited to lie down and engage with the sensory, tactile experience of each work. Covering the walls, a vast mural features trickled marks from teabags overlaid with collages of tissue paper and tracing paper bearing motifs, words and drawings in ink or red chalk. The resulting landscape is an intimate cartography that unfolds through revelation, emulsion, and transpiration: the work is experienced not as a motif applied to a surface but as something that emerges organically from the fabric of its support and context. It functions as a kind of “mood board”, a psychic and visual/sculptural projection of the aims and energies that guide its maker, not least the desire to lead the visitor into a meditative state that fosters an enhanced consciousness of the scope of the living world, in its broadest sense, as a means to envisage its future. Photography is a presence throughout, completing this cell of shared, personal experiences.

Revelations

Myriam Mihindou’s new exhibition is centred around three key moments or “gestures”, a fundamental aspect of her work as a whole. Here, soaking, stitching, weaving, dyeing, stuffing, superposing, drawing and assemblage form the core of the project. Physical movement and materials come together to gradually reveal new worlds beyond and around the self. As Mihindou says, a sense of “transport” through ritualised actions is essential to an understanding of her own work. In this general process of revelation (in the photographic sense), gestures – at first intuitive, uncontrolled, sometimes repetitive – gradually cohere into a score which is developed (again, in the photographic sense) by its own interpretation and performance. A process of unveiling and elaboration. In this spectral regimen, everything leaves a trace. Everything speaks to a specific, ancient Greek definition of art as a means by which to reveal the beauty and power already contained in raw materials, rather than to conjure them ex nihilo. Myriam Mihindou’s works are the reminiscence or memory of form, rather than artefacts in their own right. They are products of incantation rather than ingenuity.




Meta-verse

Mihindou often references cultural phenomena in her work. Here, however, she has chosen to work almost exclusively with natural elements, chosen for their intrinsic and symbolic properties. Liquids are omnipresent: papers are steeped in lemon tea or rosehip infusions, salts and sand, sweat or tears. Flux, drips, trickles and seepages evoke the fluid mechanics of the human body and geophysics alike. Undulating sheets suggest silty riverbeds, with stitching for veins and scars. Sandbags look like kidneys. Elsewhere, interlocking, abstract, drawn motifs are sampled directly from the squiggled traces left by lugworms, dotting the surface of waterlogged expanses of sand and silt. Seldom seen, and little understood, these simple but miraculous organisms oxygenate their habitat and may hold secrets for the future of medicine. What interests Myriam Mihindou, above all, is their role as nature’s scribes.

Their elegant arabesques are replicated in motifs drawn freehand on fabric, which themselves evoke galleries left by beetles burrowing in the bark of trees. Tiny signs of life in the natural world, messages we are unable to decipher… From the outset, Myriam Mihindou’s work has explored interfaces, double skin, the internal and external, the surface and that which lies beneath, veins and the epidermis. From her “epidermal” drawings using water and stamps, like rashes on thick sheets of white paper, to her Fleurs de peaux, hand-shaped sculptures in soap or ceramics, and photographs and videos in which she is wrapped in permeable or protective membranes, her work plays on the endless circulatory movement between the visible and invisible.

Healing

The spiritual dimension in Myriam Mihindou’s work is invariably social and political, too. The energy and inherent powers of objects and materials are incorporated as a means to repair, purify or heal the ills of this world. It is this therapeutic context that prompts her inclusion in the present season at La Verrière, which aims – in the light of the current ecological crisis – to showcase alternative approaches to the material in art, loaded with new preoccupations and concerns, while at the same time acknowledging art’s essential function. Inevitably, Mihindou’s biological references prompt reflection on a growing, alternative response to our troubled times – not heightened political awareness and activism, but therapeutic cures designed to detoxify, heal and soothe the violence inflicted on our environment by the all-conquering logic of industry. In this context, we are fortunate indeed to close the present season with work by Myriam Mihindou. Beyond the themes addressed in specific pieces, I have always felt that environmental issues should be rooted in the economy and ethics of work, in the hope of changing our world view for good. For Myriam Mihindou, the work of production is a process, a method, more than a prospect. An ethos as much as it is a practice. A creative principle that eludes even the artist’s control. She shows immense trust and respect for the components of her art, content to marvel and watch them at work. It is that elusive, impalpable quality that her work constantly seeks to preserve. It shapes and directs her more than she shapes and directs it. A spectator of her own oeuvre, Mihindou is uninterested in the demiurgic manipulation of raw materials. Rather, she works with distance and the viewer’s gaze. This profound humility is central to her work. A particular humility rooted in the word’s Latin origins, from humilis: low, lowly, humble, and earth (or humus). A hands-on physicality, close contact between the artist’s body and the body of the work, through a process of immersion. There is a sense of distance, but no hidden or secondary meaning in Myriam Mihindou’s oeuvre. Spiritually and affectively, what you see is what you get. In a true spirit of empathy and forms nurtured by beliefs. In short, this is work which is neither theoretical nor cynical, nor even simply artistic. It is perpetually evolving, both powerful and vulnerable. In a word: alive.

Epilogue

This exhibition brings to a close my final season as programme director at La Verrière, the Brussels art space of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès – a collaboration I have been delighted and immensely proud to carry forward for almost ten years, and which has given me the opportunity to engage creatively with the contemporary art scene, free from market fads and commercial pressures. I hope I have contributed to La Verrière’s standing as a space of discovery, risk-taking, creative and intellectual curiosity, more than a follower of fashion in contemporary art. I wish to thank the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and its team members past and present, together with everyone at Work Method, for their support over the past decade. Thanks, too, to the artists who placed their trust in me and suggested projects that were always demanding, powerful, intense. Thank you to Hermès Benelux-Nordics and the Brussels boutique, for their warm welcome and our fertile cohabitation over the course of each project. Lastly, thank you to La Verrière’s many loyal and new visitors who have stood beneath the glass roof and the sky above, and walked boldly with us, time and again, to new and unexpected places.

Guillaume Désanges










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