Emmanuelle Villard


Oops, I did it again (english version), in catalogue "Emmanuelle Villard", ed. La galerie des Multiples, La Criée, Le Crédac, 2005
Judicaël Lavrador

Oops, i did it again

Towards the end of the nineties, Bret Easton Ellis poured a shower of
radioactive confetti onto the fashion crowd with Glamorama. In a
satirical and bitter roar of laughter, the novel killed the fame and
luxury fantasy. Victor Ward, crazy hero, mediocre fashion model,
amnesic lover, improbable spy and manipulated terrorist, hangs around
in limousines and VIP lounges. Does the round of Versace fashion
shows. Avoids Lauren to meet Alison and vice versa. No longer knows
what he’s talking about. Sinks feverishly into his "pseudo-reality" until
the story lapses into macabre and sadistic farce through an
accumulation of references, proper nouns, brand names, disjointed
conversations between party-goers who’ve lost the plot, and sweet
nothings tossed into the air by exhausted lovers. Glamorama is one of
those novels where initiation rhymes with intoxication. Ellis slides his
characters over a well-oiled but overpopulated and noxious surface
that further deepens this surrealist-like and acrobatic writing.
Now, since 1998, Emmanuelle Villard’s paintings have been set against
this same backdrop. Struck by eccentric droplets and overloaded with
colours with glossy reflections, they evoke the tantalising style of the
showcases of the entertainment society. This is however a rather
ambiguous borrowing. For the cultural industry itself has taken a
considerable amount of its showy imagery from the Pop art and Op art
repertoire. The shifting geometry of the kings of optical illusion was
indeed very quickly taken up by couturiers, fashion designers or
graphic designers. To such an extent that all of these are credited with
a visual landscape that actually comes from elsewhere. With no hard
feelings, contemporary artists cultivate abstraction without claiming to
recover its initial, original aspect. Rather they pick up the lines and
chromatic ranges, where they are (have got to), where they have
infiltrated into the urban, commercial or cultural landscape under the
influence of TV, marketing and advertising. They reappropriate this
abstraction part two, out of it, out of its frame, decked out.
Behind the scenes, the few snaps hurriedly taken by Emmanuelle Villard
prove this fairly well : as an amateur photographer, she flirts in the
shadow of neon signs, or shoots (into) the confetti that piles up on the
pavements around fun fairs at closing time. In short, somewhat crazy
motifs, overexposed or out of focus images that are of no interest to
the artist other than that they are traces of the mutation of painting.
Abstraction is thus widely located outside of its privileged pictorial and
historical terrain. It suddenly ventures to put on cruder, saucier, freer
airs. As if it had just upped and left, frolicsome and hippyish. In other
words, Emmanuelle Villard’s painting is fairly "on the road". It’s offframe
painting, changing and eventful. So much so that moving
around has become both the artist’s work method and aesthetic : the
paint is not attached to anything. It drips over the canvas, overflows,
unstable and sticky, travelling quickly beyond the edges of the frame.
A culture of excess, really too much, but nothing very serious either.
Neither tormented nor desecrated, the paint simply feigns to miss its
target here, like a teenage girl pretending to drop something so she
can turn on the charm. A sort of Oops, i did it again…
No question indeed of manly materism, but no question either of
turning smug and being duped by a Britney Spears, which others might
call womanly know-how. Through a surface and mirror effect,
Emmanuelle Villard projects a distorted, over-condensed image of the
entertainment industry. Her paintings have more to do with grotesque
than Abstract Expressionism. Even their size, often compact, likens
them to small, cruel caricatures of sequined worlds, saturated with
colour. So, one had better cruise camp for this bad taste aesthetic
cultivated in the sixties by all the New York and London gay-punk
scenes till they just couldn’t take any more. Simultaneously a parody
of show business and its overdevelopment, simultaneously active
soliciting and a big slap in the face, nice and loud, for moderates of all
So much so that Emmanuelle Villard’s painting is not always very
beautiful to see. Especially when it leaves the flat space of the canvas
to end up bulkily folded or crumpled. And that is where it really shows
its pikes, or its claws, or its hackles, one no longer knows just what
exactly. After all, it is indeed a question of metamorphosis : the
painting transformed into waste, into Alien, even if, oddly enough, it’s
the ghost of Grace Jones in Frantic, rather than Sigourney Weaver, that
is evoked by the large pink painting bristling with pellets. Because of
the pink of course. And the hairdo.
Emmanuelle Villard is therefore on an outrageous slope. A spectacular
slope or, why not, since we talk of hyperpower, a hyperspectacular
slope. Painting is an art of mise en scène and not really an art of
composition any more. As a result, Emmanuelle Villard keeps a close
watch as to how her painting is exhibited. With a fairly tell-tale habit :
she inverts the order of things. The trails that accumulate on her
studio floor are suspended at a great height. The graceful bulbs hang
high up. When the paint comes down, or seems to run, one’s eye
should look upwards therefore. The surprise, the interval of a moment,
situated no doubt at the intersection of the two, between the top and
bottom. But there is something more than just a cunning signposting
for the eye in these mises en scène : the paintings are hung more
sparsely. By hanging them too high or too few of them, too off-centre
or, on the contrary, too in the centre (an entire wall for a tiny painting),
one simply emphasises the surrounding empty space, indeed one
shows the way to the painting. Which seems to suck in the space and
living beings around it, like a black hole. Bringing us back to Alien. Or
there again to Bret Easton Ellis and the recurring maxim of his first
novel, Less Than Zero : "Disappear here". Same old masochistic story
of a whole generation in a state of crisis during the eighties, decadent
and wild, retold by the author in Glamorama. And fuelled somewhat by
Emmanuelle Villard : a skilled vamp, she really gives her painting a
hard time and remains haunted by the ghost of its disappearance. All
the more reason to lay it on thick ?
Judicaël Lavrador