“What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art” - Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
And where would lyricists and poets be without a broken heart? Art seems to benefit from a lack of creature comforts lest they be heroin, Absinthe or questionable sexual practices. Emotional pain as essential to palette as alizerin crimson. To whit, Van Gogh and his detachable ear, Oscar Wilde and his bad boy Bosie, Raymond Carver and all that grog.
Back to the truffle challenge. Laisser moi vous introduire ma truffe! Titane Laurent.
It’s difficult to imagine our subject decked in Chanel and fully engaged in the pursuit of money and prestige through her job as a marketing executive. Hear the little gnawing voice inside her head “but I want to paint” like the repetitive cry of a preschooler. Preschoolers have a flair for attrition and eventually the voice in the head must be appeased. Behold the Chanel suit wrenched from her shoulders and watch her leap from Belgium to New Zealand, journey through China and Sydney before landing in Perth. So much easier to reinvent ourselves around people who never knew the original. Surely this takes just a little madness? Ingredient number one.
Take a virtual reality tour via the drawings from this time. They’re somewhere between Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon. They’re not drawn by a quiet soul, they speak of pain. Ingredient number two. The blacks are intense, smudged. Color blurs within them like blood and tears. One figure, female, on hands and knees, head bowed and with an economy of line that could have been written by Raymond Carver, the pubic hair is damp and thus writ, intensely sexual. It feels voyeuristic to look
Fast forward to now and the merde has been got together. There are kids, a husband, a dog and a small veggie patch. Ingredient number three: joy. Laurent flops into a chair in her back yard noisily dragging a stool to put up her feet. “I’m so happy” she says, with a silent ‘h’. She offers up her story like a four year old. Without artifice or inhibition and while the four year old struggles with being laughed at, Laurent laughs at herself gleefully.
Laurent’s work is small and comes in litters. Septuples, sometimes quins. Each complete in itself but sporting some common DNA. She confesses a phase of artistic constipation, gummed up with Taoist theory, yin/yang, balance, contrast, texture before faith provided a welcome enema and allowed her the simple luxury of trusting the process. She doesn’t so much look at her paintings as appear to listen to them, head cocked to one side as though waiting for instruction from a higher power.
Two blue children's’ chairs appear to be part of the general clutter in Laurent’s studio. I sit on one and find it positioned perfectly for contemplating a set of six paintings. Laurent paints figuratively and I’d love to tell you I figured this out by myself, instead I clumsily ask what they are about. Human suffering. Each rich with its own theme, hunger, solitude, betrayal, madness, sickness, confinement.
Children in pain shamelessly seek consolation. Maturity brings with it a reluctance to share our pain with others for fear of exposure. We teach ourselves to deal with it, get on with it, handle it. The act of sharing our vulnerability with another implies a massive show of trust. It is this intangible thing that engages me with Laurent’s work. Her understanding that these umbrae are what makes us truly beautiful. Magically, the flipsides to these shadows lurk within the work, humour, joy, love, courage but never so boldly as to be attention seeking.