A Dance between Forms

Laura Ferguson

Historienne de l'art / Londres

Août 2021

  

 

“Absolutely everything goes through the body, everything goes through dance, everything goes through music.” - Virginie Hucher
 
A choreographer of shapes and forms, Virginie Hucher’s work is firmly rooted in the body and nature. Indeed, it is these two themes that ground the artist’s work; the union between nature and the human body. Working across paint, ceramics and performance art, herworks vibrate with a sense of movement which stems from her own background as a dancer and her Mother’s career as a choreographer. Taking inspiration from the natural environment (the artist’s longstanding muse) she has created a unique visual language based around natural forms and the vitality of nature. 
Graduating with a degree in the visual arts from the Licence Arts Plastiques in Paris in 2000, Virginie received training in the studios of artists Michel Gouéry, Bruno Lebel and Marc Alberghina before embarking on her own career as an artist.
‘Natural Histories’ and ‘Plural Landscapes’ 
 
Drawn to the natural landscape in all its multiplicity of forms, nature is the artist’s most enduring muse. She looks to the land, sea and sky, not only for her colour palette - which uses the rich ochres and rusts of the beach and desert, counterbalancing these with the cool blues and greens of the sea and forest; a perfect harmony of hot meets cold, yin and yang, but also for the subject matter of her paintings, developing a vocabulary of abstract forms that subtly reference the natural environment. Presented against a neutral, flat colour backdrop, these organic, biomorphic shapes hint at forms found in the natural landscape; shells, waves, leaves, cacti – found objects the artist collects in the studio which inspire her work, whilst never literally transcribing them. This is a visual language which Hucher has developed in her two major series ‘Natural Histories’ (2019-2021) and ‘Plural Landscapes’ (2020-2021)
Shown against a plain backdrop and removed from any extraneous detail, the shapes in Hucher’s canvases become totemic, atemporal, almost fossilized on the canvas – a means of “freezing form” as Hucher would say. Working on a variety of scales, from large monumental canvases to more intimate sculptures and works on paper, her works allude to the plurality and diversity to be found in nature, as indeed do the titles themselves; ‘Natural Histories’, ‘Plural Landcapes’, ‘Botanics’, ‘Organic Waves’ which convey the many faces of nature.
Often using highly gestural brushstrokes where we see the texture of the paint and brush marks, her paintings reference the Abstract Expressionists and the work of Pierre Soulages in their emphasis on surface and materiality. Hucher’s influences are wide ranging and we see the legacy of Matisse, Picasso and Henry Moore all come to play in Hucher’s abstract canvases well as those of Eduardo Chillida and Anna-Eva Bergman.
Continuing her studies of the natural world begun with ‘Natural Histories’, Hucher pushes these forms even further in the series ‘Plural Landscapes.’ We see a refining of the artist’s visual language and the same motifs and shapes reappearing. However, where in ‘Natural Histories’ the forms are singular, in ‘Plural Landscapes’ they become multiple, a “dance” of interlocking abstract forms against the same monochromatic backdrop and always using a similar colour palette; the deep blues of sea and sky and the rich browns and ochres of the beach and desert. At times smooth and evenly applied, at others thick and dense so we can see the lines and ridges of the brushstrokes, there is contrast between both tones and textures.
“Dances” in time and space
“Dance is the basis of my work, I first go through movement and then come, in quotation marks, to freeze the form.” - Virginie Hucher
 
More than simply her muse, nature becomes the artist’s very canvas in her performance works. Working in harmony with the landscape she carves into the raw elements (sand, snow, ice) in her performance works, making bold, primitive marks in the landscape and capturing these performances on film as a way of visually transcribing a specific moment in time, a place, an emotion or a feeling.
The artist’s sensibility as a dancer is expressed most clearly here and she describes how:
" Absolutely everything goes through the body, everything goes through dance, everything goes through music."
 
Entitled ‘Living Supports’, this ongoing body of work begun in 2016 has seen the artist travel to Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Corsica and France to make a series of responsive land art pieces and performances where she uses her body to make her mark in the raw landscape. Nature’s elements; sand and snow replace the static canvas making the title of ‘Living Supports’ particularly apt. Nature is a living, breathing, constantly mutating canvas. And one that the artist embraces here, making tangible a spiritual connection she
feels with the landscape, a way to “freeze form” as she puts it.
Fertile Forms
Begun in 2020, ‘Fertile Forms’ is an ongoing series of ceramic sculptures made in red and white earthenware that echo the artist’s visual language established in her paintings.
Reminiscent of Matisse’s cut-outs, these linear shapes create organic mix and match three- dimensional compositions. Changing in scale depending on their arrangement, they become ever more expansive depending on the number of pieces added. Viewed from above laid out on the floor, they give the impression of remnants from an archaeological dig; contemporary artefacts – bones or fossils washed up in an unsuspecting interior. In this series, as with others, Virginie continues to draw on the ever-fertile landscape that is nature.