Mise en Abîme

Mise en Abîme: Into the Abyss

Juliette Mahieux-Bartoli’s first solo show Mise en Abîme opens on the 26th of November at the Art Bermondsey space on Bermondsey Street.  The show presents a collection of new paintings reworking the concept of the Mise en Abîme, or the play within a play, to make viewers experience art and reality simultaneously.

The paintings are of statuesque female figures in bold and colourful compositions.  Mahieux-Bartoli's aesthetic choices, from her poses to her rendering of skin and fabric, point to her Franco-Italian heritage and the aesthetic language of classical sculpture and Renaissance art she was raised in.  Mahieux-Bartoli’s technique involves working up a verdaccio (green-gray) underpainting and glazing over it with transparent oils – an adapted Renaissance technique. Each painting can take hundreds of hours to complete.

She develops her compositions through posed photographs of herself that she then alters and collages together to create theatrical scenes. The resulting figures appear a hybrid of human and statue, drawing attention to our instinct in figurative art to wish away the art-reality divide. 

“I want my paintings to be windows into another world, one that is similar enough to ours to identify with, but also undeniably different, to make us reflect on the narratives and nature of our own.”

Mahieux-Bartoli's sources of inspiration are literary and philosophical.  Her current work emerges from an interest in the subject of narrative. This serves as a starting point for individual compositions and as a recurring motif throughout the show as a whole.  Over the course of the development of the paintings, the artist developed her fascination for narrative because of its multiplicative nature: through analysis or change of perspective a narrative will reveal other narratives, making humanity’s impulse to invent stories an innately self aware and self perpetuating creative process.

In the work the contrast between her highly polished figures and rougher brushstrokes is a dissonance reminding us that the figures are painted and not real, and the recurring pattern (a medallion motif from a 7th century BCE Persian fabric) symbolically stands in for the created world, or artistic world, as opposed to physical reality.  

"I hope Mise en Abîme will give people a space to forget about the world, I hope it will be a haven of dreams, like a good book; but I also hope it will keep its audience aware of its construct, because lucid dreams are the most powerful ones."

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