I work alternatively in three mediums: oils, drawing and collage. My studio work naturally divides itself into more than a half a dozen series, some begun over twenty years ago. From 1995 – the first time I began to use this format for my work – the series presented itself as an optimal way to develop a visual research, to exhaust a subject, a concept, an idea, in that of an individual work, as well as through an ensemble. Within the framework of a series, the works share certain criteria or “givens,” reuniting them. Such “givens” guide my pictorial process, and give free reign to my experimentation and my expression in all their eclecticism. French curator Pascal Thevenet writes, “Lisa Salamandra is resolutely a painter. She produces by series of 10, 40, 100, but none of her paintings resemble one another. The series is only the alibi which structures her desire to paint and organizes her eclecticism. Yet one can detect veins, trends, in this profuse oeuvre.” Indeed, organizing my paintings in a serial manner has made this eclecticism intelligible, appreciable – an inherent, stubborn and finally assumed eclecticism that has always characterized my painting. It is a quality that I hold dear because I came to understand that this is a matter of the freedom of expression that I seek; each work is a unique and thrilling voyage; its end is almost, often, unforeseeable.
The figure has always been central to my process; it is the element that I manipulate and transform/transfigure, and one I use symbolically and metaphorically. My visual research centers upon the manner in which the figure comes into being, its makeup and construction. This creative process is opposite to one that would impose an image to the canvas; mine does not impose – the idea of each painting is born from the act of painting. All along the pictorial process, I attempt to bring about, to make appear, forms and images. This process – guided by the criteria of the series – is thus intimately linked with how the elements are constructed by the paint which seeks alignment with the expression of the subject.
On the whole, my artwork deals with the expression of my true innermost self, of which the creative act represents the purest form – the only veritable link. Through painting, a place devoid of self-censorship has been created – by need, by conviction, by desire… and it is in this unique place in my life, where the imagery born from my hand, awakens, permits discovery, and troubles… The troubling nature of my images has always been viewed as revealing. It shows me, reveals, that a limit has been surpassed, that an unveiling has taken place. In this way, I appropriate French philosopher Georges Bataille’s metaphor of the “broken chrysalis,” when he explains – with goals that are complicated and anthropological, whereas mine are personal – that “man’s interior experience occurs the instant, when breaking out of the chrysalis, he becomes conscious of his own tearing.” My tearing of self is that given moment when I realize that which has materialized itself on the surface before me, when my images reveal themselves to me: the 'figurative' linking, interacting, overlapping, responsive to the ‘conceptual’. My cosa mentale never expresses itself so purely, so void of all artifice, as it does within the images born from my own hand. My creative process is akin to a tearing of self because it is one that never imposes, but represents my obstinate will to discover through the painting process itself.
1. Pascal Thevenet, Extrait de texte du catalogue de la biennale Sculptura, Galerie d’art de la Villa Balthazar, Valence, 2018.
2. Georges Bataille, L'Érotisme, Œuvres complètes X, (trans. Lisa Salamandra), Paris, éditions Gallimard, Coll. NRF, 1987, p. 42.