LONG VERSION–EXHIBITION TEXT:
The work of Elsa-Louise Manceaux (Paris, France, 1985) is a constant exploration of different themes, materials and methodologies centered on the possibilities of painting and color. One of her lines of inquiry is the use of old pictorial techniques such as fresco painting or egg tempera, which goes hand in hand with her fascination for color and its relation with specific historical periods and contexts. Manceaux uses the ability of some palettes to make us travel to certain time periods, to reference historical ideas, or to evoke particular artistic trends to create what she calls a “clash” in her artworks.
In Orgasms in the Background, Manceaux presents a new series of paintings and one sculpture, all made in 2022, which are based on a reflection on the idea of background understood from multiple angles: painting, language, history or histories within History. The artist started with the idea of re-using her own paintings and turning them into new canvases, thus turning “old” artworks into new backgrounds. These artworks painted in egg tempera on linen in 2017-2018 depicted emotional atmospheres inspired by dreams, orgasms, or night visions. Here, the artist returns to them and considers them, instead of finished works, as works in progress. She treats them as palimpsests—pieces of parchment paper where previous writing has been scraped off so they can be reused. In some cases, she even cuts or crops large format paintings to obtain smaller canvases. Through this gesture, the background is created by applying an ‘imprimatura’ layer of gesso— reminiscent of ancient frescoes some parts of which have vanished or become invisible—, on which she is able to draw.
The series is presented as an installation that unfolds through different color palettes, building a personal timeline. The delicate lines traced in chromatic schemes that the artist associates with different historical eras reveal fragments of patterns and geometries, one or more body parts (legs, hands, vulvas, eyes, mouths, mouth corners, orifices...) that create seductively delirious drawings. These compositions show us an intimate process through which the artist appropriates images coming from art history, archaeology, and contemporary pop culture, to which Manceaux is attracted in that they all show lying or reclining figures, something she sees as a constant feature of the representation of the body throughout human history. Based on this exploration, she creates a series of drawings that she calls her ‘master drawings’, which she transforms into kaleidoscopic images through digitalization. The lines she draws over those of visual sources from different eras of Western history—classical antiquity (Pompeii Lovers,79 BC), the Middle Ages (Breviari d’amor by Matfré Ermengau, 1250-1332), or modern times (The Dream by Gustave Courbet, 1866)—give them a new chromatic context and a different time frame.
All these layers, records and relations added up by Manceaux are clearly traversed by desire. Desire operates as a lens through which a personal imagery emerges, but also as a bridge connecting past, present, and future. Orgasms in the background proposes a dialogue from a feminine point of view with Mathias Goeritz’s emotional architecture, by focusing on the conscience of the body in space.
The iron sculpture Analysis or Contemplation suggests the shape of a sofa, evoking the figure of oneself lying down. Its materiality brings a very concrete reference to the place where the therapeutical process of psychoanalysis takes place: from the perspective of the reclining body. Everything that surrounds the body becomes part of a mental and emotional space.
The formats of works such as The Lovers’ Farandole and Lovers in the Moshpit and their position in the exhibition space contribute to creating a sense of mysticism similar to that produced by stained glass windows in religious spaces; another conversation between Manceaux and Goeritz, since both address the relation between light, architecture, and color. Finally, the titles of the works are plays on words that somehow work as the last entry key to an ellipsis between the individual, the couple’s and the collective body that Manceaux creates through her work, referencing ancient group dances such as Dionysian rituals and culminating with Selfie Dance, a painting where the gesso remains intact. A return to the beginning, a background over another one.
Paola Santoscoy, curator
Production Assistant: Caroline Tribut
Paola Santoscoy, Caroline Tribut, Ana Luisa Ibarra Caceres, Helio Tristan, Carlos Amorales, Sebastien Capouet, Mau Galguera, Marcia Garcia Sainz y Pequod Co, Daniel Ugalde, Punto 9, Nathalie Bourgeois, Para()axis”, Antonio González Mendiola.
Photos taken by Sergio López and Pavka Segura