Movement as Painting

Movement as painting

Painting as movement

By Odile Burluraux, Commissaire déxposition chez Mairie de Paris et Musee dárt moderne de la Ville de Paris

Something I cherish about the job I do is the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with artists, to get a feeling for them as people, to observe their individual process, and to understand from their perspective the world we share and live in. Drawing, painting, and producing works of art are all what Maria Dubin´s life is made of and, I could dare say, made for. Shes been  an artist for as far as one can go back in her history and she lays claim to that whoelheartedly, and I have had the opportunity to witness that evolution over the last 20 years.


Working ”live”

You can read on Maria Dubin´s website how difficult it was when for the first time she started to paint in front of a group of science museum visitors. She had been making studies and sketches for months in front of skeletons of whales when finally she stopped – and by bringing bigger and bigger sheets of paper she gort permission to paint the biggest whale in the middle of the space, where no one had ever thought a work of art could be produced. She had begun to define herself basically as a muralist.

And as a museum person, this is what I´m interested in when I deal with contemporary artists; The way they relate to space, to time, to the limits of the system and how at some point they come to push these constraints further by trying to cross borders or even ”break” the walls of an institution. Taking up large-scale  canvases or walls, Maria is dragging along with her all those who have been showing a slight interest for art and she gets them to change the rules, the structures and the attitudes.

This way of proceeding is not new to her and already when studying at the LÉcole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris ( The National School of fine arts ), she had been using as her studio the large exhibiton room usually devoted to hanging paintings by students or for hostong conferences. This generoisity toward the public has also become kind of a condition to start working. While she is producing ”live” she willingly exsposes the hesitations, the large strokes, the way she paints, ….which is the greatest accomplishment. In fact through her ”live painting” Maria is also giving a ”live lecture” on what a process of creation is, what art is and consequently how it can affect people´s views and daily lives.

When painting becomes performance, the act of painting becomes as important as the resulting paiting: Movement as painting, painting as movement. The thrill that she feels when starting a new piece is that of happiness combinded with the awareness of the challenge she faces, the risk she has taken. Even if a painting is a slow process it´s very satisfying way of looking at a work of art under constrution. The viewer can observe the progression from the outside as if he was in the studio, in the intimacy of the secret workshop where the artist is face to face with the blank page. Therefore, it turns out to be an experience of public viewing what is usually kept very private and undisclosed.


The wall at Ramboll

What strikes the visitor at first glance when entering the huge main lobby of the ramboll building and immediately facing the painted wall, is the impossibility of taking it all in at once. The visitor wants to both apprehend it totally and at the same time look closer at all the details, which entails losing the general view. And it is back and forth way of looking that comes the strength of each element in realtion to the others. Dozen of isolated plants and flowers are displayed as unique works of art linked by an invisble thread suggusted by the windows that represent the urban and human surroundings to this total world of nature. Maria Dubin´s talent is obvious in the way she handled the ”commision” from the very beginning. When looking at how the idea of producing a landscape of organic elements in a engineering company is so unusal and unexpected, one can see that it has, and despite all the initial doubts, brought a general approval and a reaction of adhesion. But let´s also pay attention to the unusal way of painting. Painting with black ink, as if a drawing, was the matter on this kind of peculiar fabric that looks like a white virgin canvas ( conveived to absorb the sound ) and that is also absorbing the black ink that was specificaly created for this project. Flowers and plants, as well as animals ( another of Maria´s favorite subjects), are so rewarding when one is contemplating them. Some of the flowers are reminiscent of lace, so fragile, transparent, airy, and at the same time painted in this incredubly thick dark ink.

The other impression you get from this viewpoint is what performing a work of art in such a place must be like. Coming up with such a vast mural commission is just the next step after so many different exsperiences all over the world. Not only is Maria Dubin able to grasp and physically handle the monumental white space of 1000 m2, but pyschologically too she can deal with all the successive questions that arise while meeting with specialits or taking trips to wild places such as Madagascar or to her studio in Paris – questions such as the kind of canvas and the intensity of paint to be used, and the source of inspiration to draw from: Botanical, organic, and wild animals. But what made her most confident and excited when starting The Wall was the fact that she had been rehearsing by doing hundres of sketches of plants in order to make sure she knew them by heart. I had the chance to visit her Parisian studio a few months ago and could see plants studies all over the floor. On the table were sheets of paper covered with drawings, each one so vivid and so alive. I also witnessed the artist´s way of working. Plants from different places – picked up at the Jardin des Plants, or in one of the wild abandoned Parisan parks, or others brought by a neighbour – were lying on a table as the best models for all kind of shapes, gesture and sketching, expending her incredible and never ceasing vigour.  Working in front of 500 people who happen to work in the building and walk in the lobby everyday is an incredibly daring situation. By painting in front of an audience Maria Dubin is exposing herself to the other´s gaze. She is exhibiting skills showing not only the energy, but also the real risk taken when standing on a lift 15 meters up. She also allows anyone to be part of the project. The area around the wall became a kind of forum during the several months of work, a place for meeting and talking.

The city of Aarhus and the company Ramboll should be made aware of the importnce of the civic gesture that took place here. Generosity is also what comes to mind to describe Ramboll´s involvement: That is to say, by them investing in a pleasnat space dedicated to the staff and by placing utter trust in a artist and providing a chance to undertake such an adventure. And besides, allowing the staff to witness the whole process as a live performance is the ”best art course” you could dream ofin a world where everything has become virtual thanks to internet. Doing a mural is also an opportunity to create feely and without expecting a sale or any specific recognition.

Watching the relationships that have been forged between the artist and the staff makes me wonder if w eshould not have living artists working in front of the museum visitors more often in ordeb to get them closer to the artist´s intention in art production.

The act of painting itself is ultimately personal and private unless there is an audience. Requiring total confidence is sharing thoughts, an open attitude and transparent way of working appears to be fundamental. And there I see some responsibility on the part of the artist to take the viewer into consideration and to address the function of art in people´s lives. Art is a necessary part of our environment, our society. It is an idea, a way of life, of seeing and being, and attutude towards life, a respect and understanding of order.