We must travel in the direction of our fear.
French artist Anne-Flore Cabanis takes a pen, designates a starting point and starts her journey on the page. The objective is not necessarily to reach a specific destination – but the pen must travel in straight, right angle lines and the lines must not be crossed. The result is a reflection, says Anne-Flore, of the convoluted journeys of life.
As an artist better known for large installations, covering entire buildings with rainbow tapes, she is proof that every journey begins with just a dot. Add movement, add colour, connect it all to music – Anne-Flore’s body of work ranges from drawing to installations, to performance. The red thread that links the various aspects of her work is movement – the essence of life itself.
I try to follow the dot as it starts moving and becomes line. It goes up, then left, then down and up again, right... there doesn’t appear to be a logic to its course and soon it is no longer possible to distinguish it. On the right of the paper, a sketched human figure sits in a convoluted pose, hugging itself. 11 Minutes 40 Seconds (Indian ink on paper). The drawing recalls an art piece by Joseph Kosuth One and Three Chairs (1965). It features a comparison between three possible ways to use the same fragment of time. First, on the right hand side of the paper, 11 Minutes 40 Seconds is the time used to draw a human figure randomly selected (here the sculpture The Bourgeois of Calais by Auguste Rodin). Secondly, the same slice of time was used to draw the abstract meandering line that invites comparisons with Ariadne’s thread of glittering jewels, the thread that helped Theseus escape the labyrinth. Finally, at the bottom of the sheet the length of time is spelled out: 11 Minutes 40 seconds.
The myth of a labyrinth, as metaphor for our life journey resonates in many of Anne-Flore’s works. The uninterrupted line features on SUM_07, SUM-08, where it gets so dense it looks like shadows, it creates a kind of soft form, recalling the texture of our brain. The introduction of colour (green, red or yellow ink) accentuates the shapes without diminishing the main theme – the wandering line.
In the video Enjambement (Stepping Over) the artist does just that – step over, under and around invisible obstacles. In an empty room, with just a large window and two classic columns, she hurries from one wall to another, towards and away from the viewer, going nowhere, starting again, like a young and agile Sisyphus. The squeaking and scratching background sound gives the movement rhythm, but not purpose, and at the end the jumping character just goes out of the frame, having achieved nothing. The room remains empty and silent.
I caught up with the artist as she is preparing for an exhibition at the Galerie du Forez in Paris.
Is the journey of life a labyrinth? Or is it about continuous (possibly pointless) movement?
I am interested in movement because it is the most obvious manifestation of life. In the case of my artistic language, the movement of a point on paper creates a line that does not cross and takes the form of a labyrinthine travel. This displacement is like a path that creates territories and geography. It can be seen as the path of a thought that is written on paper (cf. series of drawings in the "SUM" series) and, why not? then transposed to a different medium to find itself at the scale of a city and become the path of a pedestrian in urban space (cf. expo "1 = 2", in situ collage Altitude Urbaines) or looking around (Linea at the Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes, Two Colour Gradient in Taiwan).
How does the narrative of your drawings complement the large scale, outdoor work?
The large installations are in fact the three dimensional transposition, on a large scale, of the principle of writing on paper. It is the minimalist use of lines to draw simple and accessible forms. The objective is to engage the viewer in an introspective fluctuation, as he looks at the drawing on paper and when he is facing a large format installation; to engage him in an attempt to answer these questions about what he sees by moving in space to change his viewpoint. By changing his position, the viewer will be able to create an abstract reality, built on the sum total of the different views
Did you always want to be an artist?
I was studying history at university and realised that I was bored. I felt that in order to fulfil my potential I needed more creativity in my life. When I was accepted at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts I began to question myself about artistic concepts, intellectual process, the course of thinking and creating.
What factors determined your creative evolution?
My curiosity for the world and the feeling – the belief - that everything is possible.
What artists do you most admire and who had the strongest influence on your work?
Malevich for his Suprematism, Joseph Beuys for his connection with specific materials; Barnet Newman’s huge paintings and narrow vertical straight sculptures. I also admire Marina Abramovic for her total commitment to her art, Richard Serra and Richard Long because of the very strong feeling of nature they succeed in giving the public.
What is the main inspiration for your work today?
The infinite possibilities of connecting to the world through perception and mainly through emotions. I am trying to reflect these complex connections in my work – both two- and three-dimensional.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I would like to take on the most daring artistic challenges, to create more dynamism, more freedom in the way audiences experience reality in general and art in particular.