Monday, May 14, 2012

Anne-Sophie Adelys
Author: Sophie Keyse

"We cannot return to the past, but we can go home again" - Jan Morris, ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’

Anne-Sophie Adelys’ latest exhibition Re-Collection (on view at Corban Estate Arts Centre April 20th – May 27th 2012) is precisely that – a collection of disparate objects assembled together to create an installation which inevitably resonates with the viewer in their familiarity and sentimentality.  Originally from Brittany, France, Adelys incorporates found objects picked up in vintage stores or local markets with precious items from her personal collection in a frieze of colour and time, interspersed with her own retro-themed oil paintings.  After studying art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Le Mans, graduating with a Diplome National d’Arts Plastiques, Adelys worked in the graphic design industry which has leaked into her artistic practice most obviously in her preparatory sketches which she executes in Photoshop.  This inevitably results in crisply finished compositions which go beyond the realistic into the domain of the idealised.  

The main focus of this exhibition is nostalgia and memory, with the artist exploring her past in order to assess her own present and future path.  After a horse riding accident at aged 11 Adelys suffered temporary amnesia, with it taking several months before her memory returned to a shadow of its former self.  This desire to review and remember the past in her artwork is linked to the artist’s terror of forgetting her memories, and the use of objects and images functions as a trigger to ensure such a scenario does not occur again.  However, it is interesting to note that the items which populate Re-Collection are from an era not experienced by the artist – instead they survive from the 1950s and 60s.  This is perhaps due to the artist spending her school holidays at her grandparents’ big mill house in a small village near Le Mans, which had an attic full of mid-20th century metal toys; comics; clothes and shoes; photos; Super 8mm movies; old school books and vinyl records.  She would while away many an afternoon with her notebook and pencils making paper dolls out of 50s women’s magazines.  These memories are cherished by the artist as she was frequently spoiled as their first grandchild and her artwork is a means of returning to this blissful period: 

Through my work I try to re-connect with the feeling of childhood when everything and anything was possible and when life was much simpler. I want to open a small window on 'what used to be' and allow a kitsch-retro visual escape back to childhood.

This interest in nostalgia developed into exploring its effects on one’s identity and how memory and the emotions imbued in objects influence who we are and how we relate to others.  The visitor response to Re-Collection reveals how easy it is to open up about one’s private life with the aid of objects that resonate with us in some form – it may be a comic book or a photograph of a particular scene or perhaps just a crate of milk bottles: these items are so familiar to many people and yet conjure up a variety of different memories and feelings.  However, this remembering of the past has the potential to be idealised and fictionalised – one can recall events with rose-coloured glasses, as it were, and this inevitably increases the longing to return to that time.  The artist herself describes the 1950s and 60s as ‘golden years’ perhaps because how this era was portrayed in subsequent popular culture, thus easily overlooking the more negative aspects of these decades of change.  Adelys hopes viewers will allow themselves a trip back to the past when they enter her installation, with the aid of retro tunes and soft lighting – ‘It’s not a question of understanding it but feeling it.’

With artistic influences such as Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko and Norman Rockwell, it is no surprise that the artist hopes visitors respond emotively to the work she creates – her obsession with colour and its ability to communicate/evoke a particular message or feeling has a significant impact and one can see in her paintings that each colour relationship has been carefully planned and implemented.  

Adelys plans to continue this thread of exploration in her next series of works, potentially incorporating vintage photographs into her installations.  She is in the process of applying for residences throughout New Zealand and preparing submissions for national art awards.  Visit her website for further examples of her artwork. 

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