Marie Jacotey: Blue Fear
Hannah Barry Gallery, London
Written on the occation of Blue Fear, a solo exhibition of work by Marie Jacotey presented by Hannah Barry Gallery (3 July – 5 September 2020).
The exhibition included 53 drawings drawn in colour pencil on tracing and cartridge paper, selected from some 325 drawings made by Jacotey for her animated short-film, Filles Bleues, Peur Blanche, nominated for the 2020 Palme d’Or in Short Film at Cannes.
Based on an original script by codirector Lola Halifa-Legrand, the works contained a humble ferocity inspired by the vicissitudes of falling in love—desires and fears, exultant and unforgiving romance.
“The story of Filles Bleues, Peur Blanche follows as a young couple travel the hillside roads of the south of France. Flora, our heroine, is accompanied by her partner Nils on the way to meet her parents for the first time. They drive through lysergic landscapes illuminated by sun, billboards advertise ‘À la mort amour’—until death my love. Solemn echoes of Vallotton; of the fairytale aperture of Clouds of Sils Maria instantiated by Jacotey’s personal memories of traveling through the countryside of Marseille. The frequent cries of her work of the past few years to ‘be wild’ or let ‘wild love me’ are saturated in the landscape’s flaxen, cubist complexion; demanding of the earth as naturist Henry Thoreau did: “Give me a wildness whose glance no civilisation can endure.”
They are ambushed. Flora is held captive and in the abyss of night must face newfound doubts. A choral of enamoured women abduct Flora to their mystical woodland camp—a polyvocal and shifting femininity of modern witches, Valkyries, free-spirited Amazons and idealised stereotypes; operating in solidarity but also in envy of one another. Jacotey’s delicacy in form and tone is elaborated in fabric patterns, on vases, across textiles and jewellery; in the wafer-thin skeleton of a devoured fish and the amourments of horses. Her women are dressed in many-part collages of reference: from Sonia Rykiel’s pleated chiffons to Molly Goddard’s ethereal ruffles to the chic coolness of JW Anderson, and further bejewelled in amulets and veils of gold of Greek and Egyptian character; a confluence of modern with antiquity that stems from Jacotey’s fascination with souls of objects—their enduring human imprint, rituals and theological niceties.
Suggestions of a violence or violent incidents to come—splatters of scarlet blood, sheathed ivory daggers—are a reminder of Jacotey’s preoccupation with the harsher side of relationships, those romantic and familial; she has a way of capturing, in the words of Antonin Artaud, “a living whirlwind that devours the darkness, in the sense of pain apart from whose ineluctable necessity life could not continue.” Expressed with mute photographic rawness, these expressions of violence is not pure horror, rather an answer to the assertion made by Maggie Nelson in The Art of Cruelty that “there is nothing else imaginable under the sun—not even a form of female aggression or rage or darkness—not shaped by or tethered to the male.” Flora, defiant and unwavering, challenges this.”