By giving their exhibition the title of Delacroix's phrase "Mon Maroc, je croyais rêver" ("My Morocco, I thought I was dreaming"), Flo Arnold and Christophe Miralles are in no way demonstrating an outdated, anachronistic orientalism; rather, they are asserting the need for art to always return to the power of rapture that seized the colorist of genius on his discovery of the port of Tangier.
If the artist couple are among the many foreigners who have made Morocco their adopted country, they are not only paying homage to a land that can pride itself on having inspired so many illustrious painters, from Eugène Delacroix to Henri Matisse, Majorelle and other orientalists, it also symbolizes the idea of a creative process based on encounters and nomadic journeys, creolization and hybridization of influences, far removed from a conception of the work rooted in a patriotic and narrow-minded genealogy.
The exhibition at Loo & Lou Gallery, with its deliberately rhapsodic scenography in which the works criss-cross each other, playing on their differences and betting more on the effects of telescoping and the unexpected than on any unity of style and purpose, helps to underline the mix of genres characteristic of the "aesthetics of the impure" that characterizes the confrontation of these two creations, and more generally the art of our time. While the painter exalts a virtuoso superimposition of varied colors, whose subtle modulations irradiate his canvases with a rare sensuality, don't Flo Arnold's works favor paper textures whose shades of white are only weighted by the greenish reflection produced by the oxidation of the brass structures of his installations, or a few rare shades of his imaginary maps?
What's more, while Flo Arnold's organic installations seem carried away by an aerial power that goes beyond the specific framework of each of the mediums traditionally devolved to the fine arts system, the artist appropriating with delight the gestures of the painter and sculptor, to the point of enlisting them in a choreography on the bangs of architecture, Christophe Miralles' paintings never cease to deepen the singularity of the pictorial fact alone. A marriage of fire and earth, the two works complement each other in their strange dissimilarity.
Indeed, while Christophe Miralles' painting focuses on the human figure alone, it never ceases to thwart its factual and anecdotal representation, to the benefit of a plastic exploration with bewitching chromatic accents (Confluence), going so far as to make, like Bacon, "from a mouth a Sahara", all the while walking with the memory of Goya's work, which greatly inspired the artist in his early days. And don't some of Flo Arnold's works, with their polymorphous volumes and elusive shapes, evoke that witch-like aesthetic whose vitality of becoming was praised by Deleuze? In this respect, the installation Le sens des Mondes perfectly encapsulates the surprising plasticity of the Franco-Moroccan artist's work, taking up only part of the structure of a larger whole, recently exhibited at the Festival international Constellations in Metz. Far from losing its enchanting power, the boat suspended by ropes between the picture rail and the gallery floor pours out a stream of opalescent forms, magnified by the backlighting and sound system, plunging the viewer into a Rmbaldian poetic narcosis. Is my gaze not drawn into the enveloping foam "aux neiges éblouies" (with dazzling snows), alongside the exalted lyricism of verses from "Le Bateau ivre" (The Drunken Boat)?
Unhierarchical, focused and elusive, Flo Arnold's works are rhizomes of surprising spontaneity. Using white water-repellent paper glued to brass frames, the artist can give her pieces any dimensions they wish, always cutting or adding new modules as her projects dictate. The polysemic richness of this art form is undoubtedly linked to the designer's background, whose childhood was imbued by her travels in Africa, and still seems enlivened by the omnipresence of lush vegetation, the importance of a whole set of pre-signifying semiologies - dances, rites, signs marked on the body, fabrics...
In this sense, the artist frees herself from cultural boundaries and the frameworks of each of the arts she revisits with total freedom - drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture... Don't her installations end up playing with urban space during the Nuits Blanches, creating a kind of performance that has nothing to envy to the enchantment of Eva Jospin's forests, or Christo's wrappings?
What comes to dominate Flo Arnold's plastic and Christophe Miralles' pictorial space is a world of curves, inflections, circles, spirals and colored volutes. So many formal characteristics that testify to the same effort to construct the work as a "space of happy intimacy", to use Bachelard's beautiful expression. The art of this artistic couple is in no way reducible to decoration or mere retinal pleasure.
He makes visible an intensive inner space and invites us to cultivate it as an intimate cell...
- Philippe Godin, Art critic