For over fifteen years, Catherine Wilkening has concentrated on universal themes that surround the female figure - birth, life, death, and rebirth. Now, her work collides with the figure of the Madonna, one of the most canonical forms in Western art. Wilkening avoids both the image of the divine and the melancholic beauty that encompasses the ideal Christian Virgin, including a contemporary and provocative kitsch approach. Instead, she proposes a series of sculptures that evoke restlessness and agitation, in the image of some other beauty. An intense wind blows on the Madonnas by Wilkening that fold the porcelain garments with a baroque gesture that appears to continue infinitely. Sometimes the sculptor creates her Madonnas ex nihilo from an erection of porcelain that she miraculously assembles
At other times, the artist appropriates vintage sculptures dedicated to the celebration of the Virgin Mary that she diverts from their ecumenical representation to reintegrate them into her mystical and baroque universe. Wilkening is looking for «the monumental in the minuscule.» She conquers the grandeur of her works by exploring all the possibilities of the miniature, enveloping the infinitely large in the infinitely small. Moreover, Wilkening’s sculptures cannot be deciphered through a quick glance. It is necessary to look at them for a long time to reach the meaning of their forms. The exquisite obsessions of the artist are hidden from our eyes in a maze of extreme finesse of the porcelain. Under the apparent softness and consistency of white enamel, the chastity of the Madonnas quickly crumble and reveal scarifications cracking the skin of the ceramic, the abundance of floral patterns, animal bones and accumulations of small rear-ends, expression of a generosity of life that takes on all the reigns of creation. The artist’s use of new materials such as gold leaf, Murano glass or acacia wood helps to thwart summary recognitions. The eye hesitates between the aerial, vegetal, and animalistic elements.
Through the infinite exploration of minute detail, Wilkening evokes certain spiritualist artists that obsessively operate as miniaturists on immense formats, folding and unfolding their composition as they advance, practicing a form of automatism. The sculptures are sometimes worked for hundreds of hours, showing a certain asceticism from the artist. Hence the mantric and hallucinatory dimension of some of these pieces born in the isolation of confinement. The sculptor made this constraint her own as the expression of a happy and protective solitary retreat where she was able to concentrate and intensify her practice. — Philippe Godin, art critic
Aurélie Deguest was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine to a German mother and a French father, both students at the Beaux-Arts de Paris. She grew up in a rich, stimulating artistic and cultural environment. Painting imposed itself on her at a very young age, structuring her career path and pushing her to attend evening classes at the Beaux-Arts university in Paris at the age of sixteen. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts at Paris VIII in 1989. Afterwards, she embarked on an independent career that allowed her to continue to learn while facing ever more rewarding challenges. She works in the event industry and on important projects led by film studios. Deguest is a copyist of classical painting where her demand for fidelity has her spending hours on the same details. As a decorator, she stages the sets she designs and creates. Parallel to this, she continues to produce personal work that reflects her experiences and long-term research. She has reached a technical maturity through the mastery of drawing, color, material and light. In her last solo exhibition Faces at Loo & Lou Gallery in 2015, Deguest explored a powerful and bloodless expressionist figurative style through ten portraits that she painted in acrylic and oil. Far from any physical resemblance, she focuses on a carnal and provocative representation that challenges the gaze, intimidates, and seduces. Since then, without ever moving away from her painting, the artist has devoted herself fully to other personal projects. Today she offers us a series of large format portraits entitled “Women in prayer”. A theme that imposed itself upon the artist after much working introspectively, like many other artists, during the period of Covid pandemic. She felt the need during this time to reconnect with a form of spirituality. These latest works will come into dialogue with Catherine Wilkening’s spectacular porcelain Madonnas.