"The egg and the sandals". It sounds like the title of a fable, the announcement of the protagonists – who often have nothing to do with one another before the story begins. It is an impromtu meeting, worthy of a surrealist poem. But the dramaturgy will be closer to the snapshot theatre of Dada, a furtive appearance that will elucidate nothing of this unexpected assortment in which we sensed the slide, a peril that would wind up as an omelette. In short, we’ll never know whether it was the egg or the sandals that got there first nor what they came there to do. Only the hum of their ménage à trois hovers like a discreet interior fragrance. This synaesthesic poem in half a verse is a formula that increases the visual and tactile intensity tenfold; in spite of any scenario and commendable distinctions (foodstuffs, clothing, artworks), the dialogue begins between the textures, surfaces, skin-coloured shades, lines and volumes, without showing anything except their skill at performing this amateurish game of seduction. In Sarah Tritz’s exhibition at the Parc Saint Léger, the egg and the sandals are out of the picture altogether since the opposite, perhaps, would have been logical. This linguistic assemblage is an appetiser, testifying, in passing, to the fact that words are handled with as much elegance as the various materials.
The main scene takes place in the great nave. Here sculpture and painting attain monumental formats for the first time. In the centre, a fresco and a metal sculpture oppose one another, addressing a wry smile to their counterparts erected in public space. La Fresque is produced in plaster based on a drawing by the artist, in energetic lines coated with a few large blocks of clay-toned colours. It shares a kinship with the decors of train station concourses that honoured the final hours of the modernist project, just before it came to symbolise an outmoded taste. Like the monumental sculpture taken from a drawing by Antonin Artaud entitled Totem and renamed Le Moche following this change of scale, it is put to the test of its own role, which is none other than that of embellishing the landscape. This thwarted fate (faced with which the bird with the twisted beak deploys all its efforts, by just barely managing to reach the third dimension) renders these figures moving. If there was a pitch behind these curtains hung at mid-height, it could be that of a parade which the other artworks are joining, some of them finding themselves personified through their titles, attributed by a sleight of hand (La Blonde, Le Poilu, Le Teckel). They all attempt to make a (good) impression by using all of their assets, even the least advantageous ones. Hence La Pomme de Terre, the levitating potato that claims a powerful act by serving as a counterweight to a structure in brass, foul hooked on the end of its line.
If there is tenderness in the treatment of forms and clear empathy for these sketches of characters, Sarah Tritz’s art is not at all narrative. If there are stories, they are as concise as a haiku. The only suspense would relate to the possibility that all of this holds together: images, found obejcts, vegetables, and construction materials, but also, paintings, sculptures, elements of furniture, and more; objects made by hand, others delegated to the artisan or the machine, or elsewhere; brusque, delicate, fast or well thought-out gestures, hastily put together, made or re-made, derived from her gut or from the history of art. What is clear is that what is at work here is the very possibility of producing a form within a space and time that is overdetermined by all past forms and gestures.
In several places the thread or rigging that ties the potato to the metalworker’s piece and escapes from the leg of the totemic bird indicates a gesture that makes no other affirmation than that of drawing dissimilarities together. The juxtapositions that Sarah Tritz makes do not articulate any dialectic or probe the status of the objects and the origin of forms. Everything is given “at face value”, preserving the energy of the encounter, especially since it’s unexpected. When she mixes the references to art history and to decorum (both have been mutually and perpetually digesting one another) in order to produce these sculptures in wrought ironwork whose design represents the hybridisation of a sculpture by Lichtenstein and the door handles of a door in her building, the artist affirms: “there is no program involved, just desires”.1 Now there is a statement resolutely liberated from the shackles of postmodern theory, in order to recover the insatiable appetite of a creative gesture nourished by its whole environment. The appropriation of objects and references in Sarah Tritz’s work has something of the “poetry of bricolage”, the do-it-yourself spirit that Claude Lévi-Strauss discusses in The Savage Mind,2 in which “[h]is universe of instruments is closed and the rules of his game are always to make do with ‘whatever is at hand’ ”, like images that stay hanging in the studio for a long time. Hence the result is “contingent [on] all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock”. This supply is located in the studio as much as in the memory and consists of everything that stems from art history or the pavement, like a single given. The anthropologist also says that the poetry of bricolage resides in the fact that it “recounts” the character of its author. There is nothing but affection to be detected in the act of appropriation by the artist, who passionately copies in order to recover the original mood by way of repetition of the gesture. Rather than an address to the forefathers, it is a way of taming them, through the hand, as demonstrated by the small sculpture entitled Henri Moore, modelled in clay and brought together with thread. It is also out of tenderness that she copies Artaud’s drawing, experimenting with the resistance of the line, its fragility and energy, with the change of scale and with industrial manufacture. Also testifying to her indifference to definitions and her freedom to superpose heterogeneous gestures, the artist uses the sculpture based on Artaud’s drawing as a support for her painting. But this reconquering act is just one more attention paid to the dislocated body, which recovers its flesh colour under brushstrokes, restoring the sensuality emanating from it.
In the age of the avant-gardes, the fragmentation of the body defied the classical canons, but could not represent the alienation of flesh better under the reign ushered in with technology. These fragments are scattered in Sarah Tritz’s work, pulverised by contradictory temptations – the explosion of aesthetic possibilities that have all been tested before. But it seems like the threads try to mend them, paint tries to unite them, and humour tries to round them off. They awaken, everywhere, in a sleeve button delicately placed atop a sculpture in the form of a newspaper stand, a small photo of feet in a basin, an abstract geometric painting mischievously entitled The Venetian Blind (a blind used for spying) through to the immodest buttocks in the collage wrought into an icon, on the small mezzanine, where the exhibition visit ends with a promise of reincarnation.