Inspired Vision Transformed into Visionary Enchantment - The Artistic Work of Lamiel
As with the picture, so with poetry; some artist’s hand will take you more, the nearer that you stand
ut pictura poesis, erit quae; si propius stes te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes
Horace, Ars Poetica ll. 361-63
Although commonly known these days (even in the English-speaking world) by its late nineteenth- century French name, the artistic form of collage/assemblage ― or more strictly speaking in this case papier collé (pasted paper) ― has far more ancient origins stretching back in time to China. For anyone with a minimal sense of historical knowledge, this should not come as a surprise. After all, the very origins of paper are to be found in China well over two thousand years ago, not in the West. And given its own longstanding artistic prowess and imaginative perspectives, it is equally not surprising that paper quickly became a key important form of artistic expression, above and beyond its own natural qualities for calligraphic purposes.
As it developed into a folk art in its own right,
it eventually assumed the name of jianzhi (剪紙),
and involved various forms of paper-cutting crafts, flourishing in popularity especially during the Ming and Qing dynasties (c. 1368-1912).
From China, the art form spread to West Asia in the eighth and ninth centuries; into Turkey
in the sixteenth century; and eventually arriving in Europe for the first time a century later.
Lamiel’s modern-day use of this most humble medium of cut and pasted paper to create beautiful artistic canvases is thus one of many completely independent variations that have emerged out of jianzhi roots. Nevertheless, such variations aside, many of the key principles which underpin this art form remain similar. The very practice of cutting and pasting paper, with its mental demands for immediacy, detail, and subtlety, is a slow process which creates an extremely personal, physical relationship with the object. It is a technique that requires incredible painstaking precision, accuracy, delicacy and a lightness of touch. And in broader – almost philosophical terms – it is most certainly an antidote to the aggressive, all-consuming pace of the modern, and even more so the postmodern, world we live in. Given the risks of mistakes, it also fuels a natural sentiment of complicity and solidarity between the artist and the tools and objects that she is working with. In colloquial French, collage means ‘having an affair’, and in many ways this is precisely the kind of relationship that is established between the artist and her work.
While it is right and proper to identify an overall ancient category or technique in which one can situate Lamiel’s art, it is important nonetheless not to lose sight of the fundamental ways in which her technique, and certainly the results, effects, impact and feelings it produces on the viewer, is quite unique. Her primary material, for example, does not consist of merely any kind of paper, but of a very specific kind. It is the paper typically found in antique vellum or leather-bound books or fragment of letters, often dating back several centuries. In order, therefore, to track down such primary source material suitable for her artistic needs and purposes, it can often take considerable investigative research. Like the classical surrealists at the beginning of the last century, Lamiel
haunts flea-markets, antique book shops, and a good many attics desperately hoping for the appropriate ‘chance encounter’. Once recuperated, what was perhaps considered deadweight material is then given a new existence and new vitality, truly becoming parchments of life which combine past and present, and which will go on to become future memories.
Invariably of course the paper comes stained with the marks of wear and tear, caused by the passage of time, the passage of hands, as well as the passage of different means of storage conditions. But these stains are no blemish on the artistic creation. Instead they are themselves transformed into an essential, constitutive part of the work. Speckles, splashes and splatters of different shades and textures of impregnated yellowish stains are metamorphosed so as to become part of the artistic paysage.
Technique and materials apart, it is more than anything else in the emotional and sentimental impact of her artistic creations where her true uniqueness resides. Rarely has such sublime simplicity been transformed into such sublime, truly mesmerising images, which convey beauty, tranquillity and harmony. It is an art that exudes warmth; indeed, it literally warms the heart. Looking at her work, studying it, one cannot help but enter into its realm; more than just a viewer or spectator of her work, one becomes an explorer, seeking out ever new things to see in the realm that each work/canvas depicts. There is an immense sense of stillness and silence; and yet at the same time, one feels a vibrant living, breathing force at work at the very core of the earth’s landscape and everything that inhabits it – from the houses in the villages to the inhabitants.
Horace was right; some very special artists – of which Lamiel is one – do have that gift to make their art a form of natural visual poetry. The inspired vision of the artist suddenly becomes the visionary enchantment of the spectator.
The harmony of warm shaded, scented tones, chromotherapy for the mind.
The reverberating rhythms of the landscape, joined with melodious stillness.
Acoustic austerity with
rich vibrations of the spiritual chord. Choral refrains of time and space in unison,
compositions of enchantment and innocence.
Ears and eyes simultaneously
attuned to the soothing stimulus of silent sensitive sentiments.
Even pain ― of which there is plenty ― seems strangely sweet here.