Galerie Oxford 1986


A sociologist by training she painted ever since she can remember, and whose family counted among them an impressive number of painters, ever since they can remember - this is in a nutshell Marie-Laurence Lamy's background and for once it can truly be said that she has painting in her blood, literaly!

Her training 'happened' more by accident than by decision, given that - somewhat paradoxally - her family insisted that she ought to acquire a 'proper' profession and promptly despatched her to university. As fate would have it, a textile designer friend offered to teach her the craft. Whilst she was learning, what arrested Lamy's attention more than the intricacies of textile design - she found too repetitive to either capture her imagination or satisfy her inquisitiveness - was its elaborate technique. Textile design requires a complicated technique, whose many stages she decided to make good use of in a pragmatic way, by tampering with the order required in textile printing. This was the beginning on which she began to build , mainly by experimenting in true empirical trial-and-error fashion, predictably failing at times, but also succeeding at times. It was the very uncertainty of these experiments, whereby the end result could never be anticipated : the chance element, that became an essential part of the creative process.

At least this is how she describes her abstract period, yet her work seems to display a surprising element of stylistic coherence, derived not only from the subdued, almost monochromatic colour range and the textuel intricacies, which nonetheless preserve a unity, much like variations on the same theme, but also from a certain magic, to do with the artist, which makes each work an unmistakable Marie Laurence Lamy.

The paintings are not titled, rather than 'untitled' and vary in dimension from very small almost miniatural to large compositions.Their weathered preciousness is reminiscent of Kurt Schwitter's 'merz' collages, although in the latter, the delicate patine is an inadvertent memento mori due to the passage of time, rather than the artist's decision.

The range of colours is restricted to pale effects of greys, browns and yellowed whites applied on the slightly shiny waxed surface.

So far so good, but now we come to the most important stage of development in the making of the works: for no logical (for want of a better word) reason, a self-inflicted process of doubt begins to overcome the artist at this point, to which she succumbs by giving vent to a strong tendency to destruct. Strips of the waxed surface are subsequently torn out, seemingly at random, but in most cases they are not completely detached. Instead they are bent and re-attached to the surface, technically as a collage but not quite because the initial unity is being preserved by not attaching 'foreign' bodies to the painted surface in the tradition started by Picasso's 'synthetic' phase of Cubism, which is considered 'proper' collage.

The final effect remains as discreetly low keyed as its monochromatic palette, but closer scrutiny reveals the subtle contrasts created by the juxtaposition of the waxed texture against the rougher surface of the now partialy exposed support.

In fact it can almost be argued that in the destructive process needed in order to rebuild - 'decontruction' is her word, here used in its real sense, rather than the one associated with Derrida - she follows the laws of dialectic.

The strong chance element involved places the artist in the Dadaist tradition of the likes of Jean Arp, who too used to tear up coloured areas of his own drawings, but fully detaching them, so that he could let the fragments fall at random on the surface of the drawing, which then became the Arp work, thus entirely based on automation and accident and subjected to the law of chance. This curious coincidence more than justifies the initial comparaison of Marie Laurence Lamy's work with that other famous Dadaist, Kurt Schwitters.

Sanda Miller Artpress, Paris