Mère et Fils
15/11/17 - 14/01/18

Closed from 24th Decembre 17 to 2nd January 18 incl.

Fr | NL


© Anne De Gelas, Lutte ou danse, 2016, from series "Mère et Fils"

“Mère et Fils” is the follow-up piece to “L'Amoureuse”, a book published in 2013 by Le Caillou Bleu.
The theme of “L'Amoureuse” was bereavement; I started work on it following the death of my partner, the father of my son.
After the shock of his death, the journey through bereavement was like a convalescence, and I concentrated on my new, shrunken family unit. “Mère et Fils” represents a face-to-face, intense bond, and, in reaction to my situation, it is also about the permanence of femininity and desire, and the return to normal life after a trauma.

Through my work: writings, drawings and photographs, I want to display the complex nature of that relationship, an almost violent complicity, coupled with solitude and tenderness. The changes brought about in me and my son by that intense trauma, which is experienced so differently by a son/child and a woman/mother, and the life that continues afterwards, the years that pass and the physical changes that occur to both him and to me.

This theme of a change in life: for him from childhood to adolescence, the detachment, the lack of a father in a relationship that is almost by definition very close, learning to be independent and to judge for himself. For me, growing older, picking up wounds on my skin, exploring the right to be able to change in a society where it is difficult for a woman to grow old, to be alone, to live her role of mother or of artist to the full. This last part is explored more specifically under the title “A face of lines”, but naturally integrates itself into my work “Mère et Fils”.

In my photographs, the subjects often direct their gaze towards the spectator, imprisoning him or her in questions, in a sort of unease, in a situation of intimacy, where he or she could play the role of an absent person.

The shots are (almost) always taken in the same place, the same room, with the same light, a simple setting that allows some accidental input into a defined setting.

My treatment of images is quite severe and remains sober and contrasted: interiors and decoration are almost systematically eliminated, separated from the objects borrowed from our collective past.
A series of portraits, self-portraits and double portraits a treated in an obsessional way, to promote the gestures that call to us or which try to calm us.

References to painting, above all the Flemish Primitives, are obvious: “Virgin and Child” and “Mater dolorosa”.

The images are produced in a grainy black and white. I develop my own films and I still use the traditional developing technique, which underlines their timeless quality and allows me to intervene on the material of the film itself, to play with accidentals.

The drawings, of which there are more here than in previous series, drawn with ball-point pen or felt-tip pen, are more inclusive, simple and stripped-back, often just a single clumsy line. They reveal the fragility of relationships, of bonds that may or may not be loosened, of that vibration and bonding inherent to living together. In the self-portraits, the accent is on the difficulties linked to physical changes, to what is missing, to the need or, on the contrary, to the refusal, to be touched, to the ambiguous re-appearance of desire when one is a mother and a widow. The drawings are sometimes violent, without being direct echoes of the texts or photographs that accompany them.

The nervy texts, with their almost automatic handwriting, were always written in fits of anger and have an energy that shows a need to exhaust themselves on overcrowded pages. They sometimes grow in length, in a spiral, like a litany, detailed, repetitive, fiercely having a go at the subject.
Even more they dig into questions on life, on maternity, on responsibility, on childhood, long complaints without answers… always accompanied by nightmares, shabby visions, like the messages which, in a strange way, fill our day-to-day lives, which summon the dead, who appear more present than the living, dreams acting as revealing and often cruel counterpoints.

At the same time, this work evokes a period of waiting, of passing-by, of suspension, of questioning. One could say “that never really existed, but what will it become now?” The precise and complementary lay-out of the texts, photographs and drawings brings a contrasted answer to that question.

Anne De Gelas

Translation: Chris Bourne



Anne De Gelas, Mère et Fils
Anne De Gelas, «Mère et Fils», Paris.
Loco Publishing (Paris) and Contretype (Bruxelles), 2017.
Size: 32,5 x 24 cm, soft cover with flaps, 124 pages.
Four-color process printing.
Price: 35 €. Print: 500 copies.