One can easily imagine the quiet little girl, in the early sixties, holding the hand of his mother in the acclimatization garden of the Bois de Boulogne (Paris), being thrilled by both fear and pleasure at the sight of Guignol and the wolve fighting each others, in the comforting smell of candy floss, mixed with more acrid odors of the animals in the menagerie nearby.
The richness and significance of the recent work of Elizabeth Fréring is summarized in this “archetypal” picture. Her watercolor and pencil drawings feature a bestiary filled with wolves, fauns in rut, bears, rabbits, deer, forests and trees, rural erotica scenes, girls in skirts and ankle socks, and hybrid individuals.
There are three different threads in her work : First, lies in her work this personal appeal to the nature, a tenuous connection to her childhood when she was walking with her mother in the forest to get out of the mineral environment of the Parisian suburbs. Secondly, attraction for "what is scary and what is forbidden" is rooted in her memories ; the long walks in dark forests, the past games in the dark shelter of the home garden, and the black surrounding her. She regularly visited the waxworks (Musée Grévin in Paris) where she was fascinated by the scene of the "Raft of the Medusa", a tragedy both symbolic and captivating, an allegory of the disaster reproduced in wax, in the dark atmosphere of museum. This black colour is strongly present in her oil paintings and watercolors, this black background of the canvas is a threatening non-color encircling the subject and also the symbol of concealment. This need to confront herself to fear is often illustrated in her paintings and drawings by the staging of bestiality or by the animality of the subject. Sometimes it’s more obvious when she creates semi-human beings, like fauns. In the early 2000s she painted horses with developed muscles, some ithyphallic stalions. Today, this tendency to express vitality and sexuality on the canvas is fully transposed into the drawings of faunas in rut or wolves. And this fear that first turns into confusion to fall then into exhibitionism, gives us the third trend : that of pleasure and desire.
The search for pleasure, this oscillation between pain and well-being, is particuliarly tangible in the opposition between the animals strength and their sweetness or by the use of phallic symbols. The fur is often a part of the painting, it can change in subtle ways in pubic hair, barely suggested by the thin white watercolor contour of the eye of a “mickey-bear” painted on a black background or, in the rose oil-painting of a “woman-rabbit”. This exhibitionism is symbolized by pink color, she uses almost pure. It may also be the raw color of the mucous membranes. The evanescent spots in watercolor that punctuate many of her drawings, reflects the will the artist feels to explore the tales, these short stories swinging between naive and eroticism. Elisabeth Frering confronts herself with mythological representations and mysteries while trying to point the desire and the fear it may generate.
Translation of a text by French Journalist, B. Alain Marie – Artline Magazine
Born 1955 in Argenteuil (Paris) France MA in Art « Artes Aplicadas y Oficios Artisticos » of Valencia (Spain)
Elisabeth Fréring was born 1955 in Argenteuil, France
She lives and works in Basel, Switzerland
Solo shows (Selection)
Group shows (Selection)