One may discover Laurie-Anne Estaque’s work through a postcard, a piece of embroidered fabric, a large map or a caravan made out of breezeblocks. Either way, the journey won’t be the same. If one starts with the narrowest perspective, what we will perceive are collections of discarded logos through a sort of display window – even if they are out in the open. One becomes almost moved by these orphans that have been taken out of context. A business is like a genuine family. Little comical fetishes, stunted crocodiles, absurd emblems, sad insignias and outmoded mottos are all that remain of our totems. It is as if the artist was showing us both the old age and the childhood of these brands. As if she were saying “I’ll remember now… for later”. A treasure thoughtfully unearthed from a landfill – perhaps the collection should be sent into space in a sealed box.
Major brands become helpless babies, invalid if uncovered – as indicated in the title of a series of embroideries of scratch ticket designs. It makes sense why she would want to cut them out, frame them, embroider and outline them as an effective way of gently pushing back against capitalism. It isn’t only a conceptual idea: these worthless objects (which used to be valuable) are not dryly taken from context and exhibited in all their majesty. At some point, the artist devotes herself to them with unusual tenderness. One ends up growing attached to these advertisements, these claims, these slogans, these war cries coming from our knights of industry. One will stubbornly reupholster an armchair and, instead of a chocolate box Renoir, one will weave a Mars bar logo – which, as luck has it, is named after the god of war. We long to be working with her in her workshop of single-use counterfeits. One reverses fetishes, one pushes them to the limit, one disenfranchises them, one makes them irreproducible, one goes back in time, one forces the old, tired brand back to where it was born. One digs up its launch date, producing little monsters and unwearable ties in the process.
On the other hand, if one discovers Laurie-Anne Estaque’s work from a different angle, for instance with a piece like Europeana or Francis & Togo, one will catch glimpses of countless signs, with their sense of déjà vu (even if they are reproduced backwards), as they appear on a corporate flip chart, a soaked planisphere, a large drawing, a watercolour educational fresco – all at once. Sponsors have completely devoured the poster. One will, for instance, make out the Bettencourt affair in the 2011 piece Les Français sont vicelards (The French are lecherous), with its gouache-painted treasure map surrounded by symbols, figures, events, dates and flashing brand logos. One will coolly unravel the links between all these brands/beings – invalid if finally uncovered. And one will rewrite history by pulling threads, by successively lighting up these logos that used to contain lives. These pictures are on the verge of talking. Each object laid out flat on the map works as a memo, a file, a box that holds part of the discourse – all one needs to do is to move one to the next to tell the H(h)istory(ies). To move from detail to detail to enjoy them like the sketches of a painting in permanent construction. They will appear again later separately on the occasion of another of the artist’s projects – like as many sketches of hands, feet and heads: preliminary drawings for a sort of political fresco.
One might also want to change one’s point of view again and, after having deciphered names, brands and protagonists in this tangled human comedy, one will discern large swaths of colour. It will feel wonderful to see these monochromatic continents again after having discovered the sad truth in a bottle of shampoo. One will admire the great planispheres, as in the two series Cartogrammes and Anamorphoses – very beautiful, if covered. If it wasn’t for the fact that applying this method encourages dark thoughts to return. The series Erase the landscape is literally impressive. Postcards invert the landscape. They look like death announcements – they tell of the extinction of landscapes and of the survival of a few old stones: a village mourning itself, a tower outlined against permanent blackness. A radical romantic landscape or the illustration of bad news – like the loss of 30% of bird life in the past fifteen years. Once again, it is time to withdraw and go and take a look at something else.
All these different paths are like the artist’s diary, like a constant journey through a giant mall full of flashing signs. A world reduced to whatever it advertises large-scale. From one sketch to the next, one will eventually turn one’s eye to the moon, to its dark side – so beautiful, if uncovered. On it, one will find logos dotted like camouflage – not so different from our phosphene-studded eyeballs, our own little inner neon signs. Again, it is a matter of brands, as expressed in colours in the artist’s book The South Side of the Moon. An astronaut once described the dark side as a sandpit in which his children used to play. Everything there seems bulldozed; there are no other words to describe it – just so many bumps and holes.
Text (exerpt) by Olivier Cadiot, 2019
Documents d'artistes Nouvelle-Aquitaine