Miriam Cahn’s Haunted Paintings

“Miriam Cahn, My Series Thoughts”

Palais de Tokyo (Paris), until May 14

In a painting she recently exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, 73-year-old Miriam Cahn shows herself naked, her back bent against a vast black sky It seemed to overwhelm her with all its weight. Like Atlas, destined to carry the celestial sphere, the Swiss artist never ceases to dominate the violence of the world in his works.

From the beginning of the course, we felt that in the face of this long series in 1988, atomic bombExplosions of fluorescent colors, alternating with gigantic cloud Dark lines drawn with charcoal during an exit dance that leaves handprints on paper. Above, other smaller smoky drawings provide animal figures that are also reminiscent of parietal lobe imagery. Trained in advertising graphics and involved in feminist struggles since the 1970s, Miriam Cahn has been trying to free herself from the canons of male-dominated art history by drawing from other sources: prehistoric drawings, such as those of children .

The spontaneity of the latter suits his work, which is a sense of urgency. Every day, after reading the newspaper, Miriam Cahn creates images in her studio for just one hour, up to three hours. Then she leaned them against the wall.Certain series are explicitly designated as “menstrual labor”, gushes from the depths of the body. The war of the sexes, and especially the war itself, takes up a lot of space there, from Vietnam via Sarajevo to Lebanon, as in this gigantic drawing of a warship, strewn with cannon, encroaching on the track.

The paintings, adorned with sumptuous colours, have a weeping poignancy. Check out this blue tablecloth wrapped around two pink rag dolls, a mother and her child, rubbed in memory of the thousands of migrants who perished in the Mediterranean! The abbreviated faces, on plain backgrounds with no ornamentation, reflect the pervasiveness of these dramas that continue to haunt the planet. Miriam Cahn often hangs them at eye level to better attract visitors. At times, she even lends silhouettes of herself to these abused, displaced people.For example, the 61-year-old is fleeing along a road, naked, her arms blue with pain, like “Napalm Girl” Taken during the Vietnam War.

Where does this powerful empathy come from? What was the fate of his own father, a German Jewish art dealer, forced into exile in Basel in the 1930s? The artist sometimes displays his ghosts under the name “Mesjuifs”. She often keeps them together too, mixing her notebooks, her sketches and her drawings, without hierarchy of genre or format, like one big family that she refuses to break down further.

In one corner of the Palais de Tokyo, Miriam Cahn houses a large collection of works created in response to the invasion of Ukraine.at this war space, the frozen refugee brushes past the raped woman, the prisoner with his arms raised, a huge abandoned reclining figure in a magnificent shroud of mud and ice and night. The vengeful artist represents himself at their side, as a naked warrior, wielding a club or throwing a fist at his attacker.in his angry article (1), she said: “I think political art must be a wound (…), uncomfortable, biting, burning, sharp, sharp. »

However, the artist happened to find peace facing the silence of the mountains in Val Bregaglia, where she lives. His palette then sings of the ripples of turquoise lakes, spring meadows at the foot of snow-capped mountains, or the sudden firelight of fall. “In front of the house”. Here we breathe with her. before going back to hell.

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