March 14 - April 20, 2024

“The melancholy is nothing but fallen fervor.

Every being is capable of nudity; every emotion, of fullness.

My emotions have opened up like a religion. Can you understand this: every sensation is of an infinite presence.

Nathanael, I will teach you fervor.”

André Gide, Les Nourritures terrestres (1897)


Marguerite Piard’s painting is a matter of temperatures.

Her palette stretches at both ends towards deep reds and midnight blues, summoning, beyond a certain symbolism (fire/water; blood/night), the thermodynamic sensations produced by particular phenomena. One feels torsos creased by naps and fingers wrinkling at the touch of water. So, one must seek coolness, wrap oneself in her body like a towel after a bath; or melt like sugar, the skin syrupy with sunlight. In the Encyclopedia, Diderot establishes a distinction between « to absorb » and « to engulf »: absorption begins on one part, extends and quickly destroys; engulfment envelops and carries away. Thus, one would say that fire absorbs but water engulfs.

Marguerite Piard’s pictorial motifs fully participate in this emotion drawn inward, which consumes or holds back, like tears stopped by lashes.

The body is swallowed in the moment, and the suspended emotions take the form of a silent and trembling intoxication. Each moment flows without a jolt, without a sound, in a calm and assured rhythm. The hypnagogic state close to lethargy that covers each scene gives certain figures a character of recumbent effigy, as if changed by ecstasy into salt statues. This inaction renders the paintings ambiguous: a caress can be both a burn and an ointment.

In “Les Nourritures terrestres” (1897), André Gide placed beatitude under the sign of voluptuousness and availability. This text, punctuated by a litany-like apostrophe to a fictional interlocutor – “Nathanael, I will teach you fervor” – is perhaps one of the most beautiful ever written on the reconciliation of the divine and sensuality that plays out in the dazzle of the moment. What one would tend to oppose, following the Cartesian dichotomy that distinguishes between body and mind, becomes inseparable and complementary under Gide’s pen. It is the physical, ductile concentration in the moment that allows for the expansion of the heart. In Marguerite Piard’s work, mundane gestures become an open language where one can read signs of both faith and eroticism: do the two raised fingers relate to blessing or masturbation?

One body straddles another, a sort of succubus or mara (from which the word “nightmare” derives), this feminine being from Scandinavian folklore that men both fear and desire. The weight of a religious education that reprimands a woman’s desire is replaced here by the concentration of pleasure in the female body, contracted, suave, and golden. Everything condenses in it like beads of sweat on a forehead. This tension is also facilitated by the specific technique used: Marguerite Piard does not wait for the paint to dry to apply a second layer that will pull the first. The result is marbled and sometimes granulated texture effects, like a dried plain trembling with pleasure at the arrival of rain. This painting, visually close to encaustic, further encloses the body upon itself; it encases it like a liquid that two palms attempt to contain.

— Elora Weill-Engerer