La Bicha, 2018
"La Bicha" marks the beginnings of a successful development of that art form in MeiMei's artistic practice.
The word "Bicha" on its feminine form refers to an animal-woman hybrid creature. It is also used in a superstitious way referring to the devil and bad omens. My version of this myth Character has an innocent soul and reminds us of the dark aspects of our psyche and makes us confront our own fears. (MeiMei)
Materials: Merino wool and vintage ceramic headpieces and wooden base
Size: 54 x 23 x 54 cm
Technique: Needle felting and ceramic assembled pieces
Exibited 2018, Crypt Gallery, London, Saint Pancras; 2019, WOLDT GALLERY, Garden Room, The Exhibitionists Hotel, London, South Kensington
The nature of MeiMei's work blurs the boundaries between beauty and grotesque, good and evil.
Monstrosity in arts has always allowed artists to communicate feelings and ideas freely and there is an aspect of this in MeiMei's sculptures. She particularly combines the kind and dark aspects that are intrinsic to human nature. Her interest in myths and bizarrecharacters from different cultures and traditions, collecting dolls and rare objects and the representation of creatures and monsters in the history of art has a meaningful influence in her work. The pieces are made of needle felted wool, vintage doll parts and modeled clay, which generate contrast between the found object that comes with its own history and character with a soft and sculptural undefined body, resulting in these whimsical and bizarre creatures. Artists like Dorothea Tanning, Rene Fini or Leonora Carrington, but also Bruegel the Elder, or Medieval Bestiaries, symbolism fantasy and surrealists, Japanese ghosts, and mythology are among others that may influence her art.
Composition with stuffed animals' remains IV (cell)
During the lockdown in Spain Barcelona in April 2020 Nathalie reflected on her situation. She felt affected by the separation from her studio. The thoughts turned into a creative thinking and the result became an increadible oversized artwork, a new project. And indeed the result seems to express her inner turmoil of being enclosed. A cell, in homage to Louise Bourgeois and Claude Manet's Water Lilies have been interwoven into a new art work. Nathalie expresses that situation and feeling with her words:
Is there such a mechanism as when our physical space shrinks, our mental space proportionally expands? Some fortuitous speculations (although current) to justify the improbable relationship of artists distant in time and in practice, I'm speaking in this case of Claude Monet and Louise Bourgeois. Because I had to surrender to the evidence that both are present in the work "Composition with stuffed animals' remains IV (cell).
Like many artists, when they reached a certain age, they both barely left their studio respectively in Giverny and New York, where they made some of their most ambitious works, such as the Water Lilies or part of the Cells, late in their career.
But let's get straight to the point and simply note that by spreading of the Water Lilies on the entire wall of the Orangerie's oval room, Monet had anticipated one of the challenges of modern and then contemporary art, namely the expansion of the art piece in the exhibit space, the passage from object to space. In this sense, perhaps Rothko was the painter who pushed further this idea of total immersion in colour with his monumental canvases and his famous chapel project in Houston (1971). Likewise, Bourgeois' work is exemplary, since, spanning almost a century, it evolved dramatically as the limits of conventional art changed. However, it would be inappropriate and simplified to present Bourgeois' work exclusively along this spectrum of a search for the objectivation and setting in space; although part of it evolved in this direction, it was also a consequence of the need to project a complex mental universe outside. In the continuity of the Cells, we can also mention the work of Joseph Beuys and, in particular, his lead room ("Hinter dem Knochen wird gezählt - Schmerzraum", 1983) or the house of Jean-Pierre Raynaud, in which he worked 20 years (1974-1993).
Thus I come to refine my initial hypothesis and suggest that, fundamentally, the artist's studio,Giverny's garden, the Water Lilies, Bourgeois' obsessions, her Cells, are equivalent "spaces".
In any case, the work "Composition with stuffed animals' remains IV (cell)" clearly borrows the spatial device based on a panoramic image, and even the idea of a life-size landscape, from the Water Lilies of the Orangerie, but also the psychological dimension particularly palpable in the Bourgeois' Cells series that consists in translating the mental space into a closed and self-referential physical space.
The series of works entitled "Composition with stuffed animals' remains" is part of a larger group in which these remains of stuffed animals are the raw material. These are, like other recurring figures in my work, the symbol both of childhood (and, by extension, the part of subjectivity assumed by the work) and of a popular culture anchored in the consumer society. Thus, the "Millennium Monsters" are the most literal and spectacular manifestation of this collision of two antagonistic concepts.
The remains, fragments or residue of the soft toys are literally leftovers from the previous series. In a way, throwing away those discarded pieces of fabric for their obviousness, ugliness, or inadequacy would have been avoiding the problem. In fact, the stuffed animals I work with are, for the most part, edifyingly ugly; They are given to me or I find them in a second hand sale app, for the good reason that nobody wants them (in the best case because they got in the way). Then all sorts of naive questions arise: why do children have so many toys? What is the nature of this aesthetics that we think
is suitable for kids? More generally, how do we get to this popular aesthetics of the cool, kawai, dull, cute, cheesy, etc.?
As my objective, in much of my work, is to work on this fine line between the criticism of some phenomena linked to capitalist society and mass culture and the appropriation of the same criticized phenomena, I found myself obliged to return their Letters of nobility to these residues of icons of the consumer society.
At first glance the result is a classic and "pretty" pictorial work. Then, with hindsight, long enough to realise that the colour spots have volume and that this volume corresponds to familiar shapes, the visitor is immersed (thanks to the cell device) in a universe attractive as much as strange, a bit like when you enter an amusement park, a false universe that twists reality, where the ugly becomes beautiful, unless it is the other way around.
Nathalie is currently preparing a new exhibition of that big size artwork in Barcelona, the place where she lives and works.