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Catherine Wilkening's portrait
Dark and melancholic, wild and chaotic
The French sculptor Catherine Wilkening has an intense and varied oeuvre, with dark and melancholic, wild and chaotic touches.
Connecting to the Spiritual with Catherine Wilkening
Text, Veerle Devos, photo Harten
The French sculptor Catherine Wilkening has an intense and varied oeuvre, with dark and melancholic, wild and chaotic touches. It’s her latest work, created during the pandemic, which particularly appeals to curator and gallery owner Anne-Laure Pilet. Paradoxically this collection seems to be remarkably light as compared to her earlier work - or is that just an impression? It will be on view in exclusivity at Analora Gallery, from 28th of April on.

Though created during the tumultuous and terrifying pandemic, which Catherine Wilkening spent in Paris where particularly strict confinement measures were in place, this collection of small sculptures radiates a lightness not often seen in her work. “I felt the need to connect to the luminous, the spiritual, the elevation, the transcendental”, Catherine Wilkening says. During these long months of confinement the artist created the porcelain immaculate Madonnas and the crowns and crosses with flowers and thorns Anne-Laure Pilet fell in love with.

Anne-Laure had discovered Wilkening's work in a book she bought in Palais Tokyo “It was an instant coup de coeur. What a strong, impressive work! But at the same time delicate and personal, poetic even. Catherine Wilkening’s work is sometimes very dark, tormented and chaotic, existential. While I am a person who naturally leans towards the light.
However, we share our sense of the spiritual. There is a story behind each sculpture, a profoundness connected with a deeper reality. These are objects with a personal charge. Of course I also love her work purely from an aesthetic point of view: these are simply incredibly beautiful objects.”

Her biography ‘Les mots avalés: parcours d'une vorace', published in 2017, reveals which demons incite Catherine Wilkening, who is also an acclaimed actress in France, to create such intense sculptures. She’s an artist familiar with all challenges of life, which is palpable in her work: it offers comfort and courage, understanding and compassion. It’s very human. “I plunged into sculpture with a primary, animal instinct, guided by a deep impulse”, she says of her debut as a sculptor. Her work seems to arise from an irresistible urge which results in an extraordinary artistic power and intensity. The same is true for the most recent work on view at Analora Gallery, but differently. It might seem light-footed and softer at first sight, it clearly comes from the same source.

“Catherine Wilkening's work also fits very well in Portugal, as it is a religious and spiritual country”, Anne-Laure Pilet says. “The profound Judeo-Christian tradition is still very much alive here, religion continues to occupy a prominent place in the lives of many Portuguese. Rituals are taken seriously here, and every town and village have their own processions. I am moved by this authentic and simple devotion, it speaks to me. Besides, Portuguese have a strong connection with nature, which is probably what makes them so balanced, friendly, respectful and humane. Spirituality is this strong feeling of connection with the essence of life. It translates in encounter, emotion, memories. I strongly recognize this in the work of Catherine Wilkening, and I am convinced that it will appeal to many people in this country.”

The artist will be present at the vernissage on April 28th.

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