Marie-Cecile Aptel

Marie-Cécile Aptel was born in 1958 in Paris. Lives and works in Rouen.


In the beginning, there may be a rage, an anger that pushes the painter to fight with her canvas. A battle from which words emerge, as if shouted with the brush. A kind of underlying punchline that crosses the acrylic touches that cover the paintings.

In the works of Marie-Cécile Aptel, often appear snatches of sentences or words more or less erased, hidden, torn, which let the feeling of a questioning, of a doubt and which raise questions. One is then confronted with some kind of oxymorons which put in opposition the meaning of the words and the content of the work. She plays with semantics, metaphors or with metonymic formulations that question the very nature of the work.

These are sometimes words with the appearance of graffiti which, without ambiguity, come to be added to the composition: "Hors champ", "It is beautiful, isn't it? "Nothing to see" "Out of sight", "Out of mind", "Out of play", "Out of the picture", "Out of the picture". "Offside", "Memento", "Nothing". The question that arises, through these ironic injunctions, whose calligraphy is more or less blurred and crossed out, leaves the ambiguity hanging. The artist seems to set the scene for his doubts, to make a flattening, a focus with his thoughts, to be able to start painting. In a contemporary pictorial language, where writing and abstract gestures are mixed, the artist asks the question of painting, of art.

Her painting is also the story of a physical relationship with the canvas, because the formats she uses are generally large, on the scale of her body. She is thus confronted with the surface of the canvas as if facing a wall that she must appropriate by some verbal claims, textual graffiti, before covering it. Does she find herself perhaps then in front of a blackboard of school loaded with ephemeral inscriptions that the sponge of the teacher has difficulty in making disappear?

It is necessary that some signs come to live the canvas so that the artist can begin to paint. The blank, white page forces her to find an entrance, a way to grant herself the right to appropriate this surface. She must practice this ritual in order to begin her work. The inscriptions fade more or less, disappear or resurface partially. There remains the trace which generated the canvas, a kind of poetic palimpsest.

Marie-Cécile Aptel's painting seems to tell stories. In front of each painting, the words, the traces force us to question the very nature of the work that is presented to us. Faced with a canvas overflowing with color, material, where the word "Nothing" is displayed, one wonders. The artist puts us in front of this obviousness, is it nothing? But no it is not nothing! The artist summons the thought, puts us at the foot of his wall, facing our contradictions. She plays hide-and-seek behind the material, with delight, and invites us to enter her game.

Marie-Cécile Aptel works mostly with acrylic. She generally uses canvases stretched on frames, sometimes free canvases or blind canvases. The works presented here, of large dimensions, are sequenced in several groups: graphics, classics, the geometric trend, the lush, that small formats in paper come to punctuate.

If Marie-Cécile Aptel comes from drawing, it seems at first sight absent from her works. It is through the signs of writing, this spontaneous calligraphy thrown on the canvas, that in a certain way this link with graphics is displayed. She models forms with the brush, composes her canvases with large flat areas, seeks the balance between colored surfaces, draws furrows. Close to abstraction, her works show the gesture and question the meaning. Painted writing or depicted painting, the psychological dimension is intrinsic to his work. His paintings, through words, snippets of language, allow access to each.

By using in her paintings the terms "Offscreen" or "Black and White" she summons the cinema and the photo. By provoking this shift between the disciplines of the visual arts, she raises the question of painting today. With the term "Hors sujet" present in several of her paintings, she questions the very nature of the work whose result in fine would not be the one expected. These questions, generally asked at the beginning of the pictorial work, condition the creative process. This semantic battlefield links the artist's work to the great questions raised by art today and above all, I believe, brings us back to the imperious pleasure of painting.

 Michel Natier, 2020