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La Belle Revue presents the words of one sculptor on another sculptor: Emilie Perotto explores the recent production of Stéphanie Cherpin, on the occasion of her solo exhibition in the vaulted rooms of the Frac Limousin.

Stéphanie Cherpin — The landscape has set opening hours

by Emilie Perotto

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Stéphanie Cherpin has presented a monographic exhibition at the Frac Limousin, entitled "The Landscape Has Set Opening Hours".

16 sculptures and 7 drawings are deployed in the 6 paired alcoves facing one another in a row along the main corridor that serves all of the Frac’s rooms.


The entrance is entirely occupied by the very recent sculpture Surrender Pink Steam produced in situ. This large structure covered with a mixture of plaster, roughcast and clay obscures the perspective towards the rest of the exhibition. Visitors must walk around it in order to glimpse the other works along the corridor.

Rather than leading us in a crescendo towards the most recent and spectacular works, on the contrary, the artist decided to strike hard from the outset, by confronting us with a quasi-architecture that clearly affirms her current artistic concerns. Beyond the assemblage of objects that she has produced since her early works, it is now more specifically the tension beween the materials and objects she assembles that predominates over the search for an overall form. In order to accentuate this, Stéphanie Cherpin has chosen to coat all of the works in a monochrome plaster, so as to attract the eye to these power relations and no longer to details that have become superfluous or garrulous.

The Penitent May Pass 1

Once we reach Surrender Pink Steam, we must progress through the rest of the exhibition that we can only glimpse. Besides the large blue paws of Happy House 1 (2012) that emerge a little further on, and As my bones grew2 (2014) revealed in the next space, nothing yet indicates where Stéphanie Cherpin is leading us.

Face to face encounters with sculptures thus follow in sequence, from alcove to alcove. It is as though we were caught in a sandwich and have to choose which side to engage with. Which of the artworks will first demand our attention, left or right?

Our visit alternates between encounters with benevolent sculptures that allow us to approach them, then others that instead leave us little room. At any rate, some hold us at a distance and we hesitate to move forward for fear of profaning the sacred site of an unknown tribe. We do not linger between Let’s me knife, knife me lets, I will get what I like (2010), and Untitled (2006), which hold each other in mutual regard. No one is immune to a stray bullet.

The strong presence of the sculptures and the way in which they occupy the space are accentuated by the many shadows they cast. We are in their space, they have found a shelter and are tolerating us for a while.

Good Boy 3

Two thirds of the way through the visit, we find a small dimly lit room to the left of the corridor. Three small sculptures welcome us here, as though in a place of worship where they would be sacred instruments. The elements assembled in Happy House 3 (2012), Turquoise Boy (2014) or When I grow lonely (2014) are of a different nature to the mistreated objects and materials of the sculptures previously encountered. The latter come from the hardware stores that the artist explores on her travels in suburban areas. Here, the blade of a saw, a shoe, and small cushions are more clearly identifiable and treated with respect through gestures derived from the domestic sphere. The artist has constructed talismans. The great blade of the saw that serves as the backbone of Turquoise Boy is not used as a flexible material and its integrity is respected. The cushions of Happy House 3 are abandoned in the wooden construction that has enabled them to be filled with earth. They are outcast, like mute witnesses of the artist’s acts, charged with all the energy she has deployed in petrifying them.

Writing on stone4

Our visit continues, accompanied by drawings, then we arrive in the final space, largely occupied by this medium. The 10 doors streaked with a disc harrow forming Heaven is a truck (2011) can be understood here as a pictorial whole. They are characterised by a gesture recalling the one the artist makes on the paper, as though engraved with a primitive alphabet. Even if these forms are not clearly intelligible, they call on our sensibilities and we integrate them as though they were an almost subliminal message destined for our subconscious.

Reflecting on anomalies

1. Even before entering the exhibition, Happy House 2 (2012) is hung opposite the reception area. A little further on, we find the same work, slightly more laden with paint. A second work was therefore made subsequent to the first one. Just to see. It was essential to Stéphanie Cherpin for these two sculptures to be present in this exhibition. With this breach, the artist breaks up the fluidity of the visit, by insisting on the importance she accords to our approach to the exhibition and on our reminiscence of the forms she convokes.

2. The sculptures of Stéphanie Cherpin are the most often inhabited by a centrifugal force. Their elements spring up, stand tall, or drip down, revealing their relationships and internal structures. They clearly display their offensive position. However, things are different with Her milk is my shit (2012) and Derelict (2012). These modestly sized, rather matt works are made up of more compact forms that do not allow our gaze to traverse them, or to apprehend their volume. The many shadows cast by Derelict allow us to guess what we cannot imagine from a single point of view. Her milk is my shit obliges us to lean in to perceive the internal structure. We fear that, like a Trojan horse, it might be used to attack us all the better; but if we present ourselves to it tactfully, it might even let itself be tamed.          

The Landscape Has Set Opening Hours is a key exhibition in Stéphanie Cherpin’s practice.

In recent years, the artist has made a name for herself for her animist sculptures built through additions of heterogeneous objects, resulting in an oscillation between monuments and contemporary relics. Today, it is no longer what her artworks evoke that makes them inhabited but the energy that the artist charges them with. The sculptures attain autonomy and become more powerful. Objects and materials used in construction, but also from the domestic sphere are combined in various sets of power relations, presenting a definition of sculptural tension.

Stéphanie Cherpin
" Le paysage ouvre à heures fixes "
Frac Limousin
21 february > 7 june 2014


Translated from the French by Anna Knight


Stéphanie Cherpin Émilie Perotto
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