VAL, a legacy
A journey into the unknown – Interview with Frédéric Morel
Where intricacy meets simplicity, where familiarity intersects with surprise, where materiality converges with illusion, there lies the power of awe. Val was self-taught and thus never went to art school. Yet, she felt it was an asset and always tried to maintain this form of naivety that speaks so easily to the profane eye. The faceless, often genderless characters help one identify with a story told in bronze curves, glass shades and shadow lines. Every work can then evoke emotions, stimulate imagination, and take the wonderer on inner strolls and outer dreams.
Valérie Goutard’s journey is a prime example of someone whose work encapsulates the true essence of this performative power artists can have. Her art, characterized by a unique blend of contemporary and ancient influences, captures the hearts and minds of those who encounter it.
Thanks to her ability to weave artistry and craftmanship in creations that never leave indifferent, the exhibition has been met with auspicious response, and due to its success, we have decided to extend it until January 10, 2024. The support from art enthusiasts as well as the diffusion in prestigious medias, with the likes of Luxuo or Men's Folio, is a hint that the captivating pieces on display have resonated with people on a profound level, and we could not be more grateful for it.
If you have not yet come to the exhibition, maybe the words of Frédéric Morel, work and life partner of Val, will convince you to dive in this one-of-a-kind universe, full of hope and sensitivity.
“Hello Frédéric. We are delighted to host a retrospective on Val and retrace the highlights of her exceptionally inspiring career. As her agent and keeper of her legacy, could you please explain to us a little bit more about her creative process?
Frédéric -Hello, thank you for having me here, as I am just as glad as you to tell her unlikely story by exhibiting some of her most renowned masterpieces alongside never-seen-before artworks. Val was a very intuitive person, so she never sketched any of her work. Once she had an idea, she enjoyed letting her imagination guide her hands on the material to give form to her thoughts. She used a process called “vanishing wax” which she found out about with the experienced bronze casters of Ayutthaya. She resorted to wax instead of clay because the weather in Bangkok is too wet to be sculpting on the latter. A first model is made in wax before making a rubber or plastic mould around it, which, once emptied of the model, makes the perfect negative image of it. The next step is to pour molten wax in the mould to create a positive replica of the original model except for its hollowness. All the imperfections are chased from this copy before it is plunged into a slurry of silica and sand that will stick to the surface, both inside and outside, making a kind of ceramic shell all around the wax replica. The structure is then heated in a kiln where the temperature will solidify the shell and melt down the wax at the same time. This empty structure is finally filled with molten bronze and then broken once cooled down to release the metallic sculpture.
- Bronze casting seems like a very technical process that requires a lot of precision for someone who never trained to the ways of art or craftmanship. Why did she choose this medium and almost never strayed from it?
Frédéric - Bronze is the oldest human industry, dating back to 3,300 B.C. and she loved the idea to inscribe herself in a legacy of craftmanship, to walk in the steps of those who have endured this path long before her. And when I say craftmanship, I do not mean art. She believed it was an asset to lack academic knowledge, to remain free of any preconceptions about sculpture and to only let her creative spirit be guided by the limits of her imagination. With the properties of bronze and her nonconformist attitude she managed to carve her unicity in the embodiment of monumental fragility. She tried once to work on steel and hated the result so genuinely that she threw away the piece.
- Then, why did she resort to glass later in her career?
Frédéric - Actually, I was the one who came up with the idea as we went on a trip to Venice, and I sent a bronze sculpture to the Murano glass masters ahead to see what they could do. At the beginning, although she appreciated the history and the technique behind this craftmanship, she was not fully convinced but the possibility to give materiality to the void she had been sculpting for years appealed to her. Glass is transparent and in this sense shaping glass would not prevent her sculptures from casting shadows, but its reflective properties could add a trick of the eye, a playfulness that was already part of her work. She formulated a single requirement though: there should be the possibility to embed her bronze figures into glass. The glass masters told her it was impossible since they had already tried many times, and the thermal shock that occurred between cold metal and hot glass made the latter crack every time. Yet, she ingeniously suggested to heat the bronze figure at a precise temperature before the inlaying in molten glass, so that the two materials would cool down at the same speed and the sculpture would endure. The glass masters were a little hurt in their ego to have been told what to do by a woman who barely knew about their work, but they followed her advice, and thus some of her most interesting artworks were born.
- It seems like she was meant to be a trailblazer. Her intuition goes beyond plain aesthetic sense and even reaches scientific ingenuity. No wonder why she tried to remain as impervious as possible to other artists’ work. Did she ever draw any inspiration from an artist?
Frédéric - Of course, at some point in her career she started to look out for other artists’ work as she became part of this world. Architecture was a field she was keen on learning about because, as the time passed, her structures had become more and more imposing, and she felt the monumental fragility in her work could reach higher heights with architectural knowledge. She loved how Gaudi texturized the materials he was working with and how natural his shapes looked like; the influx of energy one can feel when looking at the Sagrada Familia’s architecture. The restructuration of the plan she was attached to was also present in Frank Ghery’s geometric buildings and the sense of innovation while creating a visual experience was something they shared. In terms of sculptors, she revered the simplicity of Constantin Brâncuși which did not prevent him from harnessing a strong evocative power. Brâncuși always hated when people told him his work was abstract. For him the abstraction of the form was essential in the quest for the essence of things. Reality does not lie in the appearance but in the idea and that was a concept Val genuinely related to. It might come as a surprise, but Val was a painting amateur and although she never practiced, the pictural art inspired her three-dimensional work. She fell in awe with Soutine’s intuitive and reckless brush strokes which depicted characters that came out of the canvas, an ability she was aiming for with her figures.
- Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions? Do you have one final word for our readers and potentially upcoming visitors?
Frédéric - I could only but advise people who are not interested in art to come have an experience of Val’s artworks. It is playful, it is genuine, it is hopeful yet intricate, it is truly someone’s soul carved in bronze. Here you don’t have to understand, or interpret, you just have to feel. Anyone, if given enough time, can relate to the stories she was weaving and see a part of themselves. Please, take this time to maybe appreciate art for the first time or to have a new glance at what it can be.”
VAL, a legacy | 12 Oct. - 10 Jan. 2024
For more information on VAL, click here.