Through the Eyes of Ambassador Phillippe


By Phillippe de la Bathie WINDHOEK Being here tonight is for me a real pleasure and also a matter of pride. A French artist who is close to the French Embassy is allowed to exhibit her work at the Namibian National Art Gallery. I want to thank the Director of Arts and the Director of the National Gallery for welcoming and organising this event. I want also to congratulate the artist, Lily Jouve, for achieving this challenge. Lily was born in Egypt to a painter well known among the art lovers and who was also a teacher at the Fine Arts School. Painting was not her first vocation, since she chose to be a student in law, but not to become a lawyer. Little by little, she came back to her familiar and family world, painting. As we may see if we take a look around us, her art is neither abstract nor representational. It finds its place between the two approaches, with the ambition to conciliate them. One can detect in it a marked preference for the themes offered by Nature, particularly rocks, mountains, trees. At the same time, one perceives the huge room given to the liberating and creative power of imagination and dream. From this double dialogue with her dream vision and with Nature, the artist seems to derive “buried images”, according to an expression borrowed to Max Ernst, the French painter, who had involved himself in the surrealist school, and who had applied onto the canvas the resonances of the unconscious. Lily Jouve perhaps does not give herself up so deeply because her works are quite obviously bound up with Nature’s realities. She seems to make her way inside the matter and to extract from it the whole internal and external wealth. And this is where we can find again her attraction to one of her favourite masters, the painter Paul Klee, who once said: ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚º”Art does not reproduce the visible; rather it makes visible.” But they are also related otherwise. Through the use of techniques explored by Paul Klee, a form of impressionism with wider touches, Jouve creates with the help of rectangles, squares, triangles and irregular geometrical figures, the imaginary spaces, which allow her to recreate the designs borrowed to reality. The outcome is an elegant stylization, able to highlight the deepness and wealth which result from this encounter between the imaginary and the concrete. I see the painting at the left of the door as a synthesis of the arts of Paul Klee, Lily Jouve and also the ancient art of Egyptian hiero-glyphs, which was, 5 000 years ago, the gateway to drawing and painting. However, this is not the only original feature of this exhibition. There is colour, the colours I should say, that spring up from the painter’s palette. We guess it is sumptuous. But the range of colours is not only a shimmering spectacle given to our eyes. It is serving shapes. It brings out the spaces, it accentuates perspectives, it amplifies or dims the lights. It finally contributes to the movement and helps to deliver us the secret of the relationship between Nature and the artist. “Colour and I are one. I am a painter,” said Paul Klee. Since I talked with Lily Jouve, I know this expression inspires her work. The time has now come for us to admire once more these paintings representing Namibian, but also Philippine and Kenyan, landscapes. One can only be amazed at the unity that exists among those paintings, and the similarities of mountains and trees erected in such different lands. Is that to account for the artist’s eye, or to the rocks emerging from the same depths of the Earth? But then, at a closer look, so many differences emerge from these oils, if not only in the original landscapes of Namibia. At the Waterberg, the rock is ochre, red and tormented; at the Spitzkoppe it is smooth, polished and has the colour of honey; in the Tzaris it is layered with mauve and ochre. To the artist, it all becomes intensity, intimacy and admiration.