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In Claudia Comte’s works one can recognise a dichotomy between the interest in formal examination and the desire to free oneself of a certain heaviness. While geometric shapes dominate most of her installations there is always a moment of release, a relief from what is generally characterised as visual precision and traceability. We will look at this phenomenon more closely in the context of the exhibition Sonic Geometry presented by the gallery Art et Essai in Rennes.[1]

This ambivalence is not based on the fact that Claudia Comte is not satisfied with the exploration of pictorial characteristics, which could be seen as a continuation of the Avant Guard tradition that 1930 with Concrete Art explored the process of composition with its rigid and universal elements. On the contrary here it is about keeping up a constant dialogue between rationalistic pictoriality and that, which principally does not fall into this area. This happens due to the introduction of geometry into an environment, in which sculptures made of wood hold something informal, even comical.

Also the exhibition title Sonic Geometry evokes the justified question of musicality. A melody demands a syntax of musical notes – i.e. the absolutely not random arrangement of more or less high sounds – so that finally a continuous and fleeing stream can be perceived. This is why Claudia Comte persistently plays with the contradiction of structured precision and spontaneous laxity. The black circles on the wall accompany the lines of a musical lead and are painted according to a protocol: brushes of various sizes, which beforehand were dipped in paint, turn in one single movement around a centre point. The movement is carried out swiftly and skilfully. The more the circle is completed the progressive reduction of the liquid creates concentric grooves, which are remindful of the synthetic texture of vinyl records. The style brings to mind the gesture of a calligraphy master – an art form where the slow and meditative preparation needs to be harmonised with the quick and lively execution.

The space is arranged with square wooden structures that allude to Sol LeWitt’s Modular Cubes – a distant heritage of formal arrays, which are highly favoured by the protagonists of Concrete Art. As emphasised by the variations in the lines every element seems to be unique and has the task to present the solids and the blanks in order that Claudia Comte’s organic sculptures can settle down in themselves or can let themselves be carried as if the were standing on plinths. On the one side a quasi mathematical architecture which functions as a three dimensional frame, and on the other side sculptures that bring to mind thigh bones, of which one could imagine that they belong to a mysterious but long ago extinct creature. Or, since each element was arranged along the orthogonal axes of the gallery, one can say that the true musical notes are not those mounted on the wall, but those, which inhabit the space.

Thus the strangeness of these bone-like sculptures made of elegant wood is part of a kind of discrepancy. The unusual character of these bodies, at once stretched out and bent, is amused by its relative appearance, by the paradox precarity of balance that could be disturbed by nothing, even by silence. Accordingly the measurement’s perfection links with the imperfection of the ineffable: “Something escapes” Deleuze would say. Something of which we cannot grasp its consistency or object, but which defuses the rigidity of aesthetic rationality. Maybe it is the same as with music, where the notion of a loss, an escape, creeps up and one has the irretrievable feeling to want to grasp the sounds at the very moment when they are already withdrawing.

A kind of correctness springs from the entirety of the exhibition – as if it had been about finding the perfect chord – while one cannot avoid that ancient times are evoked when paleontological motifs are reproduced. In Claudia Comte’s projects one can find a scientific, even anthropological, dimension. It would be tempting to speak about a return to the origin, but one would surely be mistaken about the artist’s true intentions. Actually there is no yearning for native virtues. At best the desire seems to be to anchor the forms, which ever they may be, in a primordial and essential substrate, in a world, which consolidates the comforts of geometric figures with accidental shapes like nature offers them. Hence in this work there exists a strength of curiosity, which is typical of formal investigation. This however is acted out with a momentum only common with musicians.

Julien Verhaeghe


[1] This text was originally published in Revue 02, n°76, Winter 2015 on the occasion of the exhibition Sonic Geometry by Claudia Comte, Gallery Art & Essai, Rennes, France, 25th September to 13th November 2015.