Noëlle Koning, painted pieces

At Brussels-National, I always glance in pure friendship at Noëlle Koning's painting which, after the customs passage, flanks the beginning of the interminable travelators. In the formatted airport design, its orange yellows, crimsons, purples, its carmines, its fuchsias broken with turquoise and white, and its ornamented ways in the manner of Vuillard or an abstract Rik Wouters console me for the tedious way ahead. Tearing, painting, juxtaposing, superimposing, overlapping, burying, tightening and dilating forms to keep the eye in good appetite: that is Noëlle's creed. All her paintings resemble each other but none are the same. The artist does not so much develop as she moves about within her sphere of activity. Hence this impression of revolution in the true sense of the word. Of a sometimes substantial deviation from the centre where the tracks blur to lead to the forest of dreams, to the most abstract margins. The forms lighten; syntax becomes fluid, gets nimbler. Beneath the reconstructed unit of the image, the original patchwork remains, a hubbub which jolts and intrigues the eye, engaging heart and body while offering a glimpse of that land promised to and always hidden from lovers of painting.

Scraps of images jostle to the foreground and exchange places in continual movement. Armchair, table, scale, door, window, fruit, fabrics, and faces although identified with difficulty reveal an aspect of their hidden truth. Glare, flash, stain, trace, rip, light: the eye capsizes in vertigo. And the imperceptible neverland is silhouetted in this greedy jumble, this intimate conjunction of the frame's parameters. Saturated space, horror of the void certainly, but never suffocating. The air circulates, one breathes. One even moves between the four walls of these interiors, which capsize in the prism of colours and exploded forms. The strange hierarchy of paper fragments placed end on end creates a sort of perspective.
One will have gathered that Noëlle Koning goes about things in a curious fashion. Working on the ground in the manner of Oriental painters, she cuts out scraps of paper and paints them; small and large islands make up the painted archipelago. In the constructing site of a polyphonic canvas, open, awaiting its master builder, she mounts the painted pieces, plays with their abrupt contours, arranges, and constructs until the composition acquires meaning.

This work, so unhinged in its sensual and artisanal creed, its greedy madness, reminds us that impressionists and post-impressionists, at the threshold of the emancipation of painting, juxtaposed, arranged, and constructed their paintings in a manner which, at the end of the day, was fairly similar. Small strokes of colour reconstructed the image in the retina and transmitted to the brain the abundance of the visible. And its illusion. Subject to the changing light, to the moment, to the surrounding space, the form (cathedral, grindstone, face) was never what one thought. Ending centuries of illusionism, these artists were not satisfied with making things truer than true and painted an arbitrary truth, conjunction of perceptions and subjective conditions of vision.
Later, Dadaists, cubists and their contemporaries used collage and torn or cut out paper in their paintings. To break in, to cut loose. And to create diversion, to arrange the picture differently, to open new plastic pathways.
Noëlle Koning's originality consists in painting paper scraps and orchestrating them on the canvas with a very sure sense of what these rips initially represented for the development of the painting, and which must not be lost sight of. A scattering of place, time, self – self in place, self in time – exorcized by the colourful shimmers. One might have thought that in the « post-conceptual » and numerical age, art had done with the existential. As it was believed, for a moment, that it had done with painting. Of course, neither it nor its cherished torments ever disappeared. It was only erased from the scene, sometimes leaving the picture to better find it. The come-back noted in the Eighties is still productive. From Lucian Freud to Jean Rustin, from Marlène Dumas to Garouste or even of Tuymans, to mention only the top attractions, painting is multiple and almost without complexes. Of course, it no longer has the monopoly of visual and plastic communication. And still less that of the scenes where art is played in terms of media. Nourished by our dearest values like blows to its integrity, it is only more desirable!

Noëlle Koning has joined her most significant contemporaries in this derailment of pictorial forms that renounce neither the language of the heart nor the physical dimension. And if what she has to say locates her in the modern tradition of deconstruction, of the taste for the obverse of the mirror, for the figure which tends to the abstract and the abstract to the figurative, it is because all these things are now timeless. Poetic construction departing from a poor (ripping) and stammering (fragments) gestural language, the finished work is arrayed with the heady luxuriance of the reconstructed past. Curiously, the painted pieces create a perfectly unified, moving and intriguing image that one perceives at once without concern for the manufacturing process. However definitive it might be, though, it only constitutes a small part of the painting's story. The greater, memorable one, each time celebrates the improbable capture of the dream of eternity in temporal flux.

Danièle Gillemon,
December 2005


Text extracted from Monograph Noëlle Koning, Didier Devillez Éditeur, Brussels, 2006.