The word exotic comes from the Greek exotikos, “foreign,” which in turn comes from the prefix exo, meaning “outside.”
Aglaé Bassens is a still life painter whose work about presence and absence is inspired by her uprooted upbringing and her experiences as a foreigner or outsider.
In Surface Tension, Bassens focuses on the motif of the palm tree. Repeated over everything from sofas to wallpaper and shirts, the palm trees lose their exoticism and become a mantra to banality. Despite the cheerful palette of the paintings, the sofas remain empty, the interiors unpopulated, and the shirts hang unworn and loose.
Under the guise of paper, fabric or crochet, the shape-shifting palm trees become at once images and objects, and ultimately celebrate the transformative nature of paint. This playful back and forth between materiality and image throughout the exhibition offers a visual reprieve from the underlying tension between the melancholy, faded feel of the paintings, and the relentless, manufactured cheerfulness of palm trees as a motif.