More than ten years ago by now, Elodie Lesourd started to create art with themes and subjects hailing from rock culture. Rock instruments (mainly guitars, basses and drums) or dark, sometimes even macabre images, such as black metal band logos, record sleeves, and other direct references to this subculture have been at the fore of Lesourd’s work until today. The artist alternates between "hyperrockalistic" painting and a conceptual practice that revolves around the same music culture which has accompanied her since adolescence. It was a starting point for her exploration of signs, symbols, images and their composition, as well as of art itself.
After a first look at the works in her new exhibition "Lazarus, Zombie, Elvis" (LZE) would it be appropriate to speak of certain principles and references in the past tense, since these new works appear to tend toward something quite different to what had been at the forefront of Lesourd’s art?
No black, no band logos or instruments appear. Quite the opposite can be seen, such as flowers painted in bright, vibrant colors, animal drawings, or even complex chromatic compositions with quite a geometric tendency. Admittedly, there are some characteristic references, including the name of Elvis in the exhibition title, but one’s gut reaction upon seeing Lesourd’s new work raises a question: Where is the rock music?
In full command of her initial concept and not an artist to leave things to chance, Elodie Lesourd deliberately raises this question. It is precisely the questioning of her work’s conceptual consistency and its interrupted continuation which Lesourd uses to deploy the full potential of her fundamental artistic inquiry.
Lesourd’s driving force, as soon as it could be defined, first had to be tamed and mastered by the artist who also needed time to measure up to her ambition. Her first "hyperrockalistic" paintings depicted clearly recognizable features of rock like recurring protagonists. Only gradually did she begin to leave purely musical imagery to venture to denser compositions, details, or indirect references. This gave rise to finely intertwined specialist references. Rock thereby gradually appeared to become a more subtle presence - but only superficially.
N.I.B. and Walking Through The Land of Falsity, two "hyperrockalistic" works from 2016, return to that idea of abstraction created through cropping photographic images of the cited artworks. The shots chosen by Lesourd show details of installations by the artists James Van Arsdale and Konrad Smolenski. The original artworks, both of which are installations, appear altered through photography. Elodie Lesourd renews her pictorial practice in view of these insights. N.I.B. thus becomes a colored abstract composition of lines and curves, while Walking Through The Land of Falsity appears more angular with the somewhat identifiable loudspeaker details.
IV Moon Domine and Lust Magic Obscure pursue a recent exploration of floral motifs with references to rock culture. They may recall the first floral detour that appeared in All The Flowers Sing in D Minor in 2015. Each of these two paintings depicts a close-up of tobacco flowers exposed to violet fluorescent light. They cite the installation The Eden Experiment II by Nikolaus Gansterer, in which he explores how two flowers grow differently, depending on the type of music they’re exposed to, be it classical (Bach) for one, or Cuban black metal for the other. As in the cited work, the same is true here: although neither music nor sound emitter can be perceived in Lesourd’s work, they are yet inherent constituents.
Music certainly remains invisible, but these paintings are no less "hyperrockalistic" because, as per the principles established by Lesourd for this part of her project, they question archiving an artwork, which moreover partly consists of sound. Rock music comes a full circle here, given that the works’ titles stem from metal rock songs.
These distinct aspects of her art which Elodie Lesourd had been developing separately seem to be coming together here. While "hyperrockalism" had been evolving with set methods in parallel to her other pieces, Lesourd here appears to subtly blur the boundaries between diverse aspects of her practice. Beyond the way in which the depicted motifs recall her geometric considerations, the pictorial mode of IV Moon Domine and Lust Magic Obscure seems exempt from her past methods. No more frontal depictions; the panels with floral motifs are here contained within metal structures and displayed horizontally as in a museum of natural history. Lesourd certainly intends to render her experience of the original artwork, but she also demonstrates her analytical and art critical considerations about representing documentary photographs of existing artworks and consciously staging their hyperrealistic depictions.
The connection between music, art, and the natural sciences can also be found in other works in the exhibition. Diagonal Science Series consists of 9 composite paintings which contain animal illustrations that the artist had made more than twenty years ago, or photographs of flowers, also taken by Lesourd, combined with promotional stickers from various rock albums purchased over time. Methodically collected and archived Lesourd initially meant these stickers to provide information regarding the record contents to help buyers in their selection. The artist has created an encounter of multiple types, putting forth the human need for categories and referential markings for things around us. Geometric grids, which are reminiscent of scientific category charts or graphic music notation, appear in certain works, endowing the composition with an even more knowledgeable feel, which also links them to references in art history (such as geometric abstraction, neoplasticism, and more) another area in which identification matters. Elodie Lesourd offsets this very strict approach to organizing and labelling with a title that points to Roger Caillois’ thoughts on "diagonal sciences."
The animal component takes on its full force with the presence of leather and snake skins in the exhibition. The leather appears in two-dimensional form, without a particular shape. Always in keeping with her earlier works of the same materials, Elodie Lesourd here radically modifies her technique. Previously stretched, the forms used here (Lesourd evokes art history, music, and natural history in these three pieces) now appear limp and drop down alongside the wall. Associated with Lesourd’s world of rock music the material becomes a symbol, and the world of animals ever-present in LZE becomes a raw, transformed embodiment of the human being. Snake skin, however, naturally metamorphoses when shed by the animal itself. Lesourd paints them with car paint and assembles them in a piece entitled I’m Afraid of Americans. As is often the case, the title associatedwith these motifs and materials brings up manifold associations from Barnett Newman to David Bowie.
In the display case Nature Coming Full Circle, which is partly darkened, the idea of regenerative, cyclical natureemerges thanks to its title and colors, while the flag Vinnland Armour uses a standard of a utopian territory. Its constitution of plectra is not without recalling the snake skin scales just opposite.
Would LZE be an exhibition of Elodie Lesourd’s transformation? In any case, there seems to be an evolution and deepening in her work. There where rock music components provided the artist with a guard rail and a familiar thing - which she had instinctively placed at the forefront - that allowed her to broach complex ontological questions surrounding a subject area she mastered. Today, she seems to have found the confidence to breach these safeguards to make way for other motifs while persevering in her primary quest. They are of course always maintained by rock music as a constant, but this now appears more discretely, emerges in other forms, oraltogether disappears from the image.
Lazarus, Zombie, and Elvis are names that could have been - in Elodie Lesourd’s conventional approach so far at least - taken from songs or band names, but such is not the case here. These names stem from the natural sciences, more specifically from the species that appear in typical paleontological classification. According to Lesourd, "The classification principle is applicable to all realms of knowledge," and "the need to name things supplies the basis for every wish to understand the world." With LZE, Elodie Lesourd is looking to depart from these assertions, and she emphasizes her own refusal for her art to be classified.
— Kevin Muhlen