Muriel Charlot

Peintures – Sculptures


Muriel’s statues are daydreams. Whether they have the smooth, primitive durability of a Romanesque church or a Cycladic idol – kings and queens with angelic smiles – or a more quivering workmanship in the manner of a Rodin or Daumier, they all carry an air of dream and memory, creatures of an unwritten novel. The strangest thing is that Muriel, like a sleepwalker, discovers these faces with the same curiosity we do. Hence their expression, at once modest and unvarnished, revealing an inner landscape as radiant as it is elusive – the last straw for a three-dimensional work. Here, the material has been transformed into a cloud, softened to the point of impalpability.
to the point of impalpability under the artist’s fingers, rendered entirely porous to feelings, memory to feelings, memories and distant echoes, becoming, in a word, an image: the life of the soul can be traced in the very the whiteness of the plaster, as trembling and fleeting as a charcoal line in dialogue with the grain of the paper.
paper. From this milky fog emerges an unearthly sharpness (like a muted effect that sharpens your hearing). the dazzle of a birth and the age of a recognized face.
Thus, these statues are already a work of light.

It’s the same with his painting. The magnificent Fragments, liens et débris series, exhibited in 2009 at the Cité internationale des arts, offers the same hospitality to the fleeting and fragile, the same outcropping of soul. Muriel’s astonishing modesty in her formats, materials and means – crosses, chevrons, dotted lines, tiles or wavelets repeated with the pure, unpretentious seriousness that children have when they apply themselves (and we know how much time and energy she devoted to them in her workshops) – is characteristic of this desire to stay as close to the source as possible: even when she paints, it looks like felt. This was no doubt in keeping with her generous candor in the face of life’s bumps, armed only with an indefatigable capacity for wonder and the bravery of a tightrope walker. Yet the composition of these paintings is sure and sophisticated, marked by a variety of languages, a science of combinations, a subtlety in the relationships of form and a refinement in the play of colors, which give each image its climate, its balance, its vanishing points, its dynamism. More often than not, the work begins with the collage of a fragment of paint, extended beyond its edges, amplified in exuberant improvisations.

Different planes are superimposed, elements advance and others recede, gaps and distances are created, luminous equilibrium between wandering pieces of beloved life: the half-light of foliage, open architectures, the enchantment of abstract motifs. Each painting cobbles together its own visual dwelling within a wobbly world, and bathes the image in the same spatiality, a pool where shadows, colors and light shimmer and shimmer, fragmented at the water’s edge. The morning light tinkles with a freshness
silver freshness.
In the Vivacités series, everything changes. These intimate pages, snatched from the illness that would claim Muriel in 2023, are like a final logbook, kept almost daily until the very end, with a sense of urgency heightened by the terrifying prospect of losing her sight. The same familiar elements – water, boats, flowers and trunks, secret streets and rooftops, quiet rooms, dripping gardens – can be dimly discerned, but a new vehemence unifies everything. Neither white nor empty, neither line nor concern for balance, all disappear in favor of a wild explosion of pastel strokes, blotches and variegated cross-hatching that simultaneously draw and color. Space is evacuated, and the brushstrokes come together without any concern for definition, negotiating their mutual songs and dissonances in an exultant edge-to-edge; everything tightens up, clashes and jubilates in concert. The picture even seems more composed, but springs from its own depths. What’s most astonishing is that this eruptive frenzy, reminiscent of Expressionism, is nonetheless devoid of the slightest violence, carried only by a pure love of color, a trust in light and a shattering transfiguration of the gaze, a dark inferno on the wings of a butterfly. This journey to the heart of the sun was undeniably spiritual. And it’s deeply moving to see Muriel, at the very time when her eyesight was failing and life was slipping away from her, daring such a vision, choosing to embrace without possessing, to affirm without simplifying, leaving the virginal water and the clashing boats to go not towards a black renunciation or a cry of anguish, but towards these sprays of burning flowers and molten stained-glass windows.

Alexandre Bakker