In Marie le Lievre's paintings, one cannot but feel the ambiguous forms are somehow unresolved symbols out of a Freudian or Lacanian subconscious unmediated by social context or language. There is a tacitly feminist mandate present to re-appropriate the hysterical, fashion and a love of shopping, but there is also a suggestion of the Deleuzian schizophrenia of modern capitalist life.
Deleuze claimed that genuine thinking was a violent confrontation with reality, an involuntary rupture of established categories. He says we attain a "thought without image", a thought always determined by problems rather than solving them. "All this, however, presupposes codes or axioms which do not result by chance, but which do not have an intrinsic rationality either. It's just like theology: everything about it is quite rational if you accept sin, the Immaculate Conception, and the Incarnation. Reason is always a region carved out of the irrational—not sheltered from the irrational at all, but traversed by it and only defined by a particular kind of relationship among irrational factors. Underneath all reason lies delirium, and drift." This seems to me an excellent metaphor for what Le Lievre seems to be attempting. The bag motif represents the accepted truth - the 'real' world – in contrast with the manifold abstract: the flickering shadows in Plato's Cave.
Large translucent patches of plain oil saturate the surface, like the waterproof paper used in Japan to make parasols and traditional houses. In painting, technically speaking, oil is the medium of suspension for pigments. In her paintings, Le Lievre uses the clear oil as the medium of suspension for the composition, creating an abject and bleeding meniscus out of the pictorial surface. A visual 'medium of suspension' is necessary because these ambiguous forms – shifting like mythological Proteus between abstract and figurative – need an aquarium to survive in.
As with quantum mechanics, the human eye must settle the matter. The roughly 'handbag'- like forms (carrying all of those references to feminine neurosis and consumer capitalism) is a stalking-horse to conceptually anchor these exercises in the abject. The canvasses are like a carefully contrived accident on a studio floor, with hints of Jenny Holzer's "Protect Me from What I Want" and Nan Goldin's "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency". Let us call it the Lyrical Abject, because unlike the normal state of the abject in art, these works are aesthetically pleasing in an easily comprehensible way. The abject is a concept developed by Julia Kristeva in her 1980 book Powers of Horror. It consists of things, particularly of the body, that transgress and threaten our sense of hygine and propriety of the patriarchal order.
Much of the interest comes from the artist withdrawing from gesture, allowing the paint to move organically. Underpainting creates cracked, rippled and distressed surfaces suggesting fragility (and patina – which is the sworn enemy of fashion and handbags). The colours are muddied, florescent, or suggest stained hospital blankets – a pictorial tension between organic and synthetic, bright and abject. Baggage suggests emotional baggage (psychopathology) and historical baggage (the past, personal and contextual). The deliberate ambiguity between ground and form, subject and object, figurative and abstract, hint at psychological, metaphysical transcendental and phenomenological interpretations, but the ubiquitous bag motif is pure Sartrean existential nausea: the conflicting and overwhelming impulses of materialism, addiction, consumerism and neurosis. There draw us back to that tacit feminist reading or reclaiming the shackles to make new armour.