Magazine article Artforum International

Amelie Bertrand: Semiose Galerie

Magazine article Artforum International

Amelie Bertrand: Semiose Galerie

Article excerpt

Featuring a limited palette of matte oil paints, whose saturated hues channel something of the bright, flat light of David Hockney's Los Angeles poolscapes, Amelie Bertrand's surrealist environments are as enticing as they are disconcerting. An odd assortment of cartoonish motifs including blank tombstones, redbrick walls, velvety sandpits, white lattice fencing, Astro turf mounds, and crenellated ramparts characterize an unpopulated terrain that is distinctly artificial, yet appealingly familiar. But alluring though they may be, these pictures are not portals. Bertrand keeps the viewer at bay--denying easy access by relentlessly referring back to the surface of her paintings.

Eight smaller works, about 271/2 x 231/2", make up the bulk of the show. These focus in on snug corners and otherwise tightly cropped enigmatic vignettes. Bertrand augments the general feeling of claustrophobia in scenes depicting, for example, a yellow ladder hooked over a wall leading who-knows-where (Untitled, 2012), a nondescript horizontal cylinder supported by thick chains hanging beside a brick barrier ( Untitled, 2012), or an anonymous tombstone with palm fronds and a miniature skateboard ramp in the background (Untitled, 2011) with discreet but effective manipulations of one-point perspective and shadow. In several cases, an expanse of turquoise at the top of the composition--initially appearing to represent the sky--upon closer consideration is revealed to be more likely a solid wall or ceiling. With a subtle band of slightly darker blue beside the turquoise, Bertrand establishes a corner and thus boxes in the scene. Suddenly, these invitingly bizarre locales reveal themselves to be airless dystopias with no sense of relative scale and disconcertingly ambiguous boundaries between interior and exterior space.

Bertrand's facture insists on a single superficial plane. …

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