Presentation Amélie Sabatier, historienne d'art

In the middle of the studio bathed in light, overgrown with maps and papers of all kinds, sits a large canvas. A black silhouette carrying a suitcase/a suitcase in its hand, is at the edge of an abyss in which a raging sea is stirring. In the background a map of the world breaks through the rage in a stormy light. It is the world that is the quest of this man, this migrant, launched on the roads in pursuit of a place which he dreams is better or simply different.

In 1909, Guiseppe Riscaldino leaves his village, Brendisso in Piemonte to try his luck in America. Having passed through Ellis Island, he finally moves to Buenos Aires where he opens a beautiful resort hotel and makes a fortune.

This family legend is the inspiration of the new work of ASTRUC.

With the passport of her grandfather, stamped at Ellis Island in 1909 and 1913 in her hand, she follows on in his footsteps and visits the island in 1994.

Between 1892 and 1954 Ellis Island is the crossroads for more than 16 millions of migrants. For some it is the door to a new world where all hopes are allowed. But for those who are rejected for administrative or medical reasons it is the end of the journey, and the dreams.

From the Island everybody can see the Statue of Liberty. What a thrill for those reaching New York, and what a tragic irony for those who had to return to Europe in the bilge.

ASTRUC questions this American symbol of freedom. Viewed from different angles and in various colours, a series of square canvases questions about reading a picture that has become to commonplace. With reference to Warhol in the reiterated treatment of the same colored mosaic pattern, one finds also the influence of Rauschenberg when he questioned the American flag.

How do hyper-medias, from a meaningful allegory, create a banal object of tourism? How do we see this icon to-day? Marketing? And most important: What meaning does this “liberty” still retain?

In a world, where flows of human beings have further intensified, the fundamental liberty to go and come, collide with still very restrictive national laws.

ASTRUC makes of the migrant her anonymous hero in a series of paintings. This man completely in black, with a hat on his head, with no face and stooping a little, sometimes as a mark of despair, often as a mark of stubbornness. In his suitcase he keeps all his property, the only things he had wanted to bring with him on his way.

For tens of generations, maps evoke travel, a place somewhere else. They are sometimes the only guides, as the one of the United States which the French who disembarked in New York in 1934 used in order to get to the Universal Exposition of Montreal, inserted in pieces in several paintings in this series.

For the artist “the maps are more than a tool, they are a representation of places, of stories, of dreams of weird fantasies”
The main interest of the work of ASTRUC is that the migrant is evoked without any pathos.

In her paintings, the artist does not try either to make the spectator cry, or to revolt him because of the fate of “these poor migrants”. No message of misery or politics. All her works show our man during his journey.  What he leaves behind him is not evoked, neither what is waiting for him. Only the journey counts as if it were an end in itself. The leitmotif of each painting evokes the universal theme of wandering, more or less risky, the man’s perpetual quest for somewhere else, whether he is intellectual or materiel, emotional or geographical.

For very fast, the spectator is thrown back to his own wandering, to his own personnel journey: the country left behind is childhood; the journey, that is life; the purpose?  How do I know…

ASTRUC’s force is to be able to raise a tangle of human stories that can be read and understood at all levels and among which all human beings can find the one who speaks to them about themselves and those they love.

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