The fork in the road


The pictorial work of Valérie Lenders moves forward through a successive series where the canvases are frequently initiated with a constraint: for example, only use red, paint by throwing the acrylic onto the canvas, cause areas of flat colour to collide, work on recutting, rubbing out, stitching together… Before she moved on to abstract works her work consisted of concentrating on the same figurative subject. The subject in this case served as a framework, an excuse to penetrate in greater depth into the mystery of painting: a world beyond language, ruled by feelings. At the moment it is a constraint that serves as the anchor point for her paintings. The painting develops around the constraint, from which surprises arise during the work process, diluting the initial effect of the constraint, to the particular surprise of the artist herself.


One of the fundamental characteristics of Valérie Lenders’ work is its continuity. Her work is voluble, abundant. Painting has always been an obsessional medium. It is a passion, a vortex. The artist is fearlessly committed, takes on board the potential pleasure of such an obsession and communicates it to the onlooker.


The travel diaries and concert diaries of the artist are, without a doubt, one of the best proofs of this continuity. When she is travelling she draws continuously, mostly with felt tip pens, in horizontal notebooks with cream-coloured pages. Away from her studio, the creative flow continues. There are new windings, new convolutions that the hand, often brilliantly disconcerting when left to express itself freely, emancipated from the taboos of the mind, reveals. Here we can evoke a not obvious reference to illustrate this continuity: the work of Roman Opalka. We know that Opalka created his totally radical painting, comprising a continuous line of numbers, and that he continued it throughout his life. Just as Opalka, when he was far from his studio, would continue his series of numbers on handy pieces of paper in order not to lose the thread, so it is with Lenders who needs to always let her hand run free.


As regards the concert notebooks, they are created by the artist during jazz concerts, one of her musical passions. We know about the everyday connections between music and abstract art. Valérie Lenders does not deviate from this affinity. Jazz, moreover, is a music that speaks to her, especially since it attempts a synthesis between the score and the improvisation: between the constraint and all that the hand can produce to deviate from it, yet whilst relying on it. When we look closely at the canvases of Valérie Lenders we can see how her wanderings unfold between the constraint and the emancipation. Anyway, if there is one movement of her paintbrush that is characteristic it is that of the ‘fork in the road’. Suddenly the paintbrush swerves as if to catch itself by surprise, to unsettle itself. Her figurative subjects from the past were already taking the ‘fork in the road’: they were full of curves and indentations.


And then there are the phenomena of repetitions, just as in jazz: the hand can return several times towards the canvas, sometimes to add machine-sewn elements, sometimes to obliterate areas with water, sometimes to mask areas with black. When there are these accumulated acts we can see that the areas where the different marks meet (there where the lines cross) have their own importance. There is something that knots together for a moment and then unknots and fades away.


The places where these ‘knots’ occur are crucial.  It is around these ‘knots’ that Valérie Lenders concept of space unfolds. Each new canvas, at first sight, offers a vast, white, indistinct space. Instead of determining the top and the bottom, instead of taking the canvas into a known, human space, Valérie Lenders just subtly accentuates the vagueness to point out that it is a question of infinity, an absence of gravity. The ‘knots’, points marked here and there on the canvas, depict progressively a constellation. This is further reinforced by the explosive use of colour (with thousand shades of stars). It outlines a kind of geography shared between the earthly and the heavenly. Each of her canvases is a model of this universe, and, at the same time, one of the entrances to it.



Yoann Van Parys - 2017

Translated from French by Lyn Jacomb