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Marie-Josée Kerschen: A hymn of life

You know straight away, at the first encounter with Marie-Josée Kerschen’s creations, that you won’t be able to simply walk away from them. They have something urgent to say, seek to confront the spectator. But the confrontation will only evolve into dialogue and understanding if you are ready to enter into, to open your mind to a creative process that is singular, if not unique.

A creative process that remains figurative while going beyond simple figuration and reproduction, to achieve works of an undeniable intrinsic value.

But the artist doesn’t stop there.

In the past, her strange creatures, seemingly drawn from a prehistorical age reinvented by imagination, betrayed the artist’s fears and existential questionings. Then came the figures made from a variety of components: sandstone, clay, terracotta, fabric, but already, above all, wood. Hewn, chiselled, recycled, burnt, it was to become her favourite material – and no one else in Luxembourg works with wood like Marie-Josée Kerschen.

On each occasion when she shows us the results of her creative work, you feel she is re-exploring the lifelines of the wood, oak in particular, in order to lend it new dimensions of expression – for expressiveness is what counts above all.

Through her sculptures, the artist is able to give expression to her confrontation with life, the underlying impulse of her creativity, thus with life’s terrible demands as well, its slings and arrows, its moments of happiness and despondency.

Her creations allow her to explain and transmit her experience of this confrontation.

And so there is something completely human in these works that juxtapose real features and surreal forms: her winged shapes are reminiscent of the sphinxes of Jean Cocteau, while a “wild parade” of figures – as she named one of her exhibitions, with reference to Rimbaud – people her universe, the centre of which is the eternal dialectic between love and death, Eros-Thanatos: triumphant demons and fallen angels, “quadopteries” and birds in conference, passers-by (“Zaungäste”), savage little warriors and broken men, moribund kings and useless gods; but also heads of a simple purity, graceful bodies and couples embracing; but also creatures made transcendent by the humour of their creatrix and protean figures become pure “poetry in wood”.

Everything proclaims the variety and diversity of Marie-Josée Kerschen and the plenitude of her talents; but the pure, sober beauty of her works should also be mentioned, their elegance, their concentrated power, the diversity and richness of poses or the intensity of movements.

Here, a consummate art serves an imaginative world and an expressiveness which contain a universal truth.

In this, the works go beyond the purely “narrative” to acquire a symbolic dimension. They call to us like Sirens and their hymn of life, transformed into art, also touches our own experience. We should respond.

We should be grateful to Marie-Josée Kerschen for offering us the possibility of sharing her universe.

Guy Wagner (2000)

English adaptation: Ariel Wagner-Parker