The Art of Dialogue
Ange & Damnation speak with two voices.
We met in 1982 at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. We were in the same workshops in modeling and working with concrete. We were both inspired by the baroque and by Michelangelo, by dreams of travel, and also by angels- these beings with their rosy flesh, their wings, their undifferentiated sex; close to humans but transcending humanity. With our first joint efforts, especially theater and television decors, we quickly realized that what we both liked best was working together in full equality, literally two heads and four hands. What inspires us today and has never ceased inspiring us is the shared desire of the ‘making’, the shaping of the material- always with as much joy and pleasure as possible. This doesn’t mean that one doesn’t reflect on the work, but that this reflection is inseparable from the act of fabrication. We search in the making. Together. We are sculptors.
Ange & Damnation was born in 1986. We had begun to travel in Africa, in India, to Brazil with a growing pleasure in mixing influences, styles, and materials. We decided to live from our art. This name announced that our angels were profoundly hybrid and were a revision of, a liberation from, the misogynist and racist Christian iconography. We didn’t foresee the perennial question: ‘Which one is Ange? Who is Damnation?’ We don’t know how to respond because we’ve never felt the need to define our respective roles. We’ve never felt our personal identity limited or threatened by this duality. On the contrary: this daily dialogue based on complete mutual confidence, gives us more strength, more ideas, more energy. It has doubtlessly protected us from the precarity of the artist’s life.
“Lines and Curves”
The angels have never left us, nor the love of those bellies and asses so sweetly round. Our large feminine colored figures, like the ones we hung in the Chapelle de la Salpetriere in Paris for our first big show in 1991, were often compared to the work of Nikki de Saint-Phalle. But we really take as our reference African art, art brut, Picasso, Matisse, Gaston Chaissac... We are led by the desire to make an art figurative, sensual, even playful- we try to make serious work, but without taking ourselves too seriously.
All material welcome
Probably the greatest evolution in our work has been in the materials we use. Beginning with polystyrene covered with papier-mâché and paint, we moved to wood and bronze cast from wax models by a founder from Burkina-Faso. Recycling images has been a constant. We used religious bibelots and dime store stuff chosen because of the color or the kitsch value. But now, undoubtedly influenced by our strong ties to Africa, objects from nature have taken a greater importance: drift wood, bones, rocks, feathers, plant seeds and stems (even if we still use iron or aluminum). As always, this is less a result of deliberation than a product of the work itself. For example, during a residency in a village in the Charente, the idea to sculpt in wood came directly from the joists of a burned down church. Or, during another residency in Marrakech, we confronted the fact that Islam forbids the representation of the saints in human form by moving toward more abstraction. There we also discovered the evocative power of found wood.
Art for All
We are engaged artists in the sense that our work is an expression of the causes that move us: feminism, ecology, the plight of the ‘sans-papiers’ in Europe, denunciation of excision and child-soldiers in Africa. We don’t see our work as separate from the world or its peoples. This is why our workshop in Paris is open to the street in one of the most culturally mixed neighborhoods of the city. We are also more and more involved in Burkina, at Bobo-Dioulasso, where we have an atelier that is also a place for creation with others.
Since we have stayed more or less on the margins of the art market, it is our relation with the public that constantly nourishes and supports us. This is the source of recognition that is the most important to us. As long as we are able to grow with others in our pleasure to invent and create, we can put up with our precarious financial life. Graffiti found one day on a wall sums up our desire for collectivity: “An artist has not only her own intelligence at her disposition, but also that of her friends”.
Interview by Irène Berelowitch
Translated by Bruce Ritz