Daphne growing roots from her head or Corona’s crowns

In the oddest study entitled Eros couronné de roses 12, a fragile triptych composed of three-drawings on a wall, what we guess is a man is holding the naked body of woman, an inert and amputated mass slipping toward the ground. Although his eyes are barely sketched, he is looking at the black shape that flows from the left angle of the first drawing, and so does the woman who seems suspended to it. Unless it is a person hung upside down, ancient memory of ignominious images evoking condemnations for serious misconducts, this obscure mass, shapeless shape going from the sky to the ground in a black, viscous and vicious mudslide, is the origin of everything that happens on the right hand. Running in between the woman’s legs, it turns into a mysterious bleeding. It then migrates to a monstrous tree, which, in-between the first and second part of the study, fights not to fall down with its head and legs stretched and its grotesque silhouette turning the free evocation of the Adam and Eve theme into a children’s tale. In the effort of the tree to weight against its fall, otherwise indifferent to the original figures it is about to smash, one would swear it is the spurt of greyish fluid coming from this phantasmagoric genitals that keeps it standing. Whether piss or sperm, this spurt has watered the soil and given life to a snake. These motifs we glimpse more than actually see, seem like fugitive and changing formations even though they engage deep forces which painful origin might come from uprootedness.

A tree fights not to fall. Yarns twist around the extremities of its fantastic excrescences, entangled clumps, both shackles and chaos from which everything can arise. This small yet central study shows that, for Paz Corona, roots are not longer related to the ground. They come from heads and hands confusingly projecting themselves in a world of representations.

Since this study, stumps and roots proliferate. They appear in rough dressmaker pen drawings, in pencil and ink ones, and up to paintings where barely sketched faces emerge from black ink stains. The drawing pulls on yarns from this opaque and knotted stump not to capture an image, but to chase after it. They have a beginning but no definite end. At some point, the artist’s hand interrupts the chasing and stops the impulse. Each work represents an incomplete metamorphosis. Even though Paz Corona gives them different names (Eros, Mem, Oro), they are all figures of Daphne rooted in some evanescent source, which keeps them anchored on one hand, whether from the background or an edge, while they unfold, vanish and disappear on the foreground, toward us and the real space on another hand.

In these figures, our attention is caught by what roots them here, embedded in the sheet of paper: this opaque and diffuse mass that holds and releases forces. It comes back from one work to another, persisting yet always changing, defining from its own density that of the objects it seems to originate. Black ink stain circled by a magnificent daub (Eros couronné de roses 7), it works as the helmeted head of a nude figure, which entire pose enhances. In Eros 5, it gets tangled in fantastic, compact and muddled hair, and falls in whitish cascades on the model’s back and torso, maintaining the body in a disturbing net. It is the same ink stain that holds the loosen head of a misshapen and shaking bust, and seems to protect it from its ageing body (Eros 3). Here, the mass splits up, black hair-helmet overhanging on an unraveled aureole. Some monstrous legs vainly try to catch this halo.

What we thought to be hair-dos or extravagant headdresses (the Eros series, in particular Eros 2 and Eros 5, as well as Eros couronné de roses) happens to be the same magmatic source from which the entire body shape originates, a body without unity or homogeneity in that it follows the trajectory of the stroke and its own changing energy. The pulling of yarns from the head unfolds it. More or less thin and unknotted yarns, some translucent and others totally opaque, some bypassing and playing with or against others, like in Eros couronné de roses 8. Straightforward and immediate gestures as well as powerful pencil strokes reveal these bodies as if sketched in a hurry. Strong but ephemeral presence, transitory state of being, incomplete composition in which a beautiful anatomy is faced with the ghost of its distortion and dissolution.

As Marianne or Medusa, from one portrait to another, Paz Corona surfaces in both bodies and faces, as if all figures, persons or characters, partly absorbed her. She shows through without imposing herself or intruding. It is always her but not entirely. She does not seek to catch her own resemblance but rather to materialize an encounter that transcribes into a subtle fusion enabled by her strokes and touch as well as this recurrent shapeless mass, the creative origin. Through the image of other figures who seem to come from ancient paintings, the substance of Daphne however remains.

What is the encounter about? What or who does she meet? One being at a time – on the exception of the Eros couronné de rose 12 triptych, which makes sense since it is the myth of the origins- but also the entire story of painted figures and of those who painted them. In her workshop, one portrait calls up another (Mem 4): Berthe Morisot painted by Manet for example stands alongside a Gorgon wearing a nymph mask (Oro 6). Here, a Delacroix-inspired posture (Eros 2); there, a dancer reminiscent of Degas (Mem 1). They are individual and intimate encounters with art history absorbed by the artist’s repeated, common and generic strokes and that she appropriates through her touch.

Paz Corona is only at the beginning of a body of work that could quietly embrace entire sections of art history. The pleasure she feels when looking at others’ artworks shows in her owns: a physical but also mental pleasure. She is not interested in the relevance or irrelevance of painting. She does not seek to position herself in regard to the artists she admires, whether dead or alive, since her most intimate desire seems to convoke them her own way. They stand before us, like vague or distant memories that emerge along with strokes and stains. The artist absorbs styles, manieras, motifs and periods with avidity and let them merge inside. From a very 19th century portrait (Mem 4), the one “as Berthe”, to that with a smile (Oro 2), both glamorous and tense (Oro 2), obviously painted from a photograph, through the nymph-Gorgon (Oro 6) which face moved to the left dissolves into paint like an Ophelia, Paz Corona uses her body and face as the subject and material of a metamorphosis rather than a self-portrait. What she shows us is a representation always haunted by another: fragmentary, fleeting and vibrant yet on the fringe of disappearance.

In the most unsettling of her portraits (Oro 3), it is not her body or her face that she shapes and distorts while controlling her stroke or following it, or that she dissolves into paint and washings. A young man embraces the space before him. An immense kindness in a subtle yet determined impulse. He does not stand in front of us. He is somehow above and leans toward us, transformed against his will into a protective giant. The image comes apart as we get closer and his face literally melts into paint, swallowing his features in its own meanders. As if he had been painted from very close, his different parts are slightly off in regard to one another, with an imperceptible distortion of the nose, the eyes, the mouth and the chin in the middle of a luminous flesh mask.

On closer look, this image could very well be painted from a random “selfie”. By creating a pictorial portrait of a contemporary young man’s photographic and digital self-portrait, Paz Corona gives him substance, reality and a striking quality of presence. By appropriating his reflection, she wards off the disappearance of the real being through putting his face in the history of painting. Oro 3 is the encounter between a photograph, an Andrea del Sarto-style mannerist painting from the 16th century, a post-impressionist approach and a vaguely fauvist color palette. This portrait of a young man seems from both ancient and present times, and is now from all times.

Catherine Bédard