At the speed of a still life…

Following her studies at the École des Beaux-arts, very little came between Valérie Sonnier’s preliminary drawings and a clear cinematographic inclination which would inspire her to film what she had previously drawn both poetically and conscientiously. The translation of these two mediums from one to the other, which equally translated an understanding of the world, came to her naturally and effortlessly.
However these images, with which she filled an old accounts book, show familiar environments harshly torn apart, imposed upon by dense traces of branches and leaves, each produced with the upmost precision and each dedicated to memories, images drawn like intimate postcards, smudged, alive, and haunted…
The result is work that is not introvert but rather alive, worrying and above all profound.
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A fundamental indecision persists in the images that capture Valérie Sonnier between a lifeless and sleeping world (drawings,paintings, videos captured in acrylic) and a worrying yet always lively universe (vibrant “family films” oscillating between forgotten memories and the excitement of experimental film). Neither the memory of a “drooling” Burkhardt painting in “Alabama Square”, during the 40s/50, in which an 8mm film is reproduced in unforseen photochemical painting of the time, nor the insatiable, phenomenological vision of Marie Menken in “Glimpses in the garden” are foreign to this connection to which Sonnier belongs and yet, when i met her, of which she denies the existence.
For Sonnier, drawing does not serve as a storyboard or the quiet makings of a future film. The speed of her filming eye in her family garden does not contradict the objective consideration that is so clearly apparent in some of the canvases she continues to paint in her studio. A video reproduced in acrylic evokes for her an entirely different technique, an entirely different “video thickness” which brings to life, for example, the archetypal and erotic scene of a group of children “playing at being doctors”.
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A wooden toy, a small transporter lorry, in which could be found a cinematic eye had, up until now, been ignored. This film takes on the form of a series of erratic and quasi-expressionist silhouettes as soon as the lorry/the visionnary sets off, taking the spectator on a journey across brambles, pebbles, through hedges and uncared-for trees. The mortal aspect of everything has become her vibrant source of inspiration.
The drawing dissolves within, transforming into hazy cinematographic lines.
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It is remarkable to see the resistance of this garden but also to sense, despite it’s apparent degradation, just how many secrets it holds and, equally, the nature and memories it continues to preserve. The success of the work is thanks to the resistance of the garden.
In reality, it is not so much childhood, in which the artist is seen dressed up as a little fairy whilst her grandmother films her in front of a Christmas tree, but rather time itself which today provides the substance of Valérie Sonnier’s work.
Obscurity, immobility and intense speed are preserved.
As time goes by it is also the unsaid, the underlying core of all life, but also death itself that intrigues the artist. As if this death, a still life that is indeed so still, this uninterrupted prolongation of existence, did in fact have another life of its own. Another ‘reasoning’ that the artist tries to understand by looking beneath the surface.
The exciting escapades of a little lorry either in a garden or on the beach, or the fixed or animated still lifes of Valerie Sonnier are all infused with life…

Michèle Cohen Hadria

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