Artists Maude Léonard-Contant
Date 10.06.2023 - 17.09.2023
Curator Eveline Suter
Venue Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland
All images Courtesy by the artist and Kunstmuseum Luzern. Photo: Marc Latzel
Language is an important working material for Maude Léonard-Contant. Her mother tongue is French, she completed her studies in English and she has been engaging with German and Swiss German since coming to live in Switzerland. In her work she uses the shape of letters and words along with thematic aspects, as well as shifts and gaps that can arise between different languages.
For the exhibition, Maude Léonard-Contant intertwines language and tactile materials in her reflections on cultural belonging and knowledge of plants. Silk, leather and plants are subjected to significant pressure and shaped and changed. The leather is spanned over wooden forms, the plants pressed between the pages of thick dictionaries and the silk laid in folds. To do this, she resorts to time-honored craft techniques and traditional knowledge.
Maude Léonard-Contant has silk folded according to her specifications by the master pleater Karen Grigorian. The resulting accordion folds then become vessels for dried plant parts. The plants are selected according to their medicinal qualities and with reference to the artist’s biography. She collects the flowers, leaves and roots in the region around Basel and in Val Poschiavo, her current place of residence and the hometown of her partner. Her mother supplies her with herbs from the Saint Lawrence lowlands in Quebec. Maude Léonard-Contant’s mother gathers and cultivates medicinal plants. The violet, from which she makes a syrup to relieve her daughter’s voice loss, becomes the symbol of the exhibition. In Maude Léonard-Contant’s eyes, language and the world of plants stand for homeland and the feeling of belonging. On the one hand, this applies to her attachment to her own roots. On the other, learning a language and getting to know about a flora also facilitates the appropriation of the culture of a new homeland.
The leather is shaped into several identical objects using traditional processes from furniture manufacturing. Like a plant or a virus, these leather sculptures would seem to multiply. Being dark in colour, they act as points of emphasis, as well as functioning as constructive elements in the interplay with the silk fabric. The leather objects stand for the sealed or the mute, and depending on the angle of vision, are reminiscent of a fist, a boxing glove or a closed shell, especially when a piece of silk drifts away from it like holding threads or foam. One could also associate it with a bomb and fuse cord from an old cartoon, or with the furrowed brow of Philipp Guston’s figures. As a sculptor, Maude Léonard-Contant is keen to create a sculpture that is interesting from different angles and makes a different impression depending on the viewpoint and context.