For the artist Cécile Raynal, sculpture is a way of exploring the world between documentary and fiction. Working with clay, she has an ability for improvisation and a remarkable finesse in the detail of its expressions. Focusing on the human portrait, she captures both encounters with her subjects and where these encounters happen.
Her latest body of work is currently on view at Arts et Metiers Museum in Paris. Titled Petites histoires en reserve, the exhibition will bring together thirty sculptures that the artist created during her residency at CNAM and the museum reserves.
Between February and September 2017, the sculptor Cécile Raynal set up her studio between the reserves of the museum and the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM).
While doing her residency, the artist produced a series of sculpted portraits, modeled after the staff of the museum and the staff and students of CNAM. During their encounters, she asked each person to name an object from the collections that contains a trace of memory or a piece of identity, both poetic or imaginary. These works are the results of her exchange with these models, creating both witnesses and memories of these meetings.
The project was born from the desire to connect the different facilities of the museum and the CNAM campus in Saint-Denis, where the staff usually do not intersect. With her work, Raynal gives another reading of this institution.
The exhibition brings together thirty portraits of men and women, accompanied by representations of objects and animals. Works are accompanied by texts extracted from the artist's logbook. Each work tells a story of the meeting that took place at CNAM, placing memory as their common thread.
For Cécile Raynal, a sculptural piece offers a possibility of traveling the world, finding its origins and structure in a supremely documentary register.
She often sets up her studio in remote and forgotten places, such as prisons, retirement homes, convents or hospitals, and renders those places in clay. She invites the inhabitants to pose for her, fully capturing these meetings while she sculpts their portraits. She creates a totemic record of the exchanges and correspondence that resulted from her encounters.
Working in clay, she gives her chosen medium a great amplitude of motion. She uses the heating method on her clay works that imparts a black, grey and metallic feature that makes it difficult to determine what the sculptures are made from.
The artist is represented by Artistics Online Gallery.
The exhibition Petites histoires en reserve will be on view at the Arts et Metiers Museum in Paris until August 26th, 2018.
It will be accompanied by the publication Mémoires de Braise, published by Privat, which traces the last ten years of the unusual career of the artist who alternates work in her studio and immersions in singular places. The last chapter of the book is dedicated to Raynal's residency at Arts et Metiers Museum and CNAM.
Featured images: Cécile Raynal, Installation View. Photo by Sonia Rameau. All images courtesy of Arts et Metiers Museum.