Vidya Gastaldon

Exhibition view Vidya Gastaldon 2006, photo: David Aebi

15. April – 18. June 2006


The Kunstmuseum Thun is presenting the first comprehensive solo exhibition of works by French artist Vidya Gastaldon (*1974), providing insight into her highly individual drawings and installations. Gastaldon's works exude cheerfulness; her pictorial worlds are filled with landscapes, rainbows, blossoms, hearts and Smileys. The artist does not shy away either from the supposedly childish or the apparently decorative. But by combining the most varied of elements in her drawings, objects and installations, and thus appealing to all too human longings, she propels her subjects forward. It would be much too inappropriate, therefore, to want to interpret her work as unrealistic sentimentality.

Gastaldon embroiders, knits, crochets, sews and composes model worlds out of textiles. Through these objects, some of which can be identified as stones, mushrooms or plants, she awakens memories. For example, Baba le Shaman (2002) – an ingenuous monster that is something between a ghost-train figure and an over-sized toy – alludes to a longing for the authentic and the human. In Gastaldon's work the fetishist quality of hand-made things leads directly to mysticism and spirituality, and her intention is to create objects that have a positive energy. All her works have a life-affirming, optimistic magnetism, are imbued with positive thinking.

Apparat-Dolly-Rocker (2004), a "costume d'apparat" or magnificent costume for a Porsche, occupies a special position in her work. Gastaldon dresses up the luxury car as a medieval tournament horse. As a result of this intervention, the Porsche, that lifestyle icon, is robbed of its function as a sports car. After all, in this dignified outfit, a fast ride would be inconceivable. The gown is both protection and decoration, and the same time, a soft, sensual covering, individualised and adorned with signs and symbols. The velvety throw has psychedelic rainbow motifs on the bonnet and imaginative coats-of-arms on the doors. Gastaldon turns the Porsche trademark – the rearing horse – into a laughing donkey, humorously debunking the prestigious logo.

Gastaldon's drawings can be deciphered in the same way. Formally, they are mostly small-scale landscapes, soft organic forms that get by with almost no sharply defined lines. In terms of content, these drawings are imaginative, and the formal is outshone: colourful bubbles grow out of a small piece of lawn, grey clouds rise up over a flat landscape. When creating her works, Gastaldon draws on a very personal and subjective system of multiple references and links, and treats signs from the spheres of religion, mysticism and everyday culture in a playful manner. This rather wild mixture can be understood as an attempt to develop a kind of universal pictorial idiom. The artist relies on the force of archaic symbols, and uses familiar motifs for recognizability and accessibility. In this effort to achieve understanding, the personal mutates into something generally human: the individual feature of Gastaldon's work is defined by this humanity and the world view it gives rise to. This latter is oriented around her experience with eastern religions. The artist works in a spirit of harmonious co-existence that is coupled with personal sincerity.

By contrast, Gastaldon makes no direct link with current art. And it is in fact difficult to categorise her work in the context of today's art. What sets her position apart in contemporary art is the absence of irony. Irony creates distance and facilitates a non-committal stance – which does not suit the seriousness of Gastaldon's work. Yet the artist is not alone when it comes to a subjectivist reflection on the world as manifest in the artwork. Today, many younger artists are turning their back on the ‘coolness’ of the 1990s and discovering an affinity with spirituality, irrationalism and nature mysticism. This neglect of the political and of external social realities leads to inner worlds, to an art that eschews direct confrontation, that neither criticises nor accuses. Instead, it renders inner pictorial worlds full of fantasy visible, cultivates a spiritual approach to reality, and shares the artists' own longings and dreams with the viewers, opening up a whole new perspectives on one's own existence.

Vidya Gastaldon was born in Besançon, France, in 1974; she lives and works in Geneva. To date, the artist's works have been shown in solo exhibitions, among others, at the Musee d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva (2005), the Centre d'art contemporain, Geneva (2003, 2001) and the Kunsthaus Glarus (2001, together with Jean-Michel Wicker), and at international group exhibitions such as the Biennale de Lyon (2005), the Tirennal Vilnius (2005), "Le voyage interieur Paris-London", Espace EDF Electra Pari (2005), "Herbstkatalog Lederfransen", Kunsthalle Basel (2004) and "COMMENT RESTER ZEN", Centre cultural Suisse, Paris (2003).

Catalogue (German/English/French)
edited by JRP Rinngier, ISBN (D) 3-905701-79-0, ISBN (E) 3-905701-69-3, ISBN (F) 2-940271-74-7, price: CHF 38.–

Parallel to the Vidya Gastaldon exhibition, the Kunsthaus Thun will be showing the video installation Osmosis and Excess (2005) by