Preface by Frédérique-Anne Oudin (2020)
Like Colette with literature, Claudine Loquen makes her painting, "of the human face, especially the feminine, her favourite landscape". Canvas after canvas, figure after figure, with the meticulousness of a lace-maker, she draws the map with the moving borders of a paradoxical territory: at the same time, geographical and cultural, real and imaginary, intimate and shared.
For several years now, this landscape has for her, the contours of Normandy, the cradle of her ancestors: embroiderers, liners, weavers, simple lives that Flaubert could have written. Claudine Loquen pays them a discreet homage with the fabrics and lace she integrates into her paintings. On this Norman land where she was born, spent part of her youth and where she returned to finally settle unknowingly in the village of one of her ancestors, the artist develops her roots in a rhizome, weaving in this space the network that links her beyond time to those who came before her. The cities of Rouen and Le Havre where she lived take her in the footsteps of Simone de Beauvoir who taught there. The land of Caux, her native land, brings her back to Flaubert from which she borrows her heroines. Claudine Loquen draws her subjects from a cultural soil of history, tales and literature and leads us through a common door into a deeply intimate work, perhaps as personal as that of Frida Kahlo.
About her painting The Two Frida, the Mexican artist writes in her diary that she always invented a double, an imaginary friend who kept her company and helped her to face her problems. Claudine Loquen did not have to imagine this double. When she was born, in 1965, into a family that already had a daughter, she was accompanied by her twin. She will have a fusional relationship with her twin, developing a form of cryptophasia, a language specific to twins.
This particular family composition permeates Claudine's painting, just as the family unconscious permeates our photo albums. Her childhood, which she describes as studious and austere, marked by numerous moves, finds an echo in her painting where the number three seems to dominate. It presides when the subject is a trio of characters: Boudica and her daughters, the three members of the Malian family, those of the Bovary family. He sets the rhythm of the canvas repeating three times, a motif or a detail in the characters' costumes. He organises the distribution of the elements by forming a trio within a larger group. In the painting entitled Tournament of Wolves, three black wolves form the lines of force in the painting, dividing the characters into two groups of three women at the top and bottom of the canvas.
Thematically, the artist explores all modalities of sorority life, from the Lampérière sisters to the Beauvoir sisters. And although it is only directly evoked in one painting entitled Jumelles, the question of the double and the twin, crosses imperceptibly through all of Claudine's painting. Insensibly, because it takes time of observation to see beyond the doll's faces painted flat, a sharper resemblance between two characters. This play of mirrors in the composition of the painting brings out a mystery, an unspeakable disturbance in the viewer. In the painting Martre Lucas peintre, the question of the double joins that of painting. The model and her portrait form a sort of twin couple, to which the duo formed by the two figures in profile: Martha in her painting and the girl at the bottom of the canvas respond. But the perception of this second couple is disturbed by the presence of a third character forming a trio to which the trio of wolves at the bottom of the painting responds.
In the staging of these singular family portraits, wolves and birds with surprisingly anthropomorphic looks accompany the humans. They are the most salient vector of trouble and strangeness. Pulling the painting towards the fantasy of tales, they open a window in the space of the canvas in the image of the medallions that Claudine Loquen sometimes introduces to tell the dream, the secret, the other side of reality, beyond appearances. Surrounding the characters, they seem to be part of the set, but in reality they are the discreet organisers of the scene, the bearers of movement in this floating universe with chagalline accents. When often, the main subject of the painting poses, immobile, wise and dreamy at the centre of the composition.
Falsely naïve, Claudine Loquen's heroines look at us as much as we look at them. And by what mysterious path does the presence of these glances bring us back to the portraits of the Fayoum? Like these funerary portraits of ancient Egypt, Claudine's paintings give a face to an absence. They are the guardians of an individual and collective memory, sometimes selective, of a history that would need to be rewritten differently.
From this word history, the artist explores all the senses. Blending myths, the imagination of tales and children's games with the great story. She revisits one by the yardstick of the other, summoning in turn in a very personal rewriting, real or fictitious figures, great destinies and tiny lives. Claudine is particularly attached to those whom History with its great axe has erased from the painting, the Marthe Lucas, the Sophie Blanchard. She makes Branwell, the cursed brother of the Brönté sisters, reappear when he himself has erased himself from the famous painting where he represented his three sisters. He is one of the rare male figures in this work in which the expression of a feminine, not to say the expression of feminism, seems to be the trigger for the act of painting.
This feminist commitment, which finds its voice in painting, is nourished as much by the lives it highlights as by the experiences of the artist's young adult life. In her path, pictorial creation comes like a breath, an additional dimension in a reality that is too narrow and too unequal. Claudine Loquen makes of her painting the space of the Other, at the same time the space of another world and the emergence in reality of an otherness through the restitution of a face that commands me to consider it. But choosing to treat her subjects in a naïve mode of representation where the particularism of the features is abolished, she succeeds in the tour de force of making an otherness emerge while handing us a mirror that reminds us that Madame Bovary is her, it is us.