“How do we recognize a work of art? How do we separate it, for even an instant, from its scholarly apparatus, its commentators, its tireless plagiarists, from those who disdain it, from its final fate of solitude? It’s easy. We must translate it.” (Roberto Bolano, 1953–2003)
Contemporary art, it seems to me, feeds into a misunderstanding: that critical discourse – the constant discussion at conferences, in scholarly journals, on university programs, and too many other places to name – takes precedence over the artwork.
France Jodoin is a self-taught painter in the noblest sense of the term; she learned to paint by painting, by trial and error. She did not attend great art schools, nor has she sought to hold forth on, explain, or justify her work. What is there, is there.
She explores simply, with the hope – as I imagine it, in any case – of finding something. But what? A sense of well-being? The sense of satisfaction that one might experience when one feels that one has completed a painting? Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. Satisfaction is a strange thing; it can be quickly snuffed out. Yes… no, that’s not it… not yet. So, one must start again, get back to it, rework it. Paint again. Without self-censoring. Painting and learning to paint, still and always. Seizing the moment.
In the artist’s studio, everything seems to be in its place: tables, canvases, stretchers, tubes of paints, an armchair to rest in, to catch one’s breath. A few paintings, lying on the floor, evoke seascapes or a view of a city situated on the seashore. Here, one could imagine the Newfoundland coast. There, we are somewhere else completely: Venice, perhaps. In fact, it’s not terribly important. We find ourselves less in the realm of representation than in that of feeling, suggestion, intuition. The gaze into the distance, the gaze upon oneself.
Intuition. Yes, I know, the idea might make some smile. Unfortunately, there are many cynical people these days, for whom intuition seems to be suspect, not very serious – if not totally passé. Yet intuition is that which touches, which gives access to an inner path that leads toward the real. It is the perfectly unique emotion that belongs only to oneself. Intuition is that which disturbs, causes upheaval, irritates, and brings deep peace. It is only afterward that words give it form and meaning.
It should be said that France Jodoin’s first trade was translation. Translators are like messengers: they effect a passage from one state to another – from one language to another.
Today, she finds in painting a new way to translate – not the words of others but her own. The medium has changed, but not the intention, which is to connect, in the most intimate sense, with the meaning and essence of inner language. What is found in the heart, in the core, and is called… intuition.