Sketcher and painter, sculptor and installation artist, Marjolaine Dégremont conjures up an intermediate universe (…) between reality and fiction (…) The visual expression is always understated: sculptures in white plaster and fine materials; drawings that refer to and combine floral motifs and textile themes; in situ installations face on that enable the viewer to move about in spaces that breathe, and in which we are free to meditate, step back, escape for a moment from the turmoil of the world. This is creation that rejects raw realism, that inclines to metaphysics, and that advocates the virtues of ‘thoughtful’ art (…)

What is it about, as near as we can tell? Dégremont’s artistic universe is characterized by fragilities.

Fragility of what is human, evoked in filigree by abstract drawings that use soft lines and uterine patterns. Fragility too of what Cesare Pavese called the ‘craft of living’, evoked in installations where the theme of refuge is persistent, that abound in tent canvas to seal us off, and in cabins perched on tall swaying stems that remind us of the ever-present risk of falling. Fragility again in environmental balances, evoked by the artist in sculptures that confine their expression to simple trellises inserted in a natural setting, like punctuation marks, as airborne as an insect sitting on the surface of water, ‘for fear of breaking it by making too much noise’, as the poet says.

Does humanity need help then, shelter, sanctuary? These sculptures whose shell shapes suggest the canoe, the husk of a fruit, a carapace, a skin outside the skin.

Marjolaine Dégremont is an artist whose creation evokes (…) the ‘vulnerable’ human world (…)

Her visual production bears out this intuition, coming as it does from a person who is committed (with Act Up, in particular), who marks her distance from ‘pleasant style’ in favour of plastic expression that is efficient, in which form, statement and sense acquire, together, a mental vocation (…)

The rule at work here is aesthetics that combine visual expression and thought focused on human failings and our need for security.

By reiterating both the idiom and image of refuge (cabins, shelters, installations that occupy residual corners, zones of confinement…)

Dégremont’s work constantly reminds us of what we so often pretend to ignore: this world of ours is not always ours. Unable to live in it as we would like to, unable to escape from it, at times we need to build or have built for us a  Kafka-like ‘foxhole’, a safe zone, a panic room where even if we can’t regenerate we can at least benefit from temporary peace.

To live is – also – the ability to find protection, shelter.

‘Cabanes perchées où Des journées entières dans les arbres’ is the artist’s project for the 2022 season at the Friche de l’Escalette, an in-situ installation that is extended without contradicting its prior intentions.

Today, what with the sea, the sun, the blue sky and the song of cicadas in the pines, these ruins exude a peaceful atmosphere, but this has not always been so.

This is a place that has a hard past, since it was once a metal-extracting factory where lead ore was handled – a highly toxic activity that saw generations of poor labourers, most of them Italian, going home to their old country with ‘lead sickness’, saturnism.

Amid this perimeter (…) with its sad past Marjolaine Dégremont takes over an area of some 100 m2 that was once a workplace. Firstof all, she began by ‘putting in white’. Severaltrenches and stone bases were whitewashed, as if to cover them with a symbolic mantle of purity (…); then she added a number of cabins perched high, also white, all in a state of disbalance as if about to pitch over, like Giacometti’s Falling man (…)

The entire visit takes place on foot moving inside the installation, in the manner of an allegorical immersion in a environment that both threatens and redeems, so removed from human civilization that only an artistic intervention can resolve it, by recycling it, and by saving it too (…)

Paul Ardenne is a writer and art historian. His books include Art, le présent (Regard, 2010) and Un Art écologique. Création plasticienne et anthropocène (La Muette/BDL, 2018)