As many artists who actually develop a kind of family relationship with their works, Elsa Sahal always call her sculptures by their names. When she talks about them, it sounds as if she is speaking of an old uncle or great-cousin. Like any family, this one includes great figures, disturbing characters, exotic members gone wild, and the latest additions, who leave older members of the family wondering what to do with them because they seem so unruly and rebellious.
A whole progeny born of the same soil. It is probably needless to emphasize how soil is the raw material of existence, whether considered from a religious or a scientific point of view: as soon as you engage with it, the plasticity of soil immediately projects you into the complex insanity of life. It’s a language whose rules all celebrate proliferation, a sort of sampled repetition of what the world constantly offers to our eyes, when we look at flowers, plants, fish, insects, and at ourselves, actors and voyeurs of this wide-spreading debauchery.
Born in 1975, in Bagnolet, France, Elsa graduated from the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 2000. In 2007, she did a residency in Sèvres, which allowed her to develop an enamelling practice involving high temperature firing.
One of her best known works, Fontaine, is from 2012 and has a manifest character which is perhaps the most narrative, the most talkative and the most feminist that she could make. “It’s a pissing figure, whose title is a snub to Marcel Duchamp’s urinal. In the continuous flow of the urine stream, there was the idea that little girls can piss thick, far, and continuously too. And that this, ironically, can happen in public space where only male urine is admitted! The pissing figure is a decidedly masculine motif in art history, which many female artists have diverted since the 1970s,” Elsa said.
This Summer, the fountains of the Place Royale in Nantes will welcome Fontain, presented as the feminist response to the Manneken-Pis, the famous bronze statuette very popular with Brussels tourists.