In the exhibition, L’eau souillée est devenue poussière bleue sous les rayons du soleil [The Polluted Water Became Blue Dust in the Sunlight], Dominique Sirois summons the Greek myth of Danaë, expressing it through various female avatars, akin to ready-to-wear corporeal fragments, inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The exhibition at DRAC, on which Sirois has worked in collaboration with curator Jean-Michel Quirion for several years, is divided into two bodies of work that refer to different plant seeds (over)used for their pigments to make dyes, in particular indigo (denim blue) and safflower or saffron (hermit’s tunic). Indigo blue, a hue that has stained the colonial, capitalist, and consumerist past, is the predominant colour of the glazed ceramics in the series La femme de Nîmes [The Woman from
Nîmes] (2021–2022), a series rooted in working- class origins and installed first part of the art centre. A symbol of slavery and exploitation, of the harvesting of true indigo to mass-produce the pigment, and of the (over)planting of cotton monoculture, (denim) blue acts as a filter for reading the ecolo-econo-ethico-historico-mythico-social references of this exhibition. An emblematic commodity of 1960s popular culture, sexual freedom (even hypersexualization), the liberation of the social classes, and the rebellions against identity and gender markers of the 1970s, blue jeans continue to raise important issues today. The blue dust, the
pigment in question, is found in the waterways near massive industries. The most obvious example, which ostensibly inspired Sirois, is the Chinese city of Xintang whose surrounding water systems are tainted with blue dye. In this sense, the contaminated water possesses a double power: it can destroy yet still nourish a disturbed ecosystem. Near textile mills, the shores of rivers and streams, especially the soil, become permanently contaminated. In the exhibition, the material of denim—and its various representations—is evoked in the textures, simulating its colour and fibre, of the ceramic sculptures or dried vats that make up the installation, as well as in the unusual display tables, Swet (2022), covered with blue cotton. The anatomies of the works revive the mythical image of Danaë and her imprisonment by her father Acrisius who hoped to thwart a prophesy that her son would kill him. Shut up in a tower, Danaë was nonetheless impregnated by Zeus in the form of a golden shower. Depicted throughout art history as gold coins falling on the body of a naked woman in an allegory of fertility, the myth is revived here from the perspective of hypersexualization. With their unexpected curves, the works, akin to bodily fragments, project sensuality. They hold old Chinese coins, signs of global capitalism and an extreme logic of supply and overabundance. Sirois is also interested in the possible instability of the material. The corporeal compositions
elicit lingering sensations. They all share a precarious position that is perceptible in the fragile treatment of the clay. Sirois mainly used modelling clay to create her hybrid-monolithic women with polymorphic textures—sharp, ribbed, striated, speckled, twisted—which are then covered with a pearly-blue ceramic glaze. With their morphological reliefs and sibylline motifs, the result of latent manipulations of assembling, shaping, and casting, the works are made through economical and meticulous gestures.
In the subsequent saffron-coloured staging, the ceramics of Sirois’s most recent series, La Femme chenille [The Caterpillar Woman] (2021–2022), are placed on yoga mats and interwoven with works of artist-activist kimura byol-nathalie lemoine, which present an impressive collection of seeds related to byol-nathalie lemoine’s migration. The seeds duly selected by the two artists are assembled into an enormous mosaic of translucent sachets hung in the exhibition centre. A tension is established between form and function. The imagery of the serpentine caterpillar that Sirois embraces holds the potential for metamorphosis, especially of identity.
Her treatment of these half-insect, half-human creatures evokes the texture of bronze and the cycle of transforming metals. Inside the sanctuary simulated at DRAC, a spiritual dimension develops amid the capitalist stronghold of Monsanto and ecofeminism, in the words of philosopher Rosi Braidotti. Sirois’s sculptures, Figures du nomadisme [Nomadic Figures] (2022), alongside byol-nathalie lemoine’s “hatching” propositions seem to abandon their presence as though they have just been unearthed or planted; excavations that deliver messages from past civilizations or timeless seeds conducive to growing other types of historicity. The soil, a fundamental element of the works, holds life and death in constant coexistence. Clay offers a malleable material for shaping infinite meanings. Symbolically,
the reliefs in the enamel evoke layers of referents to minerals and plants included directly in the exhibition. While L’eau souillée est devenue poussière
bleue sous les rayons du soleil may suggest an overwhelming solar energy, ultimately this light can be considered a vital force. In the midst of the diptych, the sun follows a path into metatransfigured bodies like an ambiguous force revealing a final beginning.