Florence Corbi plays with fire. To fix the earth, to fix the ductile material. To make perennial forms that would otherwise fade away. Men have invented fire to defend themselves, the textbooks tell us. They invented it above all to remember, to preserve, to keep track, to perpetuate the present, to transmit, to defy the flow of the hourglass, to counteract death. The fire does not annihilate, the sculptors tell us, it solidifies our dreams and consolidates our hopes.
Florence Corbi is a great sculptor. She is the clay and the flame, the mud and the fire, Prometheus and Vulcan. She conjoins the elements - air, earth and fire. She designs clay shapes as men have done since the dawn of time, as children have been playing since their tenderest dawns. To knead, to shape, to grind, to press: the hands replay the same gestures, since always. First mornings in the world where the palm discovers the earth, aggregates, subtracts, snatches new forms from the real, still uncertain. To knead is to cherish, it is to take care, to have a cure, to have a charge of the soul - that of our chimeras.
Is there anyone more humble than the sculptor? Humility is humus, loam and black earth, the lowering to seize and kneeling to take it. To be humble is to come to earth. To carve is to kneel at the bedside, on the surface of the orb. It is to accept that things happen step by step, little by little; it is taking the paths of the crossings, daring turns and detours, tolerate failures, mishaps, cracks, subsidence and explosions.
The modeling pasta and the sandcastles taught us to our defending body: our works, even the most beautiful, threaten ruin.
Florence Corbi knows the properties of matter. She knows them by heart. She knows them from experience. Words are not useful The theory fails. Nothing is worth the knowledge experienced in the field, the empire of practice, the empirical life. Nothing can replace the job, the familiarity with the mud, the caress of the tool. Nothing can replace the oven door, which Florence can spend hours not to open, for fear of discovering what she loves without saying a word: the unexpected.
Auguste Rodin approved the random, Marcel Duchamp homologated the accident. Florence Corbi, following them, challenges chance. She does not repudiate it, no. Who could ever abolish chance? What a dice could stand up to it? No, to thwart chance is to accept it, to give it a good place, to spot it and then to revere it. It is, as Florence does, to bend her project in the name of contingency, when an event occurs, when something happens. Now, how many are the sailors capable of real bar-shots, the artillery capable of changing their tune, the beings endowed with a resolute wisdom? Who really knows, like Florence, venturing on the side of chance?
Life, Florence Corbi pays homage and justice by fire. Not that she burns her life - the arsonists and the artificers are makers - she just takes care of the living, she stirs its strength, she blows on the embers. Wearing clay dreams, she infuses buried forms. Incandescence is her kingdom. To death, to life.
And in her life, Florence does not speak much. Behind her silences and her misty eyes can be divined the breaches, the struggles, the spells of pain, the crevices without complacency, the sorrows without mercy, and the rays of light.
Her life, Florence changed her. No more grievances and surroundings. No more waves and numbers, allegiances and observances. No more work that takes away - from necessity and fidelity. No more false maneuvers, laborious chores, paradoxical injunctions. No more comedy.
"We're not going to earth by chance," murmurs Florence in a whisper. We guess it: if she goes to the clay, it is because she went to the ground. She put one knee on it, maybe two. It is because she was knelt by pain, kneeling under the weight of a story whose her ceramics are certainly the epiphany. To cook, to cauterize the faults.
Like Jean Carriès, Paul Gauguin, Ernest Chaplet and, more recently, Johan Creten or Thomas Schütte, Florence Corbi advances at a subdued pace. In Orleans, Dieppe or Saarbrücken, she exhibited her works and imposed the sovereignty of her profession, of her gifted ability. Allegro ma non troppo, because modeling, cooking and glazing proscribe eagerness and urgency. Adagio of the gesture. Always.
Its lactescent ceramics, which are porous like sugar, are actually hard like life. They coagulate the evanescence of time. They petrify the gaze and the elements, make them (at the) stone. Like the torrid compositions of Rachel Kneebone, which Florence loves so much.
Infinite mirage as these diaphanous crystals that do not want to crumble or break, that stand up to appearances. Here, the twigs are stakes, the splinters of the swords, the lamellae of the blades. The viewer should not touch, except to be wary of textures and skins. Reign of oxymoron, when creaminess is threatening, blunt hem and convulsive beauty.
Florence knows it: under its fractal sumptuousness, under its spongy sweetness, the mushroom can feed or kill. Every second. Like every second. The splendor is a dart, and the sculptor a “trompe-la-mort” who deceives the eye.
Sometimes a poisonous blue burst.
Malignant ink, evil azure.
Blue sky and hematoma.
Blue flower, flower of evil.
Blue flower of evil.
Florence does not work.
Her tools are similar to those of the surgeon.
Arranged in the grass or against a trunk, at the edge of trees or at the edge of a wood, the mushrooms of Florence Corbi are more real than life. Like the velvets of Ingres and the skins of Rembrandt, they are too beautiful to be true.
The reason is simple: Florence does not seek either photographic resemblance or optical deception. She never pursues strictly illusionistic virtuosity. No interest. What alchemist would condescend to be conjurer?
Moreover, these ivory mushrooms assume their porcelain nature. They are white, so white, too white. Of an immaculate and bloodless whiteness - that of virgins and corpses, innocent and moribund. Are they free of life or deserted by it? Is it before or after the blood of the tide? Is it the flow or the ebb of the world?
Beauty spreads, lethal beauty.
Ocean mystery of which only Florence holds the key.