©Severinne Oppliger

Valérie Favre

Art is not comfortable.

For years I’ve been working on a structure in which cycles are created not as a linear addition of pictures but function like a spiral.

The painter Valérie Favre, from the French part of Switzerland, is internationally known for the mythical creatures and figures that populate her series of oil paintings. Her compositions are characterized by a fictional world full of unrest, contradiction, and contrast. Her expressive, dynamic paintings critically examine motifs and images from art history and literature. Favre “builds” structures by working in parallel on various overlapping groups of works over several years. For her, painting is a radical way of “thinking world.” After starting out in theater and film, she began at the end of the 1980s to concentrate on the medium of painting within an art discourse dominated by conceptualism and minimalism. She caused a sensation in France with her paintings of dresses without bodies in Robes Rouges (Red Dresses, 1994–1996) and quickly became a renowned feminist artist. One of her most striking visual inventions is the Lapine Univers (Universal Rabbit, 2001–2012), a hybrid female figure with long rabbit ears – heroine and antiheroine in one. Work on a series can span ten years or more, as in Suicide (2003–2013). She translates this complex theme into painting in a lexical form with depictions of suicides in over one hundred variations.

Favre’s strategy of re-enactment can be found not only in the appropriation of motifs from the history of painting such as Goya’s Flight of the Witches in the series Ghosts (2012–2016), but also in her series Self-Portrait as Hugo Ball (2016–2019), where she re-enacts the iconic photograph of the Dadaist at Cabaret Voltaire. Favre often addresses experiences that have coalesced into archetypes as in Der Dritte Bruder Grimm (The Third Brother Grimm, 2004–2007), or Redescriptions (2007–2008), which in turn appear in her large-format triptychs Théâtres (2009–2017). Titles of cycles such as Die Henkerin (The Female Executioner, 2008–2009), Kakerlake (Cockroach, 2008–2010), Fragmente/Kosmos/Universum (Fragments/Cosmos/Universe, 2019–2020) or Le Bateau des Poètes (The Poets’ Boat, 2020–2022) are not only substantive references to her thinking, but also poetic extensions of her paintings. As a counterpoint, she creates ritualized work which includes the element of chance, as in Balls and Tunnels (since 1995). Chance also plays a role in the use of her working instrument, La Poulinière (The Broodmare), which refers to Marcel Duchamp 3 stoppages étalon and features several aspects, such as defining a time factor for the painterly process.

Born in Switzerland and now working in Berlin and Neuchâtel, Favre has been a professor of painting at the Berlin University of the Arts since 2006. In 2012 she was nominated for the Prix Marcel Duchamp in France. Her work has been on view at such venues as the Sprengel Museum Hannover (2020), Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne (2018), Musée d’art Neuchâtel (2017), Von der Heydt Kunsthalle Wuppertal-Barmen (2016/2017), Franz Gertsch Museum, Burgdorf (2016), Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Strasbourg (2015), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (2013), K21 Düsseldorf (2010/2011), Kunstmuseum Luzern (2009/2010), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2009), Carré d’Art, Nîmes (2008), Haus am Waldsee, Berlin (2006), and Musée de Picardie, Amiens (2004). Valérie Favre was born in 1959 in Evilard, Switzerland. She lives in Neuchâtel and Berlin.