Mousse: Nina Childress “LOBODY NOVES ME” at Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris

By Eric Troncy

Swedish actress Britt Ekland—the sex symbol and James Bond girl who married Peter Sellers in 1964, and was later the girlfriend of Rod Stewart, to whom she was introduced by Joan Collins—was one of the most photographed celebrities of the 1960s. This author of the beauty and fitness handbook Sensual Beauty: And How to Achieve It (1984), whose face was remarkably altered by plastic surgery at age fifty, is a figure that Nina Childress painted repeatedly. It is she who appears on the leaflet for the artist’s exhibition at the Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard, entitled “Lobody Noves Me”. If one wants to “make the painting speak”, there is material for imagining all kinds of things with Britt Ekland and the pantheon of figures populating the work of Nina Childress: people who had established an image, often musicians—Cher, Karen Cheryl, Kate Bush, France Gall—supposing that this list has meaning. They are familiar faces that inspire all kinds of stories, reflections, considerations and narrative bombs that are not necessarily destined to explode. Childress, who obviously finds obviousness boring, is always quick to explain: “As far as I’m concerned, my purpose is not to create universal, sublime, essential, intelligent painting, so all I have left is the freedom to do what I want: that sometimes means painting any old thing in any old way1”. And: “One can paint anything, and I even tend to think that it’s better to paint any old thing if you want the painting to be a bit exciting”. One understands that the subject must not overstep its “background” position, and one also no doubt understands that she is tired of seeing today’s painting (along with all other mediums) often reduced to its subject, to its immediate meanings, to its benevolent messages. One must not expect Nina to follow that path: “Politics, sociology, feminism and eroticism are subjects that don’t really interest me… and I’m nowhere near using LCD screens”. She defines herself as an “artiste peintre” (literally “painter artist”), deliberately employing an old-fashioned French term that first and foremost expresses a categorical refusal to yield to the sirens of the era—so, there will not be any LCD screens. If her painting must have a subject, it is painting itself—obviously.

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April 15, 2020