Daisy Dog Days
I love you,
a little, a lot, passionately, madly, not at all
I love you
a little, a lot, passionately, madly, not at all
I love you, …
Dressed in a white synthetic silk dress, Daisy makes her declaration against a backdrop of millefleurs. Season after season, she plucks her crown of daisies and secretly spins out the shades of love, not so much to verify a supposed sentimental truth as to pass the time, to experience it. Two fingers grasp each immaculate petal and snap it away from a yellow heart full of stale promises.
HEART. This word applies to all sorts of movements and desires, but what is constant is that the heart becomes an object of gift - either ignored or rejected.
1. The heart is the organ of desire [...], as it is held, enchanted, within the in the field of the Imaginary. What will the world, what will the other do with my desire? That is the anxiety in which are gathered all the heart's movements, all the heart's ‘problems'. [...] (Roland Barthes, Fragments d'un discours amoureux, 1977)
CRISIS. The dog days of
August October have often spelled trouble for the world economy (The Economist, 17 August 2013 October 2023).
Bitch of a heatwave. From heatwaves to cold wars, thermal, seismic, political, cultural, social, economic and ecological shocks are raining down like cats and dogs. Out of control, the machinery jams.
Daisy is terribly hot. Her dress doesn't allow her translucent skin to breathe. Dizzy, she struggles to distinguish clearly the nature of the surrounding species that evolve around her and seem to melt into the background - the ultimate mode of predation. Between mimicry and reproduction, extraction and duplication, pretense and post-truth, confusion reigns. The senses are disturbed, emotions mixed, memories blurred.
The flow of things and time is interrupted, suspended. Freeze frame,
At her wits' end, Daisy is seized by an extra-sensory lucidity, an unprecedented realisation.
What has capitalist ideology done with her desire?
It has confiscated it, absorbed it. The lack that constitutes its very essence has been filled by a thousand things as objects of enjoyment as tangible as they are vain.* Communicating vessels in subliminal mode. Like almost everyone else, Daisy has let herself be seduced, she has let herself be ordered to squander her desire shamelessly. No return on investment. You play, you lose. Until one day...
It was time for Daisy to straighten herself out, before withering away on her own on behalf of a vast enterprise to which she thought she belonged. Or so she had been led to believe. A whitewashed lie. The decoy.
Heart palpitating, Daisy pulled herself together and opened her eyes. The sap of desire was flowing through her again. Isn't it wonderful? This time she's going to keep it well inside and distil it to good effect. She won't be caught out again. It's a matter of life and death.
Her only certainty. Her only desire.
Anne-Lou Vicente, October 2023
* « Surplus, the cause of the desire that an economy makes its principle: that of the extensive production, therefore insatiable, of that lack-in-jouissance. » Jacques Lacan, « Du discours psychanalytique », lecture at the university of Milan, 12 May 1972.
« Maria Szakats animates allegories of human nature with her new show at Galerie Chloé Salgado. The works synthesise two seemingly antithetical elements, the traditional handicraft of embroidery and the uncanny and warped precision of an impossible photography. The textiles presented use mohair yarn embroidered through printed found photographs, or AI-generated images. These punctured images are adhered onto needlepoint canvas, the resulting mohair imaging of the natural world achieves intricately detailed studies of birds, plants, and animals which are then vigorously brushed into abstracted motion. The Austrian artist’s first solo gallery show in France, the series of canvases presented in Mon seul désir demonstrate a compulsive creative practice. The methods used here render the artistic process an intricate layering of meticulous repetition carried out over hours, days and weeks.
This process runs in contradiction to Szakats’ past life as a fashion designer, of deadlines, delegation, and piecemeal production – here the artist’s eye and hand is present throughout the shaping and fabrication of the objects. A long, meditative method of creation that has a sense of the transcendental in the hours of repetitive piercing of colours into canvas forming blocks, then shapes, then formal interactions, which are then thrown into nauseating animation by the mohair brush. Szakats stretches her needlepoint canvases over handmade frames. Over the edges of the image, slipping down the sides are sections of colour, bright red, green, or black. The brushed yarn drags these liminal blocks of colour out from the canvas, giving framing to the works in splayed strands across the surrounding white of the wall around them. The effect of the brushed textile gives a sense of vertigo; a rushed still from a rapidly unfolding video, a sharp zoom into detail. It generates a sense of formal collapse in which the frozen moment of the artwork is caught in transition from an unseen past, to an unknowable future; a discursive representation of the passage of time.
The canvases depict allegorical engagements with human nature, following the traditions of medieval tapestry, where birds, dogs, and plant-life bear the brunt of narrative movement upon the textile. In doing so they do not present a dehumanised image of the world, but the eerie splitting of human interiors into an environment they have populated, broken, and yet persists around them. The smeared natures mortes bring the viewer to an interpretative pareidolia, for example in the morbid features of the monkey face orchids present in Monkey Face II, or snapdragon seed pods depicted in Snap Dragon II, which when dried take on the aspect of human skulls. These images, and this repetitive artistic process of hand and eye, is again present in the snapdragon skulls that leer out from printed lengths the artist has rolled onto the gallery walls.
The title of the show is derived from an inscription found in the series of six medieval tapestries named La Dame à la licorne produced around 1500 and held at the Musée de Cluny, Paris. Against a millefleurs background, the tapestries present an idyllic and contemplative series of natural scenes populated by allegorical plants and animals. At the centre of each is a drifting island with the central figure of the courtly woman, her lady-in-waiting, and the lion and unicorn that represent the family that commissioned the tapestries in a garden setting. The tapestries each depict one of the five senses, and the sixth bears the inscription “mon seul désir,” the sixth sense, the heart; the externalised projection of human interiority encapsulated in a sort of Bataillean “beloved.” The unicorn, an aggressive and violent mystical creature, is drawn there and tamed by the purity of the woman at the centre of the series, whereas the bodily senses depicted in the others are presented as an empirical world to be eschewed. This woman is missing from Szakats’ reinvention of the symbolism of these wall-scale tapestries. The allegorical surroundings are clipped from their engagement with the missing central figure and presented on small scale; miniaturised. The sexualised purity of the woman and the luring of the large-horned unicorn from the forest is absent in this rendition, and the audience is prompted to take on the position of these reflexive absent rückenfigurs; it is the viewer that is here thrust into the centre of the allegorical anthropomorphism that surrounds them.
In the absence of the human body, the human interior is fractalized, and split into the allegorical motifs that are spread in miniature across the canvases of this exhibition. The overtones of sexuality present in the work of inspiration are here redeployed, and more subtly explored. A juxtaposition is found in the depiction of orchids, which though are now often deployed as representations of the vulva, from the Greek, were named in antiquity for the perceived resemblance of their tubers to male genitalia. Further classical interpolations, of Eros and Thanatos are a recurring seam in the motifs of the works, with canvases depicting dogs fighting, their features melding in the collapse of their bodies given by their AI-generation.
Elsewhere, Eagles Spinning presents two eagles caught in the mating ritual of the death dive, the brushed mohair drawing out the inertia of the spiralling plunge, and the impending moment when the birds will release one another, or hit the ground talon-in-talon. Bringing into tension artisanal techniques, new approaches to the material of textile, and a reinvented approach to the imaged matter of human nature displaced into the environment that encompasses them, the works presented here give texture to the ephemeralised photographic lens as extension of the artist’s eye. Similar to what is found in the fundaments of painting motion, the action is dictated by the movements of the artist’s hand, and the stroke of the brush. »
Maria Szakats (1984, Romania), an Austrian artist with an MFA from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, lives and works in Paris. Working mainly with textiles and using a wide range of techniques, she produces works combining textiles and installation, and attempts to create a tension between craft, image and material. After a fifteen-year career as a stylist in the fashion industry, Maria Szakats decided in 2021 to refocus on purely artistic considerations, developing a practice that questions notions of value in terms of production time, value, use and material. Since 2022, she has also been teaching Textile and Material Design at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Mon seul désir (My only desire) is her first solo gallery exhibition in France.