She speaks of “the authenticity of people who do it for themselves” when I ask what made her choose a career as an artist. With affection she remembers old Mr. Ferrara, a former docker, a family friend, almost blind, who painted naïve paintings with joy. Wabé also remembers her primary school years, during the classes of manual work, “the only place I found pleasure, where boredom disappeared.” It was in this class at age eleven, that she discovered papier mâché. It was “a physical shock.” Since then, she hasn’t stopped to invent, create and mold sculptures, notably masks at the start. “I had a taste for it. Everything else was like suffering, went against my heart.” In Marseille, the six children grew up around their father, also a docker, he carved, was an amateur painter and a collector of secondhand art magazines – “These were my first comics.” Her mother was a musician. She wrote and read a lot.
At twenty Wabé made a decision : she relocated in Toulouse, abandoned the study of German, her mother’s language, and took up the history of art. Three years later she enrolled in the Beaux-arts of Paris where the painter Cueco offered her “a royal tranquility.” The young woman fashioned her pseudonym from her initials. And the papier mâché grew majestically. “It was my food, my daily bread, my balance: I didn’t know how to do it differently.” After a multitude of experiences, Wabé’s vocabulary took form. From her unremitting expert fingers emerged “a swarming universe, animal and human but not vegetal.” Living, moving, emotive.
Characteristic forms, perforated, honeycombed and dimpled, simultaneously evoking freedom and security impose themselves every time. The colors imbue, radiate, solarize, and are brilliant. A way to “satisfy my craving for the blue sky.”
All that’s born in her studio has much to do with metamorphosis : assembled into networks, in fact, the mass of elements that make up each sculpture seem to all be one and the same being. As if the imagined motifs are each fixed in a fleeting state – captured between two transformations embodied in a snake-like lattice – from the same existence. All this arises “from dreams and visions. It’s spontaneous at the beginning and then is very arduous.”
Wabé has been fortified by voyages to New York and Israel or farther to New Caledonia. Create? Succeed in making a cocktail that combines both “the environment and my madness.” She loves tales from around the world written by Andersen, Grimm, Lewis Carroll, the anonymous, or uttered orally by African griots. The history of art itself is also a valuable source: she “purloins fragments” that touch and affect her. Equipped with a camera she captures details, such as facets from the famous triptych ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’ by Hieronymus Bosch (1453-1516).
She works hard. Until the form that arises acquires a “coherence.” In the studio, there is also her jewelry – she has created around 3000 pieces – some sit adjacent to prototypes and models for fountains – one of which was completed in 2000 for a square in Choisy-le-Roi – and other monuments. Small or gigantic, all of her creations have large open eyes and show their teeth, as if to reveal the stupefied condition that is our own, facing the mystery of existence.
Each work invites us to caress, as the patiently shaped curves are smooth and curvilinear. Gazing on Wabé’s sculptures makes you want to write a new history of art, beginning from the origins of prehistoric calligraphy and then bouncing through the millennia to the present day; the Nouveau Realism of Niki de Saint-Phalle, the free figuration of Richard Di Rosa, the œuvres of Wabé, and the treasures of folk art from Mexico and Japan.
Sculpture? Wabé prefers to speak of “my gris-gris” or my “little cakes”. Sculpture! And always “the visceral fear of not succeeding”. Creating art for over thirty years while raising three daughters, today Wabé rolls her sleeves up even higher and continuously sharpens her sensitivity more profoundly. Far from the minimalist and conceptual dictates of official art, at the end of the tale, she turns the world into an enchanted carrousel. Intimate and universal.
Françoise Monnin, Paris, October 2012
[Interview with the artist in her studio in July 2012.]
English translation by Black Sifichi 2015
Maison des cultures et des Arts, Lieusaint (77)
Galerie Lefor Openo, Paris
Galerie M, Paris
Centre culturel Balavoine, Arques (62)
Galerie Farel, Suisse
Galerie M, Paris
Galerie Treger, Paris
Epac / la Clef, Saint Germain en Laye (78)
Galerie Aurinko, Colmar (68)
Galerie Treger, Paris
“Le Donjon”, Sainte Geneviève des Bois (91)
Galerie Sud, Bagneux (92)
State commissions , Installations …
Jardinières, square du 19 mars 1962, Bondy (93)
Sculpture monumentale lumineuse et animée Bienvenue, Cité des sciences et de l’industrie. La Villette, Paris
Fontaine Anim’O square Franchot, Choisy le Roi (94)
“La Licorne”sculpture pour l’école maternelle Brimborion, Sèvres (92)
Installation au Donjon de Sainte Geneviève des Bois (91)
Décoration dans le cadre du 1% du groupe scolaire “Le Verger” à Montevrain, Marne la Vallée(77)
Installation pour l’inauguration du centre social et culturel Roussillon (84)
Bifaces et autres merveilles : édition GRANDIR 2014