contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / December 2023

L’Enfer c’est … – La force du détail : La Serrure
(Hell is … – The force of the detail: The Keyhole)
Marie Cagnasso

Ceramics, slab work, stoneware, ancient black glaze, mirror
30,5 cm x 30,5 cm x 13 cm

Marie Cagnasso’s ceramic sculpture “L’Enfer c’est … – La force du détail : La Serrure” (Hell is … – The force of the detail: The Keyhole) is an oversized keyhole. Many people are tempted to look through a keyhole, especially, when the related door is locked. One might find out secrets, enclosed in the room behind or spy people acting there. Nevertheless, the unallowed glance could shame the observer him/herself, since he/she might discover things, not intended for his/her eyes, discover an unwelcome opinion about oneself or even ruin a surprise. It could be hell. Therefore, this peek into a forbidden world is frown upon in most societies.

Anyway, the look through a keyhole or a forbidden glance on a private scenery is often a subject in art, theatre or film. Additionally, contemporary artists play with the desire to see something hidden, by letting the observer only look through a small opening for discovering images or videos. Also Marie’s oversized keyhole invites the bystander to watch through the hole. But in doing so, the onlooker will only discover his/her own reflection in a mirror. Instead of having an indiscreet glance on something unknown, one has an intimate look at oneself and is thrown back on him/herself. This is the contrary to Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Hell is other people” from his theatre piece “Huis Clos” (No Exit, 1944): Hell is us.

However, in the artwork’s title, Marie leaves open what hell is. As the title supplement suggests, the devil is in the detail. People might feel to be their own hell, but this is not obligatory. We have the choice, in not seeing ourselves as the prime issue. In consequence, she invites us to “retreat from thought, therefore retreat from oneself.”*

This statement might be a result of her long-lasting research into inner landscapes, where she reflects on the complexity of our existence. Her occupation with internal feelings and the questioning of the individual’s role in society might have led her to the awareness that one should not be too concentrated on oneself, not to take one’s own person as too important. By positioning the keyhole between the observer and his/her reflection in the mirror, she creates a certain distance between the self and its depiction, which facilitates the requested retreat from oneself.

* Artist-statement to “ L’Enfer c’est … – La force du détail : La Serrure”


Marie Cagnasso

Born 1965 in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, France, Marie Cagnasso worked for years in a profession alien to art. After living three years in London, she went back to her hometown and finally followed her vocation to be an artist. From 2006 to 2007 she frequented the Ecole des Beaux-arts (School of Fine Arts) of Vallauris – Golfe-Juan and got the diploma “Arts du Feu” (arts of fire). Subsequently she was selected for the one year specialised class “Jeune Createur” (Young Creator) also in Vallauris. In 2009, Marie was chosen for the international contest for porcelain creation of Limoges, France (Concours international de création en porcelaine) to realise her submitted project in a residency in this traditional porcelain town. The resulting artwork was “Zeste de mer”, which was first presented in 2010 in the “Galerie des Hospices” in Limoges and it was our artwork of the month / November 2015.

All along her artistic career, Marie constantly participates in group exhibitions, mainly in the south of France, but her works also were in Paris, Monaco, Hódmezővásárhely and Budapest (both in Hungary) on view. Since 2018 she joins the yearly exhibitions of the association A.V.E.C. in Vallauris and entered the artist collective No-made in 2023. Already since 2013 she contributes to the exhibitions of NOMAD Art et Solidarité in Vence. In the same year, also in Vence, she had her first solo show in the Galerie Bleue. Moreover, she got the special mention of the jury of “Terra Rossa, Maison de la Cèramique” in Salernes and was honoured by A.I.R. Vallauris for her contribution to the exhibition “Small Art Objects. Her participation at the A.V.E.C. Biennale of Vallauris in 2023 was crowned by the 1st Price. Her works are represented in several public and private collections.

Marie’s first great subject are the natural landscapes. Here she transforms her impressions of nature – often seen from a bird’s eye view – into ceramics. Since 2011, her research and concerns guided her to the inner landscapes. The starting point is the brain. For her, it is a mysterious and fascinating organ, which governs all human beings. Therefore, it is responsible for our behaviours and our relations. Including brains in her artworks, she reflects about the complexity of our existence. Often it is a questioning about internal feelings and the role of the individual in society.

In ceramics, black and white is dominant in Marie’s work, for example in the natural landscapes. Nevertheless, for her creations of inner landscapes she regularly introduces other materials, like the barbed wire and the tree trunk in “Question of Freedom”, our artwork of the month / May 2018. Due to that, other colours are entering in the oeuvres, although her favourite ceramic shades are still present.

Our artwork of the month / December 2023 “Hell is … – The force of the detail: The Keyhole” is in Marie’s oeuvre relatively exceptional by its execution. Even though she mainly utilises the colours black and white, her black is normally a deep one. Here the artist has used an ancient black glaze, imitating the metallic surface of metal. Also her customary forms are more organic, since her artworks represent natural or inner landscapes. This time, she has chosen a geometric form, as it is appropriate for a keyhole.

Marie lives in Saint-Laurent-du-Var and works in Vallauris, France.