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As talismans, fabrics


The Loire flows swiftly through a green gorge. A few metres away, in her studio overlooking the river, Hélène Jospé paints. Under her attentive hands, the silk roll unwinds and, in a slow progression, takes on colour. At the same time, below, the hues of the nearby forest are reflected on the silky surface of the current. In the end, perhaps that's what art is all about: imitating nature, not depicting it, but doing what it does! The painted silk is as translucent and fluid as the river. And its colours change with the seasons, like the reflections on the water. Hélène Jospé spent time in Japan, and has a clear affinity with its traditional culture, its sensitivity to nature and its communion with the powers of the universe. The four seasons of our climate are present in her painted fabrics, just as they are on the moving surface of water.

She has made her own an age-old printing technique practised in West Africa, the Middle East and Asia: batik (1). On the fabric stretched horizontally on a reel, she applies the hot wax that will delimit the reserve areas, she chooses her pigments, she paints; then, with a very hot iron, she melts the wax. She also practises shibori (2). What we see are the traces of a complex activity that requires both great technical mastery and an openness to the unexpected. Nature has suggested colours, and sometimes shapes too, but the result is anything but conventional. These fabrics are astonishing creatures!

Where some people see only fabric, Hélène Jospé is sensitive to differences in material, texture and feel. She knows each type by name: silk, satin, rayon, batiste, chintz, taffeta, chiffon, cotton, cretonne, organdy, wool, cheesecloth, velvet... She speaks lovingly of the thread, braids, ribbons and embroideries in her studio, and celebrates needlework. Sewing is an art, and a garment is a work of art, even when it's not the work of a fashionable designer. It's not haute couture or fashion that dazzles this artist, but craft skills, and she helps to give them a place in the contemporary world. Generous, she weaves relationships with others and is attached to collective practices.(3)

If humans were hairy, if they had a shell or a carapace, in short if Epimetheus, in his carelessness, had not forgotten them in the distribution of natural defences, they might not have invented this artificial skin, these peels, which cover and shelter their bodies. The wealth and variety of clothing, from one civilisation to another, is inexhaustible. Hélène Jospé is curious about these other places; she has travelled and stayed in Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Japan, working with others and making friends. The sumptuous garments she sews are a reminder of these encounters.

Here she exhibits seven aprons, as many as there are days in the week. They evoke work that is most often considered feminine. Ordinary kitchen aprons protect against flour stains and sauce splashes, but aren't Hélène Jospé's sumptuous aprons, sewn from scraps and as if for giant women, also protective, like a maternal presence?

F. Maillet-Le Roux, July 2023

1 -  Le batik indonésien est inscrit depuis 2009 par l’Unesco sur la liste représentative du patrimoine immatériel de l’humanité.


 2 -  Technique de teinture japonaise où on obtient la réserve par ligature du tissu.


3  - Ainsi fait-elle partie du collectif FU (Fil Utile) fondé en 2020 à Saint-Étienne pour favoriser le lien entre les gens de pratiques différentes ayant en commun de travailler dans la filière textile.

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