15° Drawing Prize
Daniel & Florence Guerlain
Contemporary Art Foundation

The 2022 Prize finds itself once again in the Salon du dessin, where it is showing the works from the 3 artists nominated by the selection committee.

The artists exhibited from the 17th to the 23rd of May are:
  - Olga Chernysheva, Russian artist, born in 1962
  - Chloe Piene, American artist, born in 1972
  - Gert & Uwe Tobias, German artists, born in 1973 in Romania

On the 19th of May, the artists were able to present their work to the members of the jury in front of their drawings.

Following this presentation, the members of the jury awarded the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Foundation’s 15th Drawing Prize to Olga Chernysheva

After a year when the Drawing Prize had to be awarded online, due to the pandemic restrictions, how did you feel when you were able to resume your visits to artists’ studios for this edition? 

We were once more able to keep our appointments with the artists and relive these moments that we enjoy so much, together with our committee members. It is always such a pleasure to see not only the actual works, but also the artists’ surroundings. We already know those who have been nominated, for some of their works are in our collection, but they had to convince the jury this year. .

This Prize seems to highlight works which are more expressive and even more figurative than in certain years. Is this a sign of a return to life?

This factor certainly came into play, even if subconsciously. But there again, we have been following Olga Chernysheva for almost five years and we really like her work. We have wanted to show her magnificent drawings evocative of Moscow life for a long time. Besides, her selection this year was not purely accidental, but rather in tandem with the current exhibition of our works in Russia. We purchased Chloe Piene’s drawings at an even earlier date, since which time the strength of her work has triumphed on the international art scene. As for Gert & Uwe Tobias, with whom we have previously collaborated, their very rich world hovering between dreams and reality has earned them recognition. This selection seems to be harmonious and effectively anchored in life.

A new exhibition of part of your donation to the MNAM-Centre Pompidou has recently opened at the Pushkin Museum, Moscow. What kind of reception has it had? 

The hanging is extraordinary and the reception of the works by the public has been fabulous. Few people there were familiar with contemporary European drawing. It was thus a true discovery for most of the visitors who enjoyed the diversity of the artistic expression and the series on show as a whole. We have also decided to give the Pushkin Museum a drawing by François Morellet and five works by a very sensitive Greek artist, Christiana Soulou, from our own collection.

What are your plans now? 

As we have been appointed presidents of Frac Picardie, Amiens, dedicated to drawings that we know very well, since Yves Lecointre organised a superb exhibition there for us in 2008, we pay regular visits to the region. Which, furthermore, brings us back to former generations of the Guerlain family, since the founder of the brand, Pierre François Pascal, came from Abbeville... And we fully support Amiens as candidate city for the European Capital of Culture in 2028.

         Texts Marie Maertens

Selected Artists

15° Drawing Prize Daniel & Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation. 

Olga Chernysheva © Gennady Grachyov

Olga Chernysheva

Olga Chernysheva transcribes scenes of everyday life. She has a lot to say about the present era, while astutely criticising today’s societies.
Even without having visited the Moscow metro, we can easily recognise it (thanks to the profusion of chapkas) in her drawings. Other series depict carefree summers spent beside the river, when the mugginess of the city makes people yearn for the coolness of a corner of nature. Other drawings, either in charcoal or watercolour, bear witness to the senseless urban expansion, all in the name of so-called modernity. As a child, Chernysheva travelled a lot with her parents in express trains and was struck by the sight of ghostly silhouettes looming up on platforms of non-stopping stations in small towns destined to decline. From then on, she has liked to observe life – first of animals, then of human beings – in minute detail. She depicts a world with which we think we are familiar, but which reveals a hidden, silent strangeness. “Objects that seem simple to us may appear out of reach and baffle definition. What we have before our eyes all the time may be the most intriguing,” she says.
She jots down compositions in sketchbooks that she has never shown to anybody; she takes photographs or uses images found on the Internet. But the photos are merely a source, whose poses and proportions she then modifies, so that realism is tinged with a hint of absurdity. Especially since the artist likes to recreate associations in order to allow her narrative to develop and to question the notions of power or the violence of social relations. Chernysheva studied animation at a film school and learnt how to add substance to a narrative, how to make a text or an image talk and develop different interpretations. She cites Anton Chekhov, whose use of details, anchored in reality yet also absurdly grotesque, she finds fascinating. Her drawing describes a form of truth that “never betrays the one who executes it,” for drawing comes straight from the body. It enables her to subtly highlight the downward spiral of the contemporary world, both in Moscow and international megalopolises where luxury and the destruction of the natural environment are the common denominators…

Chloe Piene

The body is the focal point of Chloe Piene’s work. This endlessly scrutinised subject, whether in depth or superficially, enables her to show her raw yet tender vision of humanity.
She is one of those artists who have always practised drawing; she freely admits that it became an obsession during childhood. She focused on her own anatomy at a very early age. It’s a subject that people believe they understand (wrongly in her view), one that allows us to question our reality, that changes into an object of pleasure or anguish in the face of sickness and death. Especially since the artist is an expert in art history and has long had a passion for pre-Christian and medieval myths and sacrifices. Her more or less figurative single figures are drawn in a space with no horizon line, leaving a bare margin on much of the sheet. “The body thus becomes space, and its form defines the world,” says Piene. In fact, her drawings, which may include hybrid creatures, enriched with masculine or animal bodies, show few elements apart from these entangled articulated or contorted figures.
Drawing exclusively in charcoal, Piene may concentrate on a specific limb and her line may become obsessive or enraged, leaving the limb as a stump or at the root, fostering the notion of evolution or transformation. Though she depicts skulls or tortured bodies, she wishes to avoid excessive psychoanalytic commentary so as to focus on the surface of the drawing. She finds charcoal’s expressive force fascinating and plays with the multiple possibilities that it offers: from an emphatic line that becomes lighter, then heavier again, to a shakier rendering, thus symbolising bodily continuity. Her themes could also be interpreted as discreet tributes to related art history. From the Issenheim Altarpiece, which she saw as a child, to Albrecht Dürer and Hans Baldung’s engravings; from Medardo Rosso’s wax sculptures to Bernini’s baroque works (not lacking in emphatic sexual connotations) and, above all, to these “in-between states” that she so cherishes, not forgetting German expressionism. Chloe Piene may wish to denounce the violence of society or testify to the harm history has caused through the crudeness of certain scenes, but she has never lost the desire to pursue her exploration of the world, using her own body as the starting point.

Chloe Pieneb ©Martin Seck
Gert & Uwe Tobias©Alistair Overbruck

Gert & Uwe Tobias

Twin brothers who work as a team, Gert & Uwe Tobias reflect on the notion of identity. Happily mixing diverse legacies, they create a parallel world that bears subtle witness to our present.
The Tobias brothers seldom like to analyse their works and allow an aura of mystery to hover over their meaning and their working method. Having pursued their studies in the same place at the same time, at the end of their training they realised that they were more open to experiment when they worked together, while still retaining their own sense of identity. They do not create as a duet, but in turn discover what the other has done, before deciding whether to complete it or not. Consequently, they pave the way for what they call “the Tobias Project”, combining energy and a certain sense of humour, yet keeping at a distance. The subjects themselves, often composed of well-defined graphic forms, reveal a universe inhabited by folkloric figures, tender-hearted monsters or animals. Portraits are found alongside grimacing masks in obscure or hedonistic landscapes, like the imaginary worlds sketched on the tablecloth at Sunday lunches. Other works prove to be far more abstract.
Gert & Uwe Tobias do not hide their attraction to the aesthetics of the Bauhaus, Oskar Schlemmer, Russian Constructivism, Edvard Munch and Japanese prints, and confess their passion for medieval legends and Édouard Vuillard’s palette. But they also enjoy playing with kitsch references to their native Transylvania and the fantasies surrounding Dracula. Through systematically reworking their own drawings, they compose an endless vocabulary into which they delve at will, regularly employing certain figures, without actually including a specific narrative. The aesthetic concern is more an exercise in opposition and tension, notably through the play of colours that will act as a foil to the subject which may appear quietly frightening… or will restore balance to the contrasts. Their universe has already been related to the symbolist period and it is true that the Tobias brothers belong to a space-time somewhere between reality and fiction. Reality is well and truly present when one discovers that the architecture of the exhibition venues, or even elements of vernacular culture, are often incorporated into the works, when the dream world is boundless. The to and fro between these two spheres is incessant, just like their own dialogue. “We communicate through drawing and we always answer each other through this medium.”

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