Mireille Gros (born 1954 in Aarau, lives and works in Basel) presents a solo exhibition at Kunsthaus Baselland, which is originated under the influence of her preoccupation with China and in particular with the Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi. The artist studied at the Basel School of Design with Werner von Mutzenbecher and Werner Jehle, and at Cooper Union in New York with Vito Acconci and Hans Haacke. Mireille Gros spent much time in New York, Liverpool and Barcelona. Extended travels to Italy, Norway, and especially those to West Africa were also important for her work.
In recent years, the focus of Mireille Gros's artistic debate has been almost exclusively directed to China, since a grant from the Christoph Merian Foundation made a first extended stay possible. Since then Gros is occupied with studying Chinese language and culture and thereby came across the work of the poet and philosopher Zhuang Zi. The book, named after the philosopher, and which includes the famous collections of texts The true book of the southern floral country and The Book of Spontaneity: On the usefulness of uselessness and the culture of slowness, became the main source of inspiration for the artist. Here, she discovered a new basic strategy in her artistic activity that allows for more spontaneity, and that revived the supposedly useless or rather questioned it in its uselessness. Unlike her earlier drawings and paintings the recent works are dominated by an experimental, spontaneous and random attitude. In her paintings and drawings the artist uses traditional Chinese materials such as handmade Chinese paper as support or classical Chinese ink as medium.
In her works, gestures and/or materials are often balanced: Where she takes away something, she adds something else, or to a movement, she adds a corresponding counter-movement. Thus arose paintings executed with the fingertips, or those obtaining its shape by scratching on it with nails or similar objects. Despite the spontaneous process of creation, the pictures often remind of fields, flowers, grasses, branches or rivers and rice fields. Even in her earlier works, the artist was not interested in abstraction in fact for her everything is figurative. She explores the ‘nothing’ for so long until it becomes ‘something’, instead of just moving from the figurative to a certain point of abstraction. This approach can also be found in the recent works, but paired with sensitivity towards a spontaneous attitude.
Even in the photographs this fundamental attitude is noticeable. The snapshot of a shadow or the last resting-place of disused Buddha figures (male and female!) is detained: The fast faces the slow if nothing else from a thematic perspective.
In a spatially conceived installation, Mireille Gros goes back to various sheets, which developed over a long period of time, and on which the focus was on capturing Chinese culture through its letters. Glued together and re-used as a ground, the artist returns to the supposedly useless something valuable: as carrier of words and thoughts the ensemble develops into an elaborate installation in which the recipient may get lost in details. Here, too, memories of previous work come to mind, in which the artist uses the whole universe as a starting point for her work. The back and forth from micro-to macrocosm, from ‘gross’ to ‘detail’ still remains as an important starting point of her work.
Text by Sabine Schaschl