How to identify the stars, Oil on canvas, 80x 180cm
Talks in foreign language, Oil on canvas, 160x125cm
Le chant du cygne, Oil on canvas, 116x81cm
Le chant du cygne, Oil on canvas, 24x18cm
Miharu, Oil on canvas, 24x18cm
It is because we recognise, because it reminds us of something that we are surprised. Yes, we have already seen that somewhere, we remember that film: it is there, on the canvas/screen, and despite this feeling of memorial proximity, we feel something of a surprise because the original scene has been distorted, and it disconcerts us.
This is what Annabelle Agbo Godeau’s painting facetiously plays with, this discrepancy between the same and the different, taking the memory and the culture of the spectator and rubbing it the wrong way. Thus, Leda and the Swan is, as is well known, a commonplace in Western painting and sculpture (Rubens, Vinci, Veronese). From the myth, it is texts and images that come back to us when standing in front of this Chant du cygne (2020) where the main character looks at us, carrying in their arms a bird whose disproportionate neck, like a feather boa, goes around their neck, head and beak resting on their shoulder; the whole scene is on a monochrome blue background with, like three crests, the faces of three women with prominent cheekbones wearing ballet dancers’ costumes – and it is, upon consideration, Zizi Jeanmaire and her “feathered thing” which imposes itself, while the comparison abolishes, as in Proust, the past and perhaps lost time.
With Annabelle Agbo Godeau, nothing is ever one-way: what is convened is the plurality of meanings through constant additions of possible references. To mix what one recognises as parts to make a whole – and a harmonious whole – it is, it seems, the bias which identifies the very personal aesthetics of the artist. It is also a matter of involving the spectator to better disturb them, without ever brutalising them. Most often, the weapon used is humour, as in the other Leda (2021), a blue monochrome where a swan of considerable size seems to envelop a naked Leda in its embrace, while slightly pink bubbles of various sizes run through the painting – and where one can see what one wants.
It is these semantic discrepancies that are compelling and make us smile. To continue the theme of the swan (an obsessive theme as are, in Annabelle Agbo Godeau’s work, the snake and the woman): where have we seen this close-up of crossed legs, these feminine feet pointing in thin strappy shoes? Probably in many 1930s films (The Blue Angel?) – besides, this painting, entitled Miss Swan (2021), is, as if in a wink, in black and white; but there is something that destroys everything in order to rebuild it differently: this little pink box in which a woman, face puffed up, covered with bandages, “phones”, it is said, “her husband three weeks after surgery”. It’s Marlene Dietrich versus the housewife under fifty: you’d have to have a very short memory not to laugh internally. And heartily so.