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Text Box: Cv/VAR Archive 
John Latham . Stephen Willats . Rita Donagh . Vaughan Grylls . Tony Rothon . Gerald Newman . John A.Walker . Jonathan Miles

Art Forum

The Gallery London March 1976

Studio Work

Port Isaac Stand


Text Box:

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Smithsonian Institution





Sharon Kivland

Interview recorded at Domobaal London

24th May 2011


Cv/VAR  The title of the show? 

SK. Je suis malade de mes pensées (I’m Sick of My Thoughts), which is simply a translation of two of the poems in the show.

There are certain years in history which have become keys for you?

In one way I think it is a rather artificial chronology, one that I may have applied subsequently to making the work. If I jump back two years, I had a show at CHELSEA Space called ‘A Wind of Revolution Blows, The Storm is on the Horizon’, which is a reference to the French Revolution of 1848 –  the year of revolutions across Europe – the revolution that Marx says comes too soon. This arose by chance: I had found a journal, or collection of journals, a woman’s fashion or style magazine from 1848 and I happened to be reading Marx – The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon –  at the time. This connected with the strangeness that throughout this journal there was no mention of the activities on the street, except for every month there was a  fashion plate under the rubric: La toilette de la ville (The outfit of the town).

 I erased the backgrounds of the plates so the women were left suspended, without anything that would ground them in a scene. I then remade them as etchings, to be close to the engravings, and hand-coloured them as the original plates had been. The colours are modern and bright, however.  The process of labour – my labour – is a different kind of labour to the one that first produced those illustrations. I then started to think back to the French Revolution of the previous century. For a long time I’d been interested in aspects of education, libertinage and the intersection of public and private space, and I made impossible chronological jumps through moments of social change, which led me to 1968.

And along with that you explore certain  novels?

Novels, ephemera, banal depictions, fashion, I became interested in Mallarmé’s journal La Dernière Mode. Therein he reports, through a variety of female and male pseudonyms, on clothing, home furnishing, entertainment (including theatre and the arts), railway stations and travel, menus, and eulogises makeup. Makeup, maquillage, is a challenge and rebuke to Nature (and to the natural woman of  Laclos, who has no need of it). One  encounters Madame Marguerite de Ponty, who lays down many rules, complicated and most definite, ‘A Creole Lady’, a Breton chatelaine (who comments extensively on the working of leather as a nice occupation for the afternoon for which all one needs is one’s imagination – oh, and large squares of leather and hundreds of small scraps in blue, red, green and silver), and Miss Satin, who evokes the artificial flowers made by Lucie and Louise and imagines a new regime for perfumes. It is a wonderful thing, very funny, but he’s also accurate. I found then that Cézanne, as a boy, copied the illustrations from the fashion magazines of his sisters.

But given Cézanne’s dark temperament, it must have been marked by an intense and turbulent emotion.

Absolutely. When I was working on my negligée work, (my copying of the illustrations from a lingerie trade journal and the textual descriptions of the garments)  a friend remembered that when he was thirteen he used to draw a pair of twin girls repeatedly.  He said that while there was never anything improper in his drawings, still he used to hide them from his mother. There’s something rather odd about that kind of adolescent rendering, which encompasses both desire and  aspiration.


 Mallarmé on Fashion. A Translation of the Fashion Magazine La Dernière Mode with Commentary, P.N. Furbank and Alex Cain, London: Berg, 2004

Émile Zola, Nana, Paris: Fasquelle, 1880

Figure to Ground