THE KEY TO THE MYSTERY, ELKA LEONARD
97 x 146 cm, 2020
Acrylic on canvas, posca, pigment marker, cerne relief
"Force and fraud in a war are the two cardinal virtues" - Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes, famous English philosopher said “Force and fraud in a war are the two cardinal virtues. What is the most powerful virtue?” To what Elka Leonard answers with the french proverb “By deception, you can take a lion. By force, not even a cricket.” But make no mistake about it, our heroin knows how to play the trick game.
Eyes veiled, she doesn’t stay blind, she's much smarter than that. She's just trying to focus attention on that veil that covers her eyes. She doesn't want to reveal everything at first glance… She wants to remember, to imagine…
She desires her life passionately. Out of pleasure, trickery and play, she decides to reinterpret herself as Scheherazade. She holds the keys to the doors of the imagination, her own, the one that contains her inner world, her secrets and her mysteries.
Then, she creates her characters in a marvellous universes capable of sustaining the man who his trying to remove her veil, believing himself powerful by this gesture. Mischievous, like the storyteller of "A Thousand and One Nights", she will keep her hand on him until the end.
Armed with his strength, his muscles, all his masculinity, he thinks that his attributes have charmed her. Blinded by what he takes for granted, he cannot see the desire, the essence of life. Sovereign, bewitching, sure of herself and her talent, she's going to make him understand that we mustn't reveal everything… because to keep the flame alive, you have to know how to keep a big part of the mystery alive… the one whose key must be treasured.
"The Thousand and One Nights" (3rd to 12th century)
Of Indo-Persian, Arabic and Egyptian origins, these set tales come from an ancient Persian book called Hazār-afsāna (The Thousand Tales).
These tales are as much a part of literature as they are of more popular chronicles. They have been expanded over the centuries, some of which have been added later.
The characters have the peculiarity of mirroring each other.
Scheherazade is one of the best known. Its first name means in Persian "born in the city" or "child of the city".
She was the one who volunteered to stop the massacre of young virgins by the king of Persia, Shahryar. Betrayed by his wife, he vowed to marry a virgin every day and had her executed on the wedding night.
Sheherazade married him and devised a ploy. Every night she would tell him a thrilling story without finishing it, linking it to the next ones, without end, maintaining an unbearable suspense for the sultan who wanted to know the rest.
The sultana borrowed the words of Persian poets and interspersed them with the adventures of her characters, constructing wonderful stories.
This ruse lasted a thousand and one nights, at the end of which the king decided to spare Scheherazade and keep her with him.
The painter decorator Léon Bakst (1866 – 1924) for his powerful and refined decors, inspired by the Orient, Russia of old times and ancient civilizations. Bold and subtle, he plays the game of the hidden, the unveiled, in erotic and violent decors.
The painter Paul Delvaux (1897 – 1994) and his painting « L'Éloge de la Mélancolie » (Praise of melancholy), for the structure of the painting, his ability to collide the past and the present, to speak of a living past.
The illustrations by Kay Nielson (1886 – 1957) are the genesis of this artwork. The captivating blue of his drawings, about the tale of the Thousand and One Nights, combined with the finesse of the drawing, took away the imagination of the artist.
The central Greek statue is a nod to the French journalist and writer Christophe Ono-dit-Biot. This drawing illustrates the cover of one of his novels called «La minute antique».
Finally, Elka Leonard reinterprets a series of photographs of actress Elsa Zylberstein by photographer Véronique Vial, through the blindfolded heroine. A woman with a cold, almost icy air, she doesn’t let anything show her intentions.
The mirror, recurring object in Elka Leonard’s work, here it symbolizes the embedding of the narratives, and of the characters, and is intended as an initiation to self-knowledge.
The crescent moon represents the arch of Artemis, the bewitching bride.
You’ll find the signature on the woman’s tights at the top right.
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