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As she leafs through the proofs of a catalogue, I ask her, ‘What does drawing do?’ - ‘Drawing enlightens. It reconciles. Appeases. Caresses. Skims the surface. Heals. It’s the most luminous thing in the world. It forgives. You can see through it like an x-ray. It shows the things we cannot see.’ Xavier Girard, Louise Bourgeois face à face, Fiction & Cie, éd. du Seuil, p.50

Imagine a landscape, conceptualise it, deconstruct it, exhaust its formal possibilities... and then? When I had the immense pleasure of discovering Hélène Muheim’s latest works in her studio, our discussion went beyond the clichés of landscape description and ventured into a quite different lexical territory: that of the body, of her own above all. Mental projections, cathartic gestures… The worlds contained within the drawings in the Rémanences series speak to us of the artist Hélène Muheim and, more especially, of the artist as a woman, with all the suffering and joy she has known. A stricken body, a disincarnate presence among the eternal mountain peaks... The Franco-Swiss artist spent her childhood high up in the mountains, where she lost herself and now finds herself anew. To illustrate her work, she reads me a quote from Henry David Thoreau: ‘The tops of mountains are among the unfinished parts of the globe, whither it is a slight insult to the gods to climb and pry into their secrets, and try their effect on our humanity. Only daring and insolent men, perchance, go there.’

There is an abundance of love in her gestures, an infinite patience in her refinement of the slightest detail, a tangible sensuality in the velvety paper that she caresses with pencil and powder. Hélène Muheim’s drawings evoke more or less familiar worlds but never fully reveal themselves; like veritable intellectual challenges they require patient, meticulous observation and open interpretation. Vegetal interlacings with hints of the baroque, iridescent x-rays emerging on black backgrounds… the citations are many, the emotions immeasurable. She talks to me of Qi Baishi and his kakemonos, Ferdinand Hodler and his pastel horizons, the blue-tinged perspectives of Joachim Patinir. But beneath the dissected landscapes lies the constant, disquieting echo of her fine and fragile body.

In the artist’s work, the act of drawing becomes an act of resistance and imposes a temporality of its own – that of a gradual, painful ascent, an introspective uphill struggle. Muheim, a hypersensitive Louise Bourgeois of paper art, explains that she keeps working until the ‘skin’ of her landscapes is revealed – an intimate, deeply spiritual approach intended, she says, to reflect a more accurate image of herself. Each drawing is an act of bringing-forth, a retreat from the world, a meditation. Because with a visceral vocation such as this, creation is vital. It is the only means of confronting the absurdity of the world.


Léa Bismuth _013

A landscape is essentially a construction, a position with regard to a collection of natural elements, just as a portrait, before being a portrait, is a face.
This is the view we should take of Hélène Muheim’s Lignes d’horizon, elegant landscapes in which her use of the page serves to highlight the coexistence of the landscape and its absence: a few ridgelines and snow-capped peaks, traversed by a horizontal line that is both indistinct and deliberate, suggesting other natural beauties on the immaculate surface of the white page.

A landscape, therefore, is a construction, but here it is essentially emotion, just as a sea of clouds or a dense forest were emotion for the German Romantics. Le cœur de la montagne s’est arrêté de battre (“The Mountain’s Heart has Ceased to Beat”), proclaims one evocative title, suggesting an obliteration, a disappearance, a universal end. And yet, with gentle resignation, the world keeps turning, albeit at a slower, almost somnolent pace, as if in a coma. Tirelessly, Hélène Muheim depicts “what is no longer there”, patiently preserving what survives beneath the strata of consciousness, in the memory of a rustling in the leaves, in the memory of some distant drama.

Gently, then, the artist “makes up” her landscapes, as if applying makeup to eyelids, delicately smudging and blurring until the pigments become one with the delicacy of the skin or paper: “I make up the remains of the world”, she says, also finding these remains, relics and traces in the history of art, in the sources that inspire her drawings: sombre depictions of the Chamonix Valley by a 19th-century Swiss engraver, paintings by Renaissance artist Joachim Patinir, background landscapes by Leonardo da Vinci…
The blue mountain peaks in Da Vinci’s Saint Anne illustrate the complexity of a landscape that is both jagged and gentle, violent and mysterious, manifest and meandering.
Hélène Muheim draws Chimeras too – deforming mirrors of an inner world where mineral, rather than organic forms softly contort, suggesting the tentacular plant-like convolutions of Art Nouveau.

Forms appear in the folds and layers: a woman with donkey’s ears reminds us that there is humour, too, in these works – or at least, a sense of serenity in the face of certain terrors. Does the Chimera entitled One More Breath suggest the final breath of life, or is it the breath of creation, of communication with the cosmic forces of the universe, like Roland Flexner’s Bubbles?
When we met, the artist also told me of her regular trips to India, of her solitary walks, of the death of a brother in an avalanche, a long time ago… There is disaster in the air, but no darkness. And these drawings are of such delicacy that they could only have been done in the light of day.


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“This is in fact an excellent opportunity to establish a rational and historical theory of beauty, in contrast to the academic theory of an unique and absolute beauty; to show that beauty is always and inevitably of a double composition, although the impression that it produces is single – for the fact that it is difficult to discern the variable elements of beauty within the unity of the impression invalidates in no way the necessity of variety in its composition. Beauty is made up of an eternal, invariable element, whose quantity it is excessively difficult to determine, and of a relative, circumstantial element, which will be, if you like, whether severally or all at once, the age, its fashion, its morals, its emotions. {…} The duality of art is a fatal consequence of the duality of man. Consider, if you will, the eternally subsisting portion as the soul of art, and the variable element as its body.“ Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, 1863.

The work of the Franco-Swiss artist Hélène Muheim features the same duality that Charles Baudelaire precisely talks about when defining the Modernity born of the industrial revolution. Muheim draws her inspiration from the many iconographic strata of the history of Western art. Like a speleologist, the artist probes the depths of the visible and invisible, of the supernatural and of life experiences.
While defining herself as a visual artist, Hélène Muheim is also obsessed with “doing“, which may evoke a practice involved with handicraft. Indeed, she slowly builds her work, equipped with clearly identified tools: paper, graphite, eyeshadow… Etymologically, art was first of all a “techne“. In Ancient Greece, there wasn’t a clear distinction between craftsmanship and art. Art was mostly considered as a skill, a method acquired by apprenticeship and based on empirical knowledge.
Hélène Muheim undeniably belongs to the family of skilled artists. Through her daily practice, she has acquired, developed and perfected her graphic mastering. She has submitted herself to the slowness and demands of her discipline, sometimes until she’s physically and emotionally exhausted. By transposing the sfumato to this silky surface, Muheim works in successive layers: graphite, eyeshadow, rubbing out and once again graphite, eyeshadow… She tirelessly rubs out and tones down her tracings until the pigments penetrate the skin of the luminous paper that she imports from Italy and that she chooses with great care for the fineness of its grain and for its tint. This white and lightly creamy paper is also an open window on a world of loneliness and introspection. It’s a spiritual retreat to the heart of the protected small island that is the artist’s workshop. All in all, skill may be the impalpable, unchanging facet of Baudelairian modernity.

Hazy landscapes of infinite finesse are born from these endless days of work and research and from pleasure and hard work. In these landscapes, the artist appropriates the atmospheric perspectives of the Flemish and Italian Renaissance, the gloomy beauty of the German romantics or the often grim and disturbing aesthetics of Joel-Peter Witkin or Michaël Borremans. The suggestive power of her “world beyond the clouds“, her “appropriated“, recycled and made-up lands (Bosch, Bellini, Vinci, van Ruisdael, Hiroshige)“ relieve the child’s need of nature after the exhilarating vertigo of climbing Swiss mountains. The emotions showing on the surface of the paper offer many readings to the viewer. Hélène Muheim’s landscapes can suggest a poetic displacement. They’re a reverie that can conjure up an otherworldly exotic land or familiar places full of personal memories.

These landscapes are sometimes inhabited by human or animal figures and can equally induce a reflection on the representation of landscapes and of the animal kingdom. This may be the circumstantial facet of Baudelairian modernity, just before the fine line dividing the sublime from the disturbing is crossed. In other words, it could be a contemporaneity marked by history and emotions or a forever open and shifting artistic language that questions man’s place in the world without repeating itself.
Therefore, it would be pointless to assign a precise role to this type of approach in the lush jungle of contemporary art. Because of the many horizons she embraces, the artist works outside of definitions and categories. With all the nobility and fatality of a calling that chose her, the artist tells us: “Being an artist isn’t a profession, it’s a state of mind“.

Anne-Cécile Guitard, Curator, member of the C-E-A (Commissaires d’exposition associés), Founder of l’Agenda du dessin contemporain

Portrait, excerpt from the film « Le Dessin Quotidien #1 »
This film presents, in the intimacy of their workshop, the eight artists in this exhibition who speak about their need to draw and produce art in everyday life..
With Jennifer Mackay, Vincent Corpet, Yves Helbert, Hélène Muheim, Sophie Lebel, Laure Forêt, Horacio Cassinelli et Joëlle Bondil.
Production : Jérôme Le Goff et Frédéric Tran – Music : Rubeck


Hélène Muheim lives and works in Montreuil. Of swiss and french origin, she spent her childhood in the mountains and in the Luberon, in Sénanque Abbey, a cistercian monastery and cultural center. She met visual artists, musicians, sociologists or theologians who likely influenced her vocation. After graduating from Beaux-Arts, she exhibits her paintings and creates site-specific installations. Simultaneously she creates vosdesirs.org, a virtual space for doing nothing, a field of graphic and poetic experiences.
It is through the digital line that she finds back the original gratification of drawing. She now devotes all her research to this medium, attracted by its fragility. As a child Hélène Muheim had the privilege to «watch ends of the world beyond the clouds, to perceive the vastness, and the obvious uncertainty of our beings.» From here she went to see further. From her lonely trips she learns through landscapes to reconsider our connexion to the world and to the image. She has solo and collective exhibitions in galleries in Paris, as well as in art centers in Rennes and Le Havre ; she participated in Drawing Now art fair (contemporary drawing art fair held in Paris), and is currently working on various institutional exhibitions projects. ( (Paris, London, Shanghai). She is represented by Galerie Valérie Delaunay in Paris.

Last solo shows Expositions personnelles
2021 Rétrospective IV, Galerie Valérie Delaunay, Paris/ 2018 Art On Paper, Bruxelles/
2017 Horizons-Paysages, Galerie Valérie Delaunay, Paris/ 2016 Pnøma, Pascaline Mulliez Gallery, Paris/ 2013 Inlassablement ce qui n’est plus, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/ 2012 Memento Temporis, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/ 2010 Silly old stories, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/ 2009 Rester légère, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/

Last group shows 2021 Natures Mortes, Galerie Valérie Delauany, Paris/ The girls can help it ! Pop galreie, Sète/ 20 ans de la galerie Hors-Champs, Paris/ Laniakea, Fondation La Ruche-Seydoux, Paris/ 2020 Un Noël à la galerie, Galerie Valérie Delaunay, Paris/ Dessins, Galerie Tokonoma, Paris/ DDESSIN, Galerie Marie Jaouen, Paris/ Métamorphoses du quotidien, Centre d’art Rosa Bonheur, Chevilly Larue/ Paysages/Présages, collectif Körper, Le 6B, Saint-Denis/ 2019 Yokai, Eko Sato Gallery, Paris/ Carnet de Notes, les loins pays, Lyon/ Arte Laguna, Arsenal, Venise ( Winner of the Special Prize)/ Scapeland, Dynamiques de paysages, Jean-Louis Ramand Gallery, Paris/ 2018 Luxembourg Art Week, Jean-Louis Ramand Gallery/ La forêt des esprits, Galerie Plateforme, Paris, curator Pauline Lisowski/ Entre les mondes, Galerie Graphem, Paris, Curated by Pauline Lisowski/ 2017 La Petite Collection, Bertrand Grimont Gallery, Paris/ Une île, Curated by Pauline Lisowski 6B, Saint-Denis/ Synthetic Landscapes, Meadow Arts, Weston Park, England/ Ailleurs dans ce corps où la nuit.. Galerie Hors Champs, Paris/ ZooCryptage, Curated by C.N Jelondanti, Biarritz/ 2016 Mauvaises graines II, Topographie de l’Art, Paris/ Ouverture, Eko Sato Gallery , Paris/ DDessin, Regards sur la Planète, Curated by Anne Malherbe, Paris/ 2015 Dessins quotidiens, Satellite Brindeau, Le Havre/ 2014 La Petite Collection, White Project Galerie, Paris/ Mauvaises graines, Topographie de l’Art, Paris/ Open your eyes, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/ 2013 Viens, la mort on va danser, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/ Graphic, PHAKT, Rennes, Curated by Anne Cécile Guitard/ 2012 drawing now, Maïa Muller Gallery/ 2011 tir groupé, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/ 2011 le texte dans l’oeuvre, Maïa Muller Gallery, Paris/ 2010 drawing now, Maïa Muller Gallery/