Force and Fragility
On occasion, force will present itself in the rawest of states, as Zeus brandishing lighting. Elsewhere it may insinuate itself as the cunning glare of hypocrisy beneath Talleyrand’s grin.
Yet none rivals the mystery enshrouding those great human gestures which, at a glance, reveal fragility and grace. At once the prerogative of the poet and common man, the intimacy of such power is destined to elude the attention of those too impetuous or self-engrossed to see. This is the exaltation of St Paul; this is the wisdom passed down amongst women since time immemorial. It is equally that illuminating force behind the politics of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
To cast light on that fiery or barren region hidden at the core of their being, the artist or writer must purge themselves of fear. With no hand to guide them, they must penetrate its depths until they emerge once more bearing some small flicker of the light illuminating that most intimate of journeys. The work of art finds its authenticity in such fugitive glances, as gold from the New World once inspired dreams of a realm far beyond Spain’s familiar shores.
Such are the bronze sculptures of Anne-Sophie Morelle. They vibrate with a truth that is not anatomical, but altogether psychological in nature. Their fragile, stylized bodies are to the soul what the cello’s wooden chamber is to music: a place of resonance. Man, woman and child appear only to dissolve, as something more resolute fills their edges – a suggestiveness through which humanity itself gains a voice.
In its subtleties we are drawn nearer to the essence of what it means to be human: to relate. Morelle’s characters exist in states of passage. They stretch themselves out in anticipation of the other, or longing to grasp their own inner nature. The path that imparts motion to bronze culminates in a look or in a simple gesture, where in the flux between moments the characters spring into life.
The passage from character into personality has strong roots in the literary tradition: page by page, a world unfolds – be it political or psychological, social or sentimental – that speaks to us not by degree of verisimilitude (like a vulgar study), but in its proximity to truth. It is through the capacity to shed light on those inner truths so easily obscured by the burdens of daily life that we bear witness to the liberating force of art and literature. Having tasted these realities, the heart can grow free. So too is it with tenderness, and not only mother’s milk, that a child is instilled with a need to pursue more than its own hunger.
As a people we move forward in speech and in action. It is in contributing that each one of us grows and develops. But no less are we a people inflected by our vulnerabilities and susceptibility to violence. Life is fragile. Our words will just as easily betray us. The immense and justly metaphysical strength at man’s disposal rests in the realization that while steel may crush one’s bones and cruelty test one’s spirit, the heart cannot be silenced. Humanity’s unassailable fortress is not wrought in armour, but one strengthened in faith, humility, and grace.
It is along this trajectory that Morelle’s sculptures find their voice.
One can appreciate them each individually. Women allowing the sun to enrobe and caress them, where at other times they lay torn by pain and mourning. Children gathered up in parents’ arms, or eager to explore their yet-undiscovered world. Men at rest, or prompted into action under force of necessity or duress.
Certain couples evoke a tenderness as piercing as it is ethereal, captured with a freedom to parallel that of Chagall and de Saint-Exupéry. Résonances inscribes itself in space as a musical offering. Pulsing out along a curve of outstretched arms, the inextricable sense of longing that binds man and woman finds rest at the still center of flesh and desire, where lovers’ closed eyes meet.
Deep in thought, L’Ange rests upon its pedestal, as if reflecting on the constraints of form relegated to matter. Its face reveals an internal quiet, its outstretched wings seeming to beckon our own ascent to the spiritual plane.
Given the chance to glimpse the work assembled in Morelle’s studio, a story begins to take shape. Each sculpture inscribes itself in this emergent narrative space as an episode, each distinct in character. Moving amidst the figures, individual scenes and gestures converge on an allegorical, village-like setting. It is not so much in their descriptiveness, as in their capacity to relate back to lived experiences of flesh, blood, and emotion that Morelle’s sculptures open themselves up to the imagination. The stories evoked by each sculpture play out against the backdrop of our own memories, drawing us into to the ever-shifting weave of human experience. The texture we run our hands across is the embodied adventure of man and woman. Morelle plunges it into the tumultuous depths of creation, where it surfaces in her hands’ arduous dance.
Morelle’s oeuvre attests to a love and spirit borne less of prowess than of peace. Less in the effort than in the acceptance, less in certainty than in the searching, less in forcefulness than in fragility.
True pleasure comes in knowing how to see, and how to receive.
Miguel Mesquita da Cunha