once upon a time
May 29 - June 19, 2008
Sara Badr Schmidt or A Mystery
in the Light of Day
by Pascal Bruckner
Once upon a time, there are men driven into trees, like nails, their heads pointed upwards or their heads pointed down, sylvan creatures hanging like strange fruit. Once upon a time, there are girls walking in a red world, with a bounce in their step, polite and orderly, their knees bare, and there are birds on a wire, chirping, watching the girls parade beneath them. Once upon a time, there are beds, just abandoned, their covers thrown back, bicycles leaned against a wall, red butterflies pinned to a canvas. These beings, these objects, these plants and these insects seem to be waiting; some waiting to fly away, others to descend, yet others to be freed and all assigned this basic task, each for a different reason. Their presence speaks to that which is not, but must come to pass one day; as important for human salvation as what already is. What they await will not come but they revel in being there, straddling two dimensions of time. Sara Badr Schmidt's paintings belong to the category of the not-yet. In her world, there is always a chair, a sofa or an armchair, empty and available; inviting us to sit down and settle in, before we leave to make room for others. The chair awaits the passerby as the painting awaits the visitor who will find himself renewed in it. It invites repose, it is a welcoming absence; a stage in the never-ending journey. Even the tree offers its branches and trunk to those suspended there and the butterfly offers its wings, spread to catch our eye.
There is nothing painful about this waiting. It is calm. Sara Badr Schmidt's painting revisits. She travels back in time, traverses the abstract and the figurative, tries her hand at collage, sprinkles her works with poems by Prévert and ironic or poetic phrases. This revisiting of styles is both playful and educational. Sara Badr Schmidt revisits as a way to deepen her own creative work and find her own way. She takes in everything, mixing forms, colors, commentary, materials-even the most pedestrian and unexpected, like oilcloth. Writing and drawing trade realms, contradict, strengthen and enhance each other. We might be reminded of haiku, short Japanese poems that elude meaning, that pronounce while refusing to be explained or summed up tidily. This dialogue is without aggressivity or hysteria. Her paintings question without provoking. They invite the viewer, trustingly, with humor and sensitivity. Once upon a time, there was art, begun again.
Once upon a time, there is a morning like all other mornings, an afternoon like all other afternoons, dedicated to a time of contemplation. The universe of Sara Badr Schmidt may be mysterious but it is free of anguish. It is a mystery in the light of day, certainly all the more disturbing for that; filled with forged evidence and pseudo-simplicity. Her symbols-eyes, birds, peacocks, bicycles-add a dreamlike but unthreatening dimension. The artist makes her confession, which reveals nothing about her. She exposes herself without admitting anything, creating an enigmatic atmosphere in which we can all recognize ourselves. The pale, pastel colors reveal a naturally welcoming disposition toward life. We might find an Eastern influence here, and sense her interest in Buddhism. Her paintings are not made just to look at but to meditate on. Once upon a time, there is a work in which there is nothing to understand but everything to feel.
Even seated, her characters appear to be flying, landing or taking off, swept away by an airborne imagination in an eternal present. We might describe them as beings floating in a state of expectation, awaiting a rebirth or a metamorphosis. Sara Badr Schmidt's canvases capture a quality that is rare in painting and that lends her work its charm: serenity in a state of suspension.
Once upon a time, there is a baby in its mother's arms that cried out.
Once upon a time, there is a painter, newly-born: Sara Badr Schmidt.
French philosopher and author