Jessica Cherry heads to the King’s College Cambridge Art Centre to see the thought-provoking and mind-stimulating work of Agnes Poitevin-Navarre
Agnes Poitevin-Navarre is not an artist who paints pretty pictures. She creates thought-provoking and mind-stimulating pieces that can at times render the viewer uncomfortable. The intimacy of the King’s Art Room adds to the sense that everyone can read your inspired thoughts.
Poitevin-Navarre is experimental with her ideas, and it is this daring that has enabled her to exhibit at the Royal Geographical Society. For this current exhibition, she needed the help of students and inhabitants of Cambridge and the surrounding villages to fill in a “Proustian Questionnaire”, revealing what their greatest achievement was, and what life has taught them. Using these answers, she created a map that interestingly shows great differences in outlook between those who live in the centre, and those who live further away. There seems to be a great age-divide, and what can be unsettling is that many of us in the same post-code area have the same thoughts. We may not be as individual as we imagine.
This individuality is further explored in two “Colour Coding” prints that depict heritage and culture, shown through the differences in skin and hair tones. The artist’s website says “The work of Agnes-Poitevin-Navarre plays with the concept of self and how it is defined through racial/cultural categorisation. In her art practice, she challenges perceptions of cultural, linguistic and racial hybridity.” This idea stems from Agnes’ French culture, where a person of mixed heritage is referred to as “café au lait”. In reaction to this, she playfully depicts how people could be labelled in the future, with other allusions to food and drink, whether this be caramel or vanilla. It is a topic that can be hard to deal with tastefully, but Poitevin-Navarre succeeds.
Diversity is also shown in the range of mediums she uses – hair, wood, photocopies, and computer images. Hair is fascinating as she uses it to sew a floor plan of King’s College, reminding us that we become woven into the fabric of Cambridge, just as much as Cambridge will always be a part of us. We can see our physical selves embedded in the architecture, forever a small part of history.
Who we are now and who we may become in the future is a frightening prospect that we are forced to consider whilst witnessing, and to a great extent, taking part in Poitevin-Navarre’s work. If you want to challenge your mind and consider your heritage, then this exhibition is at King’s College, until Saturday 26th November, free entry.
by Jessica Cherry
Friday 25th November 2011