Saturday, 4 May 2019


Now, Now, Louison by Jean Frémon    {Reviewed by STELLA}
A second-person fictional autobiography, Now, Now, Louison creates its own genre. Jean Frémon - art critic, curator, novelist, poet and essayist - has painted a portrait in words of the artist Louise Bourgeois; a story of a life in memory: his memory. Frémon first met Bourgeois in the 1980s and curated both her first European show at the Galerie LeLong in Paris in 1985 and her final Parisian show decades later. He visited her in New York over 30 years until her death in 2010, saving snippets of conversation and eavesdropping on her life and work. He started this writing project in 1995, so while he states that this is from memory, and the ‘novel’ was published well after her death in French in 2016 (translated into English by Cole Swenson and published by Les Fugitives press in 2018), there is something of the voyeur in this telling. The narration moves from ‘you’ do this, 'you’ do that as the observer Frémon, to 'I' am, 'I' do, 'I' remember as the central character Louise. It is as if Jean Frémon has thought so intently about the artist he has moved his mind and his words into her mouth, into her head, so that the two superimpose each other. You are here, as the reader, the observer and the observed, as well as the being within the artist’s mind, the curator of your own destiny. This shouldn’t work as a device, but in fact it does, and remarkably well thanks to the prowess of Frémon's writing - subtle and exacting. The prose is like a making process - building patterns and rhythm, building a form - a sculpture chiselled out of pain, love and contradiction. It is a compelling way to tell a life, to create an understanding of a sharp and brilliant - as well as a reclusive - artist, an artist completely bound up in her own work, with an incredible sureness and, at the same time, a devastating doubt.Louise Bourgeois’s work is now well known, especially her giant spiders, her fascinating drawings, and her textile works of the body and female sexuality. In Now, Now, Louison we are given a glimpse into her life, her family and feelings of abandonment, her fraught relationship with a mother who died too young and with a philandering father who wanted her to be someone other than who she was; her ‘escape’ to America, and the life she carved out for herself. Her ongoing art practice, mostly unnoticed during her lifetime - she was well into her 60s when the world started taking notice of her work - marks the pages in description and explanation in a emotionally charged and psychological way: Frémon does not  so much describe as reflect the atmosphere of Louise Bourgious, creating, through his subtle use of langauge, through repetition of themes and fragments of knowledge, an essence of the woman who scuplted, painted and stitched. This is not a biography, not a work of fact. It is purposely a novel, yet Jean Frémon in this short work creates an intensely interesting portrait of an intensely interesting person. This is a book that takes the reader to a point of maybe understanding, but more importantly to a place in which to be with Loiuse, the artist, the young girl, the elusive woman and the intellectual. In the words of Siri Hustvedt, “She is here in this book, the artist I have called 'mine’ because I have taken her into my very bones, but I did not know the woman. I know her works.”

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