Delaxroix to Dubuffet

Le Balcon by Jean Genet 1964
title page

Le Balcon, The Judge

From Delacroix to Dubuffet

Agathe Sorel studied art in Hungary and at Camberwell School of Art in London before a period in Paris making prints at Hayter's Atelier 17. She now has a print workshop in London and exhibits widely, prints, drawings and space-engraving sculptures. Her album of line engravings and photo etchings for Genet's Le Balcon was published in 1965. The distance between the writers Guillaume Apollinaire and Jean Genet is equaled by that between the two french artists Raoul Dufy and Jean Dubuffet, and if Dubuffet in his LesMurs lithographs, creates his characters from the urban jungle, adding to it his private fantasies and terrors. Genet by contrast proclaims that the fantasy is the reality. The Queen, the Judge, the Whore, the Executioner, when they appear between the spotlights, or float free like Dubuffet's Lone Ranger somnambulist, eight feet above the ground, then they are you and me: in them we should recognize ourselves. Drama, role-playing, the world of imagination and desire is realm contrast to what he considers a hypocritical tissue of lies constantly papering the cracks, patching the veneer and adjusting the masks of bourgeois society. Genet's characters demand of each other that they admit the reality of their sub-conscious lusts, fears and cravings. What they wish or fear to be they become in a territory where beauty, terror and role- reversal co-exist.

The title page for Agathe Sorel's album Le Balcon (cat.52a) combines line-engraving, photo-engraving and colour aquatint. Carmine and gold, the curtain is to be raised, but already we see beyond it. In "Le Judge" (cat.52b) the deadly contest between Judge and Whore has begun: he wishes her whipped; she flaunts her trade and taunts him. The Executioner's whip flails the empty air in impotence, swift lashes of the burin. Stadium floodlights flare. The Judge, ritually shod in the buskins of the classical drama, must crawl to his seductress and lick her toes before her tawdry theivings are confessed. Heavily embossed, his wig is his humiliation and halo to her foot. The clock records her fee. In this exchange, who is now the hunter, who the prey ?

The exhibition has deliberately linked and juxtaposed prints, albums and livres d'artistes. It does not pretend to do more than bring, to a wider public aspects of printmaking and of artistic collaboration between artist, writer and publisher which, outside London, are less well known in this country than they might be. Many of the individual prints and albums we have shown, are inspired by poetry and literature, classical and modern French English, while others have a frankly autobiographical content. The autographic prints by which the artist parallels or complements his chosen text in a livre d 'artiste is not to be equated with book illustration as it is generally understood, for this is a more equal partnership, where the artist is no mere sub-contractor.