Colour, desire and destruction in Béatrice Bonhomme’s La Maison Abandonnée

Clemence O'Connor* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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To write colour is to draw into the space of the text an element of the visual idiom which resists words: while a painting’s line and framing invite the viewer of even non-figurative art to perceive semantically, colour expressivity defies language. Yet its immediacy and embodiment appeal to the contemporary poet. In Béatrice Bonhomme’s livre d’artiste La Maison abandonnée (2006), a collaboration with pastel artist Christine Charles, we follow the speaker’s meanderings through a house soon to be destroyed, but ephemerally painted over by a fresco or graffiti artist who remains anonymous. The house is pregnant with a forgotten history, that of lost childhoods whose lingering traces on the site are doomed to disappear – yet loss coexists with celebration in the wild, child-like, yet emphatically sexualized markings on the walls. Colour saturates the speaker’s apprehension of the place and is presented as a catalyst to the act of writing; yet it ultimately eludes words, which prove unable to tell colour apart from light or from other senses, namely touch. But, in their discontinuous, gradually undone account of the viewing process, words can still bring out the congruity of the short-lived colours’ temporality and aesthetics. Violent, chaotic and desire-driven, the frescoes seem to look forward to their destruction, presenting it as another creative process in its own right; one that will intensify their lustful, celebratory energy and their hurried, unbridled aesthetics in a moment of consummate undoing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-387
Number of pages14
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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