Ceija STOJKA: Ici, il n'y a pas de pourquoi

4 September - 2 October 2021 Paris / Main space, Paris / Front space

“Paper is patient”
Ceija Stojka [1]

Deported at ten years old to the first of three different concentration camps, Ceija Stojka began her testimonial only forty years later, first with her writing, then by painting, which she taught herself. Her work is all the more significant because it occurs in the context of belated recognition of Samudaripan, the Romani Holocaust, within a community that voluntarily scotomizes death[2]. This creative and retrospective act raises the question of a “latency gap”[3] that must be filled before visual expression. Painting is done “after the fact”, in the Freudian sense of the term, in which a traumatic event only reveals its significance for a subject in a temporally posterior context. Which is to say that this message is “speech against a silent backdrop”[4], accumulated or gathered while waiting in order to then flow out directly onto the paper or canvas. The time that passes is therefore not a linear unbroken kind of time, rather an entanglement of facts and images in comings and goings that reactivate the impression in an expressionistic material[5]. The result is a poetry of coming back and of “one shot”: creating afterwards and quickly. This distortion of time is found in all of Stojka’s work, which can be divided into two distinct stylistic groups: the “light” works (gouache or acrylic paints on canvas or carton) and the “dark” works (ink on paper). For the first group, paint is taken directly from the tube and scratched with the shaft of the paintbrush, in a generosity of matter tending toward the sculptural, sometimes cut with a knife in energetic movements, sometimes meticulously applied. Touch and time are here of the same kind, in other words slow or fast. Because the strength of the line and the plastic delicateness are not antipodic in Ceija Stojka’s pictorial art. Completely covered, the canvas is an “all-over” with no preparatory delineation, which translates an expressive urgency of the vision, the imperative of the witnessing in the creation. This abhorrence of a vacuum provokes a pure visuality, confirming the sincerity of the practice. Without preparation or glazing, the treatment is unembarrassed of its realism and approaches, a contrario, a form of timeless abstraction in the synthesis and the aspectivity of the shapes. Even more, the works on paper transcribe the necessity of expression. With a great economy of means, in a graphic and geometric line drawn with a marker we can almost hear squeaking at times, the scenes of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ravensbrück, or Bergen-Belsen are annotated with commentaries and memories where the past is clarified by the present. Within the “fringe of images”[6] called up by Ceija Stojka, a mix of images from her childhood before the camps, those of the camps themselves, or those of a more recent life create, in fact, a body of work marked by anachronism[7]. But art does not cannibalize the document. Said differently, the a- and hyper-mnesic vision does not contradict the immense creativity at work in a testimonial marked simultaneously by verismo and a palingenetic enthusiasm: sand, glitter, and the boldness of the composition are used to create scenes combining the regard of the adult and that of the child.

Text written by Elora Weill-Engerer.




[1] Ceija Stojka, Nous vivons cachés - Récit d’une Romni à travers le siècle, Translated by Sabine Macher (Isabelle Sauvage, 2018), p.175.
[2] See Patrick Williams, “Nous, on n’en parle pas” - Les vivants et les morts chez les Manouches, (Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2017).
[3] Carmelina Imbroscio, “Post-mémoire et identité. Les représentations du traumatisme par la ‘mise en scène’ des objets”, Revue italienne d’études françaises, 1 | 2011.
[4] Maurice Blanchot in L’Entretien infini, (Gallimard, 1969), p.44.
[5] This is Paul Klee’s definition of expressionism, which he contrasts with impressionism: “In expressionism, it is possible for years to go by between reception and productive restitution, and fragments of varied impressions can be used again in a new combination, or even old impressions reactivated after years of latency by more recent impressions,” in Théorie de l’art moderne, folio/essays, (Denoël, 1998).
[6] Henri Bergson’s expression, which appeared in Matière et mémoire (PUF, 2012).
[7] In narratives of genocide what dominates are “discontinuity, fragmentation, refusal of chronology, disarticulation of temporal sequences, flow of consciousness on the margins of the narrative, or multiplication of narrative voices,” in Anny Dayan Rosenman, Les Alphabets de la Shoah - Survivre, témoigner, écrire, 2013 edition (Paris : CNRS, 2007), p.179-180.