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Originally from the French department of Saône-et-Loire, Cécile Cantele fell in love with the natural region known as “La Petite Sologne” in which she had the privilege of growing up, and the native fauna, which she was free to discover, nourished her wildest dreams. Her parents encouraged her rare and blossoming artistic talent early on, and assiduous attendance at the design school of Châlons-sur-Saône proved an extraordinary and very educational experience for her. Her appreciation of drawing combined with her love for the animal world, and particular for wild animals, determined her choices in terms of education and the professional and artistic path she would follow. A committed activist for the protection of endangered animals from the age of 12, she nourished her vocation with the help of famous British naturalist and writer Gérald Durrell, with whom she had a rich epistolary exchange. Although the fashion world allowed her to use her ability to reproduce wildlife art, which she continues to enjoy today, it is in painting that her passion found its best expression. She exhibits her artwork regularly in renowned galleries of France.
A figurative painter, Cécile Cantele has asserted her independence from traditional representations of reality. Freedom and imagination seem to be her only watchwords as she subjectively illustrates her vision of a new order, one that is based on three essential elements. This trilogy works perfectly: firstly there are the emblematic remnants of a dying archetypal world; secondly, human presence is reduced to a child whose candour and beauty carry the hope of a better, more responsible future; and thirdly, wild animals are seen to take over the space that was unfairly seized by mankind.
The message is powerful and immutably hammered home in every painting. It is very clear: we must leave behind us these remnants of urban wall painting, which should serve only as a reminder to us not to make the same mistake again, and see an opportunity to build a new society, one that is respectful of nature in its original purity. Mythology assumes all its meaning here, whether it is the Western aspiration for a return to the Golden Age, the importance of child-animal relationships explored in Nordic legends, or even the belief in the protective, totemic role of animals that is popular in American Indian culture.
In this way, Cécile Cantele conveys her personal mythology to us; it is a renewed mythology that is rich in symbols. Although at first sight it might appear to be genre painting, her art is in fact visionary and allegorical, and in no way moralising. It awakens our collective subconscious and invites us to reflect on our future.
The compositions are always skilful and well balanced. The frontal viewpoint, displaying little regard for perspective, underlines the veracity of the subject matter, which occupies the space in a harmonious fashion. The clever, illusory mix meaningfully combines photographic sketches, fantastical drawings inspired by American authors of youth literature such as Brandon Mull and Philipp Pulmann, Graffiti Art and Trompe-l’œil. The design is perfect and the details precise. The fauna (which varies from bears to big cats, chimpanzees and elephants) are startlingly believable. The omnipresent wall paintings highlight the subjects in lively and shimmering colours, revealing a mixed technique based on acrylic paints, the use of felt and airbrushing. These ‘trompe-l’œil frescoes’ are invariably engaging.
In this novel and high quality artwork, Cécile Cantele immerses us in a poetic world steeped in emotion, a world where, human and animal species having been reconciled to mutually beneficial allies, everything is once again possible.
Francine BUNEL-MALRAS, Historian of Art