F.J. Ossang: The Grand Insurrectionary Style by Nicole Brenez

F.J. Ossang: The Grand Insurrectionary Style   

Nicole Brenez

Cinematographer, writer, singer, messenger: F.J. Ossang, born in the Cantal on 7 August 1956. Practices poetry in all its forms. Subject of a retrospective at International Film Festival Rotterdam, 25 January – 5 February 2011.
He makes music – nine albums with his band MKB (Messageros Killer Boys) Fraction Provisoire; he writes prose – some twenty books, including De la destruction pure (1977), Corpus d’octobre (1980), Descente aux tombeaux (1992), Unité 101 (2006) and the emblematic Génération néant (1993); he makes films – ten movies and as many visual poems, if poetry means a violent outburst of vitality.
Ossang pretends not to concern himself with painting and drawing, but he has created sublimely beautiful tones of grey in Silencio (2007), and always gives carte blanche to his outstanding cameramen: Darius Khondji for Le trésor des îles chiennes (1990), Remi Chevrin for Docteur Chance (1997) and Gleb Teleshov for Dharma Guns (2011), making it possible for them to create radiant images without equal on any silver screen in the world. Joe Strummer said (after Docteur Chance) that Ossang is the only filmmaker he would immediately work with again. Ossang’s work belongs to the grand insurrectionary style that runs throughout the history of anti-art, from Richard Huelsenbeck to the films of Holger Meins. (1)
Ossang’s aesthetic has the singular capacity of displaying his expressive, narrative and rhythmic inventions in the context of an iconography of the most popular kind – in such a way that their poetic intensity transforms archetypes (bad guys, social groups, femmes fatales, warriors) back into prototypes, and facile effigies into fascinating creatures distraught with love, emotions, flux and space. He is a great filmmaker of adventure: bold images and scenarios in the form of expressive epic poems; the psychological vicissitudes of characters who move from rapture to ecstasy until they evaporate in the upper atmosphere because they can never again descend – like, for instance, at the end of Docteur Chance.

The story does not present events in the dreary manner of the average film, but allows room for visual developments, like Jean Epstein or the Soviet masters, including the Mikhail Kalatozov of I Am Cuba (1964). Instead of showing the chase or the race, Ossang films the world that produces such velocity, plunging into the substance of colours and the experience of sensations. Whatever the story may be, it springs from a love of words: not so much the dialogue but the formulation, the insert, the slogan, the point – giving rise to the monumental handwriting that so characterises his work.

But, most of all, Ossang’s cinema involves bringing back epic gestures to popular visual culture, tearing things apart until they become inconceivably beautiful. In Dharma Guns (2010), he creates a poetry of the ‘final images’, fits of giddiness, psychological account-settling that invade our brains as death approaches – the gleams and flashes he has still to extract from his much-loved argentic.

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Claude Pelieu and Mary Beach

Mary Beach was born in Hartford, Connecticut in on May 8, 1919. In 1925, after her mother's divorce, she moved, for six months out of the year, to France with her mother and two sisters. During the first part of World War II she lived in the small town of St. Jean de Luz, but, with the entrance of the United States in the war in 1941, she was soon viewed as a suspicious alien and was, for a time, interned in a Nazi prison camp known as Glacière.

Despite her parent’s protests, but perhaps under the influence of her distant relative Sylvia Beach, famed proprietor of Paris's Shakespeare & Co. and the first publisher of James Joyce, Mary pursued her life as an artist with great passion from an early age.

Her first solo show was at the Galerie du Béarn, in Pau, France in 1943, and she has since then continuously exhibited her work all over the world.

Mary returned to the United States in 1946, where she married Alain Joseph (an American soldier she had met in France) and had two children, Pamela and Jeffery. She attended the Hartford Art School (where she won first prize in her class), and also attended school at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
 In 1957 Mary and her family returned to France, to Strasbourg, and then Paris in 1959. She attended the esteemed Grande Chaumière, where she studied under Henri Goetz. She exhibited at the historic Salon des Indépendents in Paris in both 1957 and 1958; won the Prix du Dome at the Salon des Femmes Peintres in 1959; won 1st Prize, Vichy, France, and Silver Medal in 1959 as well; and was exhibited at the Salon des Surindépendents in Paris in 1960.

These early accomplishments stand alone, and would be exemplary for any artist. But for an American woman in France -- for a wife and mother in the late 1950s anywhere, Mary's success in the male-dominated art world is truly astounding. She is one of the great, under-appreciated pioneers of her generation.

After the loss of her first husband, Mary met Claude Pélieu. While living with Claude she continued to work and exhibit all over the world (Galerie du Moulin Rouge, Biennale de Paris; Suzan Cooper Gallery; Galerie Wandragore, Rouen; etc., etc.). During this time she worked at City Lights, in San Francisco, where she discovered and published the poet Bob Kaufman and, under her own imprint of Beach Books, Texts, and Documents, published William Burroughs. She also collaborated extensively with Allen Ginsberg.

Claude Pélieu and Mary Beach met in 1962 and, until Claude's unfortunate passing in December of 2002, shared an exemplary rich and creative life. Traveling extensively while living primarily in Paris, New York and San Francisco, their existence was a bohemian adventure during which they ceaselessly explored and continuously created.

With a keen and graceful eye they deconstruct, critique and reinterpret the classical and contemporary worlds of art and media, while creating striking new works of wit and beauty -- drawing subconscious associations that are both mysterious and poetic.

Long hailed in Claude's native France as the natural inheritors of the Surrealist legacy (a direct line has been drawn by French critics from Picasso and Braque to Schwitters and Duchamp to Warhol and Pélieu), their works are highly prized and respected.

However, in Mary's native America, the pair remains relatively unknown, their work still awaits discovery by both mainstream critics and collectors. Mary passed away on January 26, 2006, after a long illness. Up until a week before she passed, Mary was still drawing and painting. She was contemplating a new series of ink drawings.

If you would like to see a slideshow comprised of Mary Beach and Claude Pelieu's Collages which they created later in their lives, please visit this link: Ginger Eades Tribute to Mary & Claude (Dedicated to Pam)