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Avon Campana, admired by poet and novelist, Jean Giono from the moment she began exhibiting in the lote 1960s, attracted worldwide acclaim. She exhibited in Tokyo and New York, as well as in Paris, Saint Paul-de-Vence and, naturally, in Marseille, the city of her birth which was the inspiration, in 1999, for one of her must beautiful paintings: the Legend of Gyptis and Protis, created for the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the "Phocaean city".

Her achievement is all the more remarkable when one considers that she worked at the margins of the contemporary art scene and received little support from the critics, apart from one of the greatest, René Huyghe, an eminent historian and member of the Académie Française. Yet, take a doser look at her paintings and it is easy to understand the reasons for her success: while, technically, she was influenced by the Flemish school, from van Eyck to Memling, the leitmotivs and subject motter of her paintings are contemporary with our postmodern era. While certain religious themes do appear in her work, Avon Campana has no ideological or philosophical message to convey. Like Salvador Dali or Giorgio de Chirico, her paintings suggest labyrinths full of symbols which need to be deciphered.

There we meet timeless beings in an enigmatic universe, one sometimes stripped bore or, on the contrary, exuberant and Baroque. People who love her work sometimes wonder what she meant by this or that symbol, but it is up to the onlooker to find his or her own interpretations. We each see what we can or what we want to see and her representations are the starting point.

 

And yet, there is nothing anarchie or gratuitous about her work: we are confronted with a series of ambivalences that can be found throughout her prolific career. First, a quest for lost purity, mainly represented by the barren scenery of a Provence haunted by austere shepherds, magical places remembered from her childhood, or, quite the opposite, an explosion of colour and form on a canvas full of enigmatic women and multicoloured birds. Another ambivalence set in play is that between youth and old age.

Avon Campana's faces are usually either those of etemal youth, often embodied by young women with pure faces, and those of approaching death. Another theme running through her work is that of the longing for love, and the couple, a longing of which woman is both source and revelation at the same time. "I hope that you will be loved madly," exclaimed André Breton to his daughter, Aube. Such hope can be seen in the female figures painted by Avon Campana, whose faces are often upturned to the sky, symbol of the infinite.

Omnipresent, femininity is central to a body of work that might be said to question what is woman? what is her elusive nature? and pays tribute to the feminine. Ail Avon Campana's works, whether a still life, a desolate or fairytale landscape, fruit or horses, happy or resigned men or women, are coloured by a longing for wonder. The strange magie of Avon Campana's work lies in addressing the child that lives on in each of us.

Paul François Paoli