Elles font l’abstraction/Women in Abstraction, by Christine Macel and Laure Chavelot

Third entry in the book:

En 1895, Alice Essington Nelson, une artiste anglaise méconnue adepte de spiritualisme, trouve dans l’art abstrait un moyen d’exprimer sa croyance dans l’au-delà. L’unique oeuvre d’Essington Nelson à avoir survécu est une énigme. Le titre Shewing the Influence of Osiris pourrais désigner Osiris comme la force qui l’inspire. Essington Nelson décrit sa technique comme automatique, suggérant par-là que ses aptitudes spirites ou parapsychiques orientent son processus créatif.
In 1895, Alice Essington Nelson, a little-known English artist and spiritualist, found in abstract art a means of expressing her belief in the beyond. Her only surviving work is an enigma. The title Shewing the Influence of Osiris might indicate Osiris as its inspiration. Essington Nelson described her technique as automatic, suggesting that her spiritualist or parapsychic gifts directed her creative process.

This was the souvenir book from the exhibition of women abstract artists that F and I went to in the Pompidou Centre in Paris last summer, listing more than fifty whose works were on display. Most of them are better known than Alice Essington Nelson; I said at the time that I’d have happily paid the entrance fee just to see Bridget Riley’s Tremor:


Not to mention Louise Bourgeois’ work.


The advantage of a book like this is that you can go back and have a longer look at some of the artists that tired feet maybe stopped you from properly appreciating in the exhibition. So for instance I picked up now on Marlow Moss, whose technique was ripped off by Mondriaan:

or Janet Sobel, who ended up a neighbour of my grandmother’s family in Plainfield, New Jersey, her drip painting style having been ripped off by Jackson Pollock:

And it inspired me also to go back and have another look at the video elements, especially Judy Chicago’s Women in Smoke.

The other thing that struck me is how I have changed. As a kid I found that abstract art in general left me baffled and often scornful; I preferred my art to actually look like something. Now I very much appreciate form for its own sake, and like to think that I am much more open to whatever message the work is trying to convey. There’s still some rubbish out there, but it’s usually worth asking what is intended.

You can probably get it here.