Contemporary Art and Dance: 3 questions to Cécile Raynal

02 April 2019

If you no longer needed to prove a link between the different arts, the various works of our artists would have us believe that contemporary art has virtually the same pitch as dance. In this series of articles "contemporary art and dance," we asked our artists to shed some light on the connection.

French sculptor and former dancer, Cécile Raynal is first in line to play the game. The following are her answers.


Belle au bois… Aurore, Cécile Raynal (2017-2018)


Cécile Raynal's sculpture is intimate and private. The intensity it gives off is quite spectacular. The different works are full of energy, tell a story and very often possess a captivating gaze which almost assumes a desire for interaction.

Dance is about movement, methodical, anticipated, spontaneous, organized, explosive. Dance is captivating, its unpredictability never ceases to marvel. 

Cécile Raynal's sculpture is motionless, unchangeable, permanent. It expresses the spontaneity of a face labelled with truth, always real, always humane. The sculptures captivate you with the promise of an unveiled truth.

"In dance there is a neutrality. The less a dancer expresses, the more his movement and his energy will radiate," the artist claims, which explains to a certain extent the captivating stillness of her works.


Cécile Raynal: the route to dance

"I did gymnastics from a very young age, as such I am a very physical person." states Cécile. Thus, without being fixed to any one discipline, she has always used her body as a means of expression, particularly in dance, but not exclusively. " When I was at the Beaux-arts in the 90s we were in the middle of the conceptual art period. Therefore, I did lots of performances, events, installations. I used to push my body to the limit, in every sense of the term." confides the artist, constituting the last piece in the puzzle of her installations, for which she would shave her hair, roll around in mud.

"At art school, sculpture was quite undisclosed, it did not correspond to the convention of that time. Painting and sculpture were not getting good press and figurative work even less. There were no more courses on techniques, they preferred a theoretical approach." Dance, far from a second choice for the artist, was nevertheless a way to correspond to these codes and to enroll in the movement of the art institution. However, she remained possessed by a need to do portraits, she tells: "I used to hide at school on Sundays to do portraits, but I didn't think I had the necessary technique."

 After her studies, Cécile went to England where she worked and learned the trapeze and the wire, feeling the necessity to "use her body in every field, abroad…" After this she went to Africa, " I was dancing every day as I found myself surrounded by musicians." This is where she learned «the emotion of dance. » "Dance attracted me because it is almost a subversive force." In these conditions the artist acquired knowledge, a certain expertise and lots of experience in dance and rhythm, that she used to her advantage upon her return to Europe, ultimately coming back to sculpture and her obsession for portraits.


OFW's/Hom's, Cécile Raynal (2012 - 2013)


 A practice of sculpture nurtured by a practice of dance?

 "I was building bridges between different types of dance and sculpture portraits." Cécile has an idea that modeling portraits is to sculpture what choreography and show production is to dance. More pertinently "a knowledge of African dance, with its ritualistic side has been inspirational for my sculpture. This dance is sometimes almost shamanic."

Cécile loses herself when she is sculpting, as indeed she does when she is dancing, her feelings take over from her thoughts creating a very intuitive, sensorial and existential sculpture. The artist insists: this state of modified conscience, this freeing of the unconscious, to a great extent, is not however comparable to a trance-like state. " It is a pure body moment; it is the body taking the upper hand over the mind... at last." During this creative process, Cécile Raynal comes into direct communication with her body and, just like when she dances, the action of sculpting channels it. " It is a structuring force," she says.

Likewise, music is the common denominator of the two forms of expression. Just as it is necessary for dance, " it is a means for summoning silence and concentration."

Cécile confides that she gives her sculpture emotions specific to the realm of dance, this practice has moulded a particular apprehension towards sculpture which tends to define her art. "I construct my works around an emptiness, that I use as a broad outline, but this emptiness is begging to be filled in, in the same way that a dancer is filled with the energy of the audience. And also that a spectator can be physically affected when dance strikes an inner chord."

The body is a means of transferring energy, the same can be said for Cécile Raynal's sculpture. 


Homme percé, Cécile Raynal, 2011


When an interior state becomes exterior: a point in common between dance and sculpture?

As far as Cécile is concerned, the modeling of the sculpture brings all exterior aspects together, hers and her models: "In my sculpture this inner movement is in a void, it takes on substance thanks to sculpture which brings about emotions, the very same emotions that come to life during a dance performance. (…) My work has to reveal an intangible side of people. This intangible begins in the void. It is like a line of poetry," a part of Cécile's work is trying to break with her own beliefs so that the magic does its stuff and that something shrinks away and goes to work on its own void. She produces objects which, like in African animism, possess a spiritual essence.

Cécile's sculpture is inanimate. However, its energy makes one think more of suspended animation. Whereas dance is movement, the work of Cécile Raynal is "trembling," fragile and full of emotion. "Sculpture is wicked, as it offers a host of escape routes, like when one is standing across from another person."



Duo d'Aude, Cécile Raynal, 2011

The link between dance and Cécile Raynal's work, without being obvious, seems necessary all the same. " Stillness, in the end, is a part of dance as silence is a part of sound. It is saying that the void is not nothing."


On the same subject "Contemporary art and Dance: 3 questions to Klaus Kampert"