The empty chair : What is our place on Earth ?

Francis PARENT. Journalist, Art critic.

The first part of the work of Lisa Seror was to paint, for years, the daily life of her own : Jews in Tunisia. And for good reason. As many jews in the world, who are faced with threatening events, they had to leave their country.


Lisa came to France at the age of 14, and was quickly disappointed by the Parisian greyness, so opposed to the light out there…

She began to paint, after 15 years of this exile, 15 years during which she has, she says, much slept. This behavior can be explained by her confusion, the trauma of an unwilling exile, like she tried to dig in, into her dreams, a way out.

This phase of evocation, of nostalgia, many artists cannot avoid it when the gap is too deep between their childhood abroad and their new home.


Then, she moved on… to wonder « what’s next ? »


After the phasis « Frame and texture », the artist who is well-known in her heart-belonging country, and during a trip in Tunisia, Lisa walked through the jewish old town… chairs on doorstep caught her attention. This is were resident set to take some frash air and have a little chat with neighbourhood. Those chairs were empty.

A question that will stick on Lisa’s mind for decades poped up : « where is our place on earth ? »


This is how began her new pictural phasis, which still last, that she called « The Chairs » . She explores the place, the position, the moving, the mystery  of humanity, and of course, the emptiness. The one where you are, without asking for it, the one one which make you looking for, perhaps, the divine.


When, carried by the merciless wind of History, we are forced to leave the land of our ancestors, of our roots. When the memory of the happiness of childhood and the family atmosphere, swamped through the seasons and jewish traditions fades gradually… what remains in our broken memories ?

Moreover, when you have the chance to be a painter, what are exile’s colors that should be printed on the palette and the canvas ?


Between her needs for symbolic research of her own roots, the control of her new but still fragile identity, and the duty to formal mordernity in an artistic expression of catharsis, the painting of Lisa Seror has evolved to strip back to the essentials.


What the artist now suggests through the figures of her abandoned chairs, whether they are represented in groups or alone, stiff or lopsided, realistic or abstract, framed or released into nothingness, is that it is no more about a personnal emptiness and linked to a community (as Proust did with his madeleines) but it is now a much broader existential emptiness that requires an eschatological vision as Ionesco could have done. Chairs becomes the incarnation of ontological emptiness.


As Alberto Giacometti would say « I know i could spend the rest of my life copying a chair ».


We can predict to Lisa Seror that she has many year in front of her, to paint splendid and never ending variations on empty chairs, before she exhausts this fundamental and existential questioning that Eugene Ionesco also wanted to share to his own, as he stated : « Evanescence, the viduity of a world, which is here, which isn’t here, which will no longer be… »