These pictures leave room for imagination. The figures of Michèle Lehmann inhabit a sort of landscape of the mind where they turn away from you. They point to something outside your range of vision or they hurry towards an unknown destination. They are attending an event whose purpose is unknown to you. There is something they are not telling you, and unavoidably you start to make up your own story. It is what is missing that is fascinating. Michèle Lehmann, born in Switzerland, has lived and worked in Mijas for more than 30 years. She began with pencil drawings that evolved into great complexity, taking weeks to finish. She now produces oils carefully built in layers of glaze which have won prizes over Spain and are shown in galleries in several countries. Michèle Lehmann is totally self-taught and credits Mijas itself and the many artists who live in and around the town with providing the stimulation and resources from which she learned. “The artists I know here have helped me to open my eyes,” she says. “From them I was able to get a very complete education, great stimulus and encouragement.”
When Michèle Lehmann arrived in Mijas, she opened a small shop in the square, which she then turned into an art gallery, as there were few outlets for local artists “I was always interested in culture in general, literature, music and the visual arts, but I then had no real idea of becoming an artist myself. I could say that boredom got me started. While I waited for people to come into my gallery, I began to draw. The more I drew these pencil drawings, the more I realized how much I loved doing it. There was an old woman in black who passed the gallery every day. She wore a black shawl, a black kerchief, a black blouse, a black skirt and black shoes, all different shades of black. I knew that I had to draw her, but she moved too fast to catch. So I drew her from behind.” Mijas artist Don Clarke saw Lehmann’s drawing and immediately had it framed, over Lehmann’s objections. But she hung it in her gallery and it sold the next day. Six months later, noted artist Rowland Fade organized an exhibition for Lehmann in Almuñecar, which sold out. “I had begun to think that I should go to art school and get some formal training,” she said. But an art professor from Córdoba came to this show and told her that she was better off following her own path – and that is exactly what she has done..
David Searl, Writer
Some time ago, Michèle Lehmann was telling me she had discovered by chance a small book by a French author she did not know – one of many authors who go through life in silence – in which, briefly, he wrote about the feelings that assault us from the daily observation of the simplest things. As if this were a discovery, this very simple form of enjoying that which surrounds us transported her to this moment of calm which brings forward the serene life, the pleasure of which resides in slowly enjoying the miracle of each new day.
Michèle paints with no hurry to finish and attentive to the most intimate feelings that accompany us throughout our lives. She has been capable of expressing solitude, love, companionship, silence; feeling the need to make the observer believe in his/her human nature of always seeking something more, a journey of hope. Time passes serenely, enveloped by a warm drawing always present and cradled by the colour and veiling, the colour skillfully converted into something almost incorporeal.
Let us look carefully at Michèle Lehmann´s work, because the curious observer who knows how to appreciate the gift that each morning means we feel like a partner with all that surrounds us, will divine in her painting the secret of everyday life, which is nothing else than the same essence of our life.
Benito Alvariño, Galeria Alboreda
The spirit that stands out in Michèle Lehmann´s work is substantially romantic. Her landscapes are dealt with under the essence of the sublime, nature idealized in which the human figure, almost always pictured from the back, takes on the role of observer, a spectator captivated by the immensity of it all. This very private “poetization” of the surroundings reminds us of the exalted nature of the paintings of the great German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. Like him, Michèle manages to make us identify with her “faceless” characters, subtly creating an allegory of the disintegration of the individual in the universal “all” and allowing us to contemplate the special magnitude that surrounds us.
Michèle tells the story of a woman dressed in black who passed by the shop every day – she wore a shawl, head scarf, skirt, blouse and shoes – all in different tones of black. Michèle felt she had to draw her but the woman was always walking too quickly, so she decided to capture her from behind. This was her first work, “with no hurry to finish and attentive to the most intimate feelings that accompany us throughout our lives” as Benito Alvariño tells us, who has a great knowledge of her work.
“The ‘back views’ can be a symbol of depersonalization but they also possess a meaning commonly rooted or related with work, physical strength, kindness, sincerity and nobility. These are all qualities that Michèle manages to capture in her paintings through chromatic metaphors that create these faceless figures that appear to be in a timeless setting that reflects her method of painting.
Susana G. Romanos, Writer
Born in Berne (Switzerland) she came to Barcelona in 1972 as a public relations for a French company, but she wanted to change her lifestyle and a friend suggested the Costa del Sol. That´s why she moved to Mijas (Málaga) and there opened a handicraft shop. A good painter, as is Don Clarke, encouraged her to paint and her shop slowly turned into an art gallery because she hung all of her drawings there. In 1978 she received the Drawing Prize from the Diputación de Gerona and held her first exhibition in Córdoba. Since that time she has continued to show her creative work in individual and group exhibitions.
Michèle has achieved a singular and personal painting. Her work is characterized by images in which the characters are seen from the back. As she herself explains, “ if I painted the faces of my characters they would then be someone, with a face, an identity. This way, I let the observer imagine what he/she likes in whomever they like.”
With great drawing and composition skill, she presents characters who all and surrounded by someone give off a strong feeling of solitude. In a scene of neutral and extensive tones, the individuality of each man is reinforced. Fine brush strokes, soft and well graduated tones, surreal contents, clean and pure forms; all this and more is Michèle Lehmann´s work. It is a work that when contemplated fills us with peace and serenity.
“Something touches you, you feel it, and suddenly, you are able to bring out the best that is in you. That is when you make good art, you have to feel it.” M. Lehmann