Iris Häussler
The Sophie La Rosière Project

14 September – 11 December 2016

Opening Reception: Wednesday, 14 September 2016, 6 – 9 pm

Trained as a sculptor, since 2009 the German-born, Toronto-resident artist Iris Häussler has been painting. But not just any painting. It’s been out of date for a hundred years! In fact (or is it fiction?), after teaching herself how to paint, Häussler has produced the complete oeuvre of unknown French artist Sophie La Rosière who died in 1948. In fact, Häussler has created an artistic persona (a heteronym) through which to channel this fictitious artist’s secrets while, at the same time, fabricating a biography for her and an elaborate back story of a hidden erotic liaison that intersects, nonetheless, with real people, historical events, and actual artistic movements.

Häussler calls her project a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art—and it is more than all-consuming of the artist Iris Häussler herself, but a life work of Sophie La Rosière, too. The painting, though, is merely a kernel within the larger shell of La Rosière’s life circumstances, which includes the recreation of her studio, its products and detritus, and also the elements of a forensic investigation that tries to answer the questions, after the paintings’ discovery, of why these paintings were abandoned, why they were concealed by a layer of black encaustic, and, ultimately, what secrets do they conceal?

Häussler also calls her project a novel in three dimensions because the story unfolds over time and through its various material means—with surprising plot twists! Coincidentally, the story reveals itself tentatively over three different sites in Toronto. At the AGYU, La Rosière’s mystery is encased in her abandoned studio with its encaustic-obscured paintings. At Scrap Metal (21 September – 17 December), the forensic investigation continues. The display there includes x-rays of paintings undertaken by the C2RMF laboratory (Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France), the official investigator in the project, as well as testimonies by and interviews with various French officials on the historical, artistic, and psychological circumstances of La Rosière’s life. Finally, La Rosière’s paintings are unveiled and their hidden subjects revealed in the restoration of the works exhibited at Daniel Faria Gallery, spring 2017.

The Sophie La Rosière Project was undertaken by Iris Häussler in collaboration with Catherine Sicot, Director/Curator of Elegoa Cultural Productions. The AGYU exhibition is curated by Philip Monk. The Scrap Metal exhibition is curated by Rui Mateus Amaral. A book on the project will be co-published by the AGYU and Black Dog Publishing, London.