Decorated room screens and sculptures
Courtesy Bernd Goeckler

Yolande Batteau’s Latest Body of Work Reflects a Passionate Personal Investigation of Materials and Self

The exhibition “Yolande Batteau: Introspective” at New York’s Bernd Goeckler gallery features objects based on the concept of the mirror.
By Tom Morris
May 8, 2021
2 minute read

Over the past three decades, multidisciplinary artist Yolande Batteau has traveled the world to study age-old artisanal practices, many of which are on the verge of extinction. She translates these techniques, and the mediums used to carry them out, into furniture, jewelry, and perhaps most famously, handmade wall coverings, inventively enhanced with gilded, painted, or plasterwork finishes and made through her Brooklyn atelier, Callidus Guild. Yet while Batteau investigates materials, she’s simultaneously doing a similar kind of work within herself—an act that Covid-19 kicked into high gear. “The pandemic made me stop, reflect, channel what’s important, and eliminate the white noise,” she says, deeming the experience a “time of growth and self-examination.” Soul searching features prominently in her latest body of work, aptly titled “Yolande Batteau: Introspective,” on view at New York’s decorative arts gallery Bernd Goeckler through May 28.

It’s little wonder that the starting point of the collection was a mirror. The resulting sculptures and objects, made using traditional procedures that create a looking-glass effect, serenely reflect and refract. There’s a striking series of translucent selenite crystals, carved and water-gilded in 12-karat white gold; a diptych of marble plaster panels embellished with freshwater pearls; and a folding screen flecked with a constellation of matter including abalone shells, which have insides that evoke an oil rainbow. A few pieces incorporate verre églomisé, the ancient craft of covering the back of a piece of glass with metal leaf to produce a mirror-like finish.

Batteau finds each piece’s capacity to subtly cast back its viewer—as well as her own handiwork and passion for natural phenomena—extremely relevant, if not cathartic. “All of us have turned inward this year, and this work reflects that process,” she says. “There’s something magical about seeing parts of yourself reflected in raw earth, even if it’s somewhat obscured.”