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Nathanaelle Herbelin

Autoportrait, 2022

oil on canvas
About Nathanaelle Herbelin
Painted on wooden boards, Nathanaëlle mixes a range of turpentine, linseed and vegetable oils with her paint, which she likens to the slow geology of the desert. Herbelin commemorates this geology in her paintings: in some, the surfaces look puckered and dry, as if the paintings themselves have endured a pelting from a sand storm. Others are wet from layers of rabbit skin glue and a natural primer, which, like the desert sand, is high in calcium. This emulates the effect rare rainfall has on desert soil when the water sinks into the sand before slowly evaporating to form a calcium called caliche. You’ll notice small bubbles and divots that resemble the textures of the desert rock which she’d perch on as she painted. Her washy oil paints blend and merge; sometimes the brush marks are visible over eroded down blisters on the surface, which she degrades using coarse scraps of sandpaper. Often the abrasions she makes will be vehemently scratched at, out of anger towards the needless constructions being built. The Egypt–Israel border, instigated by the outgoing Israeli hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2011, is one she plans to paint soon. Painting for Herbelin is like writing a diary – attempts to portray what can’t exactly be seen on camera or write in words. She paints what she sees, as they are, as they feel, as uncomfortable as the truth so often is.