MARCILLAC Nata, painting

It is in an event that changes my life, the accidental death of my parents when I am not 8 years old, that one can grasp the original meaning of my work. 

Childhood, death, the question of memory, are different themes addressed in my work, which, despite what appears to be an abundance of forms, follow a common thread: that of presence and absence, two sides of the same reflection on the difficulty, perhaps, to be in the world. 

Nata Marcillac


I was born on April 16, 1965 in Antony to French parents born in Finland to my father Jean-Pierre Marcillac, and in Vietnam to my mother, Jacqueline Binet. My father is a cardiologist, and my mother, who came to France after 1954, is a nurse. They met at the hospital in Dreux where they both practiced in the early 1960s. Shortly after the birth of Véronique, my younger sister, in 1966, the family moved to the south of France, near Grasse.

Véronique and I grew up in a privileged and loving universe. Outside of work, our father is passionate about art, travel and adventure. He writes, takes pictures, edits and sounds films, plays guitar and piano, knows how to sail on the sea and in the air, but above all, he loves freedom, and regularly takes his little family on a trip. Our mother, who stopped working when we were born, is also very creative, especially in all decorative and clothing matters. In 1972, our sister Catherine was born. 

On February 8, 1973, the plane, driven by our father and in which are also our mother and a couple of friends (the four of them had left together for a few days), is caught in a storm and crashes on the Atlas Mountains. There are no survivors. 

The shock is brutal. Life is turned upside down, and the one before, which seemed paradisiacal, gives way to a new one, where the landmarks have changed completely. I am 7 and a half years old, Véronique 6 and a half years old, and Catherine 10 months old. It is our paternal grandfather and his wife, who has two daughters Armelle and Heloise, who will take care of us from now on. 

We end up coming to live in Millau, in the Aveyron, where our grandfather comes from. Life is not always easy in this family reconstituted before its time, but we are creative there. We sing, dance and go upstairs or take part in shows. For my part, I also invent stories, write, draw on all my notebooks, inaugurate a tradition of notebooks, paint, make, etc.. Creation and art are the means I found to survive the plane crash and my interiority. For several years, I suffer from enuresis, have nightmares, pathologically fall into syncope. I undergo neurological examinations and am monitored by a psychoanalyst. My sisters call me Natha, later on, I will choose to keep this name (without the h) as my artist name. 

In 1981 and 1982, I took part in a drawing competition organized by the city, on the theme of dance, and obtained successively the second and then the first prize. I thus win my first easel. At the time, nobody suggested me to try the Fine Arts, myself, I don't think about it. What I am passionate about is the dance and theater that I practice, and my dream is to be a performing artist. But I lack confidence, and also, you have to leave, leave this house, turn the page and live at last! With my Baccalauréat in my pocket, I joined an advertising school in Paris, without much conviction. But the past that I was thrown out of the house doesn't let itself be forgotten so quickly. Life in the capital, during the first years, is hatchy, chaotic, full of discoveries, openings, and profound inner upheavals. Vitality prevails in spite of periods of total loss of meaning, in spite of the ghosts lurking around.

In advertising, I meet Philippe Nessler, who has been passionate about cinema since childhood. Together, we do theater and films, I play, continue to dance, paint and write punctually. After advertising, I enroll in college where I will obtain a Master's degree in Theatrical Studies. It is a rich and troubled time.

In 1990, I left alone for three months to travel through Mexico (where I met my half-brother Philippe, from my father's first marriage to an intellectual Alicia Reyes), then Brazil. During this initiatory journey, I write and draw a lot. Returning from this journey, I find the future father of my children with whom, a new era begins. 

Marie was born in Paris in 1991. This birth is a rebirth. It is at this time that I assiduously return to painting. I take myself of passion for the wooden toys of craftsmen, which I decorate with much patience and love. Through my little girl and through these toys, childhood resurfaces. I thus realize dozens of unique pieces that are sold on designer markets. I earn little money compared to the work done, but I learn a lot. Victor was born in 1994 in Vélizy, where the family moved. I now share a workshop in Versailles with Lan Konogan who is a fashion designer and my friend. 

In 2000, our couple separated. This painful separation makes me relive something of what was experienced in 1973, and it is in painting that I will draw the strength to overcome this event. A new and intense period of pictorial work opens then. I give up the toy, and put myself in the painting, using as a support the one I already know: wood. I opt for a raw material, a pure chromatic palette and simple forms, to speak of abandonment and death. This will be the Minerality with which I will obtain a gold medal at the Triennale d'Art Contemporain de la Défense. 

In 2006, I realized a large installation commissioned by the municipality of Vélizy for the Printemps des Poètes, on the theme of the city. I propose to inlay poetic text in the materials that make the city: cement, paving stones, glass, metal. A video projected on the walls is also made with Jean-françois Ballay, poet, writer, director, filmmaker I met in 2004, who became my companion and with whom I made several works (video, editing, installation). 

But 2006 is above all the beginning of a ten-year journey on the question of Presence/Absence, of which the Angel appears to me as the representative figure. Elégies de Duino by Rainer Maria Rilke is a revelation, but many other texts will enrich this reflection and exploration around the Invisible. It is about death of course, but also about apparition, ghost, double. More than a hundred works will be produced (paintings, drawings, writings, videos) and exhibited in France and Italy. 

In parallel, from 2011, a work on the Clothes of when we were before is undertaken, in which the theme of childhood is essential, but we also find those of memory and time passing. From old clothes on loan or from photos, I make a kind of faceless portraits, imbued with a certain melancholy but also softness. They will be exhibited in Nantes and Paris. 

Since 2016, words and writing, which run transversally through all my work and are proof of the strong relationship I have with the text, have come back to the forefront, notably with Paysages avec figures absentes by Philippe Jaccottet, and Les mots du poète aimé qui n'écrit pas (Words of the beloved poet who does not write). 

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Clothes from when we were before...

Produced over a period of ten years starting in 2007, 'Vêtements de quand on était avant' is a graphic and pictorial work, both on childhood, the passing of time, and memory. 

Inspired by clothes of the tender age, these works are a kind of portraits, without body and face, often taken in a movement. Other elements are superimposed in layers and transparency, which are the traces of stories lived, composed or imagined. 

About forty garments were made in gouache and oil, on synthetic paper. Then ideally, they are glued on dibond.  

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Main collective exhibitions

2019  AIAPI Human Rights #Clima, Italy

2016  Microscopie du banc/ Le génie du banc, Micro Onde, Vélizy, France 

2007  Biennale Internationale d’Art contemporain, Florence, Italy

2003  Europe art, Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland

2002  Triennale d’Art Contemporain de la Défense, La Défense, France

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2002  Triennale d’Art Contemporain de la Défense, gold medal - abstraction section

1983  Municipal competition on the theme of dance, first price

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