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MADAME BETTINA

My cousin Catherine Couronne came to visit me in Australia. She is like a sister to me, as we have been brought up together.

She is a performing artist, she has a clown company in Paris, 'Cie Couronne', and at the time of her visit her new creation was Madame Bettina.

I never knew her as a clown, she said 'let's see how the Australians like Madame Bettina!'. At Mardi Gras she decided to go into the streets, and she asked me to take photos of her for her website.

She disappeared into her bedroom and after one hour's preparation (costume, makeup), she appeared as MME BETTINA!

I couldn't recognise my cousin, she was a different person, I said 'vous' to her and called her not Cathie but Madame Bettina.

Her voice, her attitudes...everything was different. 

Off we went into the streets of Sydney, the Opera House, the Bridge, Circular Quay... they all loved her... I took photos.

A few days after I took her to a remote campsite in the bush... she changed her costume, she felt lost and disoriented... a clown without a public to laugh... an orphan.

Before she left to go back to France, I decided to paint a little portrait of her that she can take with her in the plane.

After her departure I did a series of paintings from my photographs, I loved painting her, the colour of her costume and hair made me explore the blues and oranges, a change from the purple, red and green of the Tango dancers.

discovered as well that I loved painting the emotions, behind the mask of the clown... a classic subject matter, the clown means so much for humankind since the beginning of time, and a subject so personal to me.

 

My studio on the headland of Georges Heights is open to the public. When I was working on the series of Madame Bettina, preparing my exhibition, my paintings were all around, two old ladies came in, and one of them said 'Oh look, the clown, it reminds me of this song we were singing when we were children, do you remember?'

Life is a play and we all play a part

The lover, the dreamer, the clown

The dreamer and lover are always in tears

The clown spreads sunshine around

The life with a smile is the life worthwhile

The clown till the curtain down

Even though you're only make believing

Laugh, Clown, Laugh!

Even though something inside is grieving

Laugh, Clown, Laugh!

Paint a lot of smiles around your face 

And Laugh, Clown, Laugh!