The artworks I really liked in 2020

Pauline Le Pichon
9 min readDec 3, 2020

It’s December, the month in which many of us take stock of the past year.
In this article, I’ve chosen to share my artistic favourites of 2020. Everything I enjoyed and that moved me.
I encourage you to do the same.

> Warning: there are many spoilers in this article!

_____

TV series:

I watch a lot of series. I’m addicted to Netflix and apart from “Riverdale”,
I’ve finished every show I’ve ever started watching.
Of the series I’ve watched this year,there are two that really stood out.

The first one is High Fidelity, a series by Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka. The brilliant Zoe Kravitz plays the main character, and she is accompanied by other very good actors such as Da’Vine Joy Randolph, David H.Holmes… I’m not going to mention them all but the casting is really perfect!
“High Fidelity” is based on the novel of the same name, written by Nick Hornby. And this one had already been adapted into a film (by Stephen Frears, in 2000) and in which you could see… Lisa Bonet, Zoe Kravitz’s mother. I haven’t read the book and I haven’t seen the film either, so don’t judge me if I don’t have enough distance on the subject.
“High Fidelity” is about the story of Robyn Brooks aka Rob. She owns a vinyl store and music is at the heart of her life. So much so that she wants to create a playlist inspired by her ex “Mac”. This relationship has been over for a while, but Rob’s heart is still in pieces, and speaking directly to the camera/us, Rob will start telling us about her 5 worst breakups. The ones that made her lose faith in love. I don’t want to give too much away, but this series is definitely worth watching.
Music plays a big part in this series, and every song is good. From Ann Peebles’ “I can’t stand the rain” to songs by Thomas Doherty (who plays in the show), Darondo, John Moods… what a treat for the ears!
Rob’s clothing style is also incredibly cool, I think thousands of us have loved her casual yet totally awesome outfits.
The series was shot in Brooklyn, and everything (the rooftop, Rob’s flat, the concert hall, the famous New York streets, etc.) makes you want to go there.
It‘s also a sad series and that’s also what I like about it.
Not everything is easy. There’s something admirable about admitting that. Watching it gives a very human side to the story and the characters. It’s very universal. We could all, for example, talk about our worst break-ups, couldn’t we?
It also shows how every decision we make can have consequences. Rob is trying to figure out her life, and we’ve all done that at some point.
Unfortunately, the series has not been renewed and there won’t be a season 2. It’s quite sad because season 1 showed a lot of potential, and the end could clearly call for a sequel.

The other series that I loved, which clearly has nothing to do with High Fidelity, is Orphan Black. I discovered it this summer, when I didn’t know what to watch. And I was quickly won over. Orphan Black starts with Sarah ( Tatiana Maslany), a young woman in a train station. While on a platform, she briefly looks at another young woman. This woman commits suicide by throwing herself under a train immediately afterwards. But the moment their eyes meet, you realise, like Sarah, that the young woman really does look like her. It’s very disturbing.
Sarah then decides to steal the dead woman’s belongings to take her identity and… find out more about her. At first she thinks they are twins, but she soon realises that it’s much more complicated than that… since it’s a story about clones and biotechnology.
To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of scientific shows.
I was often bored. And in the case of Orphan Black, there were times when I didn’t like the plot so much, especially when I saw things that were too predictable.
But if I really got hooked on this series, it’s because of Tatiana Maslany’s completely incredible talent: as the series is about clones, the actress had to play several people with very different personalities (there’s the lost Sarah, the nerdy-scientific Cosima, the uptight mother Alisson, the “crazy” Helena, the bimbo Krystal…) and her performance is really amazing in each episode. I mean, sometimes you go from one scene to the next and you have to remember that the actress you see playing that character is the same actress who played the previous character.
Not to mention that sometimes a clone has to imitate another clone!
Each episode is worth seeing again and again.
Tatiana Maslana has received several awards for her performance and once you see Orphan Black, you understand that it was totally deserved.
And of course, I must also to mention the special effects, which are truly amazing, here is the making-of of one of my favourite scenes.

________

Films:

I‘ve watched quite a few films this year, especially during the boring weekends of lockdowns. But if I have to list the ones I really liked, there are only two.

First of all, there’s the film Play, which I watched at the very beginning of the year. It’s a Franco-Belgian film directed by Anthony Marciano, which may speak to you if you grew up in the 90s.
Play is the story of Max and his friends.
At the age of 13, Max’s parents offer him a camera and from then on, he films the good and bad times he has with his friends.
As an adult, Max decides to watch all these moments again.
What I liked the most about this film is that it has the power to make us feel many emotions: we laugh, we feel nostalgic and we cry at the same time.
Even if there are several sad moments, I think it’s definitely a feel-good film. The kind of film you watch to put a smile on your face.

The other film I really liked was The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016). I’m not going to lie, I find the negative point of this film is the story. It’s nothing extraordinary: a very young and beautiful woman named Jesse (Elle Fanning) arrives in Los Angeles to fulfil her dream, which is: to become a model.
Except that she quickly make people envious and the story takes a dramatic turn.
This is one of the films I enjoyed the most this year because of the visuals. Everything is both beautiful and strange. The colours are incredible (many images reminded me of Philip LorcaDicorcia’s photographs), and lots of contrast. The colours always seem extremely well thought out as they always create atmospheres that fit the story perfectly. They also sometimes blatantly show the evolution of the characters. The shots are also beautifully composed.
If you are a fan of Gregory Crewdson and Erwin Olaf, you will certainly like this film. It is truly hypnotic and fascinating.
One might think that all this care for aesthetics is related to the subject of the film, as if the fact of seeing something beautiful naturally attracts us to it and make us envious. But isn’t this vision too limited?
There’s another point that I also particularly liked, but which I will tell you about a little later in this article.

One might think that all this care for aesthetics is linked to the subject of the film, as if the fact of seeing something beautiful naturally attracts us to it and make us envious. But isn’t this vision too limited?

________

Books:

The first book I read in 2020 was By Nightfall (Michael Cunningham), and I really devoured it. I read my books mostly at night before bed, and I only read 10 pages because I like to take the time to immerse myself in everything I read. Concerning “By Nightfall”, I always wanted to go further. It was the first Michael Cunningham book I read, and certainly not the last.
I thought I would see an overly predictable development and in the end I was wrong. It made me enjoy this book even more.
I liked the fact that most of the scenes take place at night, when the masks come off, when we are much more vulnerable and more…ourselves? I also liked the reflections on art and artists, the egotistical but interesting personality of the main character, the way of talking about the unspoken things in couples… And also this universal idea of of the search for a new start, something that will boost us and even transform us.

I read between 10 and 15 books a year, and sometimes I like to read classics that I’ve never taken the time to read before.
This was the case with Tracy Chevalier’s The Girl with a pearl earring.
I read it during the first lockdown (and liked it better than the film) and it replaced the outside world as a huge inspiration.
There’s no connection between the story and my work, but without really knowing why, it really motivated me to produce. It was as if reading something steeped in art (I kept imagining the scenes in my head before I saw the film) was a real driving force.

After this book, I read Rien n’oppose à la nuit by Delphine de Vigan. It’s clearly not the happiest book in the world, especially when you read it during the lockdown. Yet I loved it. I liked, although it’s strange to say that, the way Delphine De Vigan tells the story of her mother’s life. Sometimes you wonder where the line is between biography and fiction. Her writing is remarkable, and it’s even more so in her book D’après une histoire vraie (one of my favourite books).
In fact, I would say that this book is a very beautiful tribute to a woman whose beauty was matched only by her sadness

Virginia Woolf is one of my favourite authors, but I had never taken the time to read Orlando. It was when I read it that I realised what a great book it was.First of all, it’s inspired by her lover Vita and you always wonder where the real and the fake is (yes… I love this theme).This is highlighted very well by the fact that the book and Orlando’s life span four centuries and that the narrator talks to us as if we should never question the story. On top of that, I found the character of Orlando very engaging, interesting and sensitive. By talking about a man who becomes a woman, Virginia has once again given an effective perspective on male-female relationships and how they are supposed to behave towards each other. I also liked Virginia’s tone, which always oscillates between seriousness and humour, the multiplicity of identities and the relationship between Orlando and Shelmerdine, which seems to flow very naturally.

________

Visual Artists:

I didn’t discover Elsa Bleda’s work this year, I think I’ve known her for at least a year or more. But this year, as travelling was almost impossible, her photographs allowed me to travel in my head.
Her cinematic shots are truly inspiring. They often look like photographic versions of Edward Hopper’s works but in the 21st century. I particularly love the night scenes in Johannesburg, when most people are asleep and the calm gradually replaces the euphoria of the day. Elsa Bleda seems to leave her house with her camera, in search of delightful, electric and mysterious photographs. We easily put ourselves in her shoes, becoming voyeurs of a city we have never really seen.
Elsa Bleda is definitely a great great artist and I strongly encourage you to check out her work.

I first saw Monaris on Instagram. If you’re a fan of cinematic photography, you should definitely see her work! Behind Monaris is Paola M Franqi, a young woman who is incredibly talented in street photography and in her approach to human beings.
Her spontaneous and very well edited portraits can easily confuse us they seem to be on the edge of cinema or staged photography. Especially when the models notice the photographer.
Monaris really knows how to capture the right moment, and each photo is a story into which we immerse ourselves with pleasure.

The third visual artist I would like to talk about in this article is Alison Jackson. I didn’t discover her work this year but in 2017, during the exhibition “From Selfie to Self Expression” at the Saatchi Gallery but it was this year that I got even more hooked on her work.
At first glance, when you see Alison Jackson’s images (especially her mental image series), it’s easy to be shocked: indeed, you see celebrities in really crazy and incongruous moments. It’s as if these people have been photographed by paparazzi in situations that are really too intimate. But if you look at the artist’s statement, you can see that these are staged photos with lookalikes of famous people.
In short, it’s really great!
And the reason I looked at them more closely this year is because Alison Jackson has done quite a few photos with a Donald Trump lookalike, so with the US elections, it was a good opportunity to see these photographs again.

________

Music:

If there’s one song I’ve listened to over and over again this year, it’s Anna Calvi’s Wish. I discovered Anna Calvi’s music through the excellent series Peaky Blinders. Even if I don’t like all of her songs, I definitely like Wish.
It’s sensual, violent, attractive…and as a fan of Siouxsie Sioux and Alison Mosshart, I totally find these inspirations in this song.

There’s also the soundtrack to the film The Neon Demon, largely composed by the brilliant Cliff Martinez. Like the shots and the colours, I found it perfectly suited to the story. It’s strange, electric, mysterious, captivating.

________

So here are the artworks I really liked this year.
I hope that, despite this crazy and difficult year, you are all doing well and
I‘ll be back in 2021 with a new article.

--

--

Pauline Le Pichon

I’m a French visuel artist, freelance photographer, instructor and writer.