In her own unique playful and subversive style, Sylvie Fleury investigates the role of women in contemporary art and society. Her 'Cuddly Paintings', for example, can be compared with the 'Knitted Paintings' and 'Stovetop Pieces' of Rosemarie Trockel in that both artists employ female (or, to be more precise, feminine) stereotypes. And, like Trockel, Fleury frequently refers back to (male-dominated) art history to make her point. In her 'Mondrian' series, for example, her monochrome 'Cuddly Paintings' are transformed into multi-coloured geometric compositions which refer back to the works of Piet Mondrian. By appropriating this painter's works, she not only reclaims art for women, but also makes art soft and cuddly, and thus approachable and loveable.
For several years now, Fleury has expanded her sources of inspiration to include cars, perhaps one of the greatest associative motifs relating to the male, 'macho' stereotype. What fashion is to women, the automobile is to men. Fleury's mid-career survey at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zürich two years ago, for example, included numerous cars and references to automobile racing, as well as a multi-media installation based on her living work of art, a racing car enthusiast association for women known as the 'She-Devils on Wheels Club'.
One of the highlights of the exhibition were the two compressed cars painted in cosmetic pink tones. On the one hand, a reference to the famed 'Car Crash' series by Andy Warhol, one cannot help but to recall the tragic car crash that ended the turbulent career of the Abstract Expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock, perhaps the most macho of 20th century artists after Pablo Picasso. The mutilated cars were exhibited in front of wall full of catch phrases from the covers of women's magazines that feature equally destructive, aggressive or negative terminology: "Suffering in Silence", "Tarnished Tiaras", "Body Fat", "Colors With Bite", etc. The car's titles are also based on one of these headlines: "Skin Crimes: And 28 Ways To Prevent Them".
Yet whereas one can often find such playful feminist attacks in the works of Sylvie Fleury, her "fundamental intention opposes their appropriation in service of feminist interpretative models. Fleury herself states simply that women can assume any given male role today - regardless of whether it relates to dress, hobbies, social rituals, etc. Gender ambivalence is so prevalent that every conceivable transgression of social norms can now be approached in a playful manner. Today, 'She-Devils on Wheels' gaze out from their flame-adorned Mobiles at the muscular arms of Playgirl Magazine supermodels!" (R. Wiehager, 'Sylvie Fleury', Ostfildern-Ruit 1999, p.127.)