Any claim that Niki de Saint Phalle’s art coalesces with her life is merely a statement of the obvious. The fact that she turned to art resulted from her overwhelming need to come to terms with herself. She didn’t begin painting in order to become an artist; rather, she did it to form an identity. To her, there was nothing self-evident about the idea that art was something else than paintings and sculptures, to be respectfully observed from a distance. The realisation that art might be something else dawned on her gradually, in part as a result of her travels across Europe. She began to understand that art is a kind of life force, which you can involve yourself with as you see fit. Her first works reveal the violence and aggression that was beginning to stir within her. When she invested her energy into a field where her freedom was unbounded, her creative force took on boundless proportions. Art became her way of life; an all-encompassing experience that was simultaneously intellectual, emotional, technical, and practical. Each piece by Niki de Saint Phalle resulted from an existential struggle, in which she was creating the means for her very survival.
From a conversation between Niki de Saint Phalle and Pierre Restany:
“My life began in an asylum. I discovered insanity, and the path to recovery: work.”
“Niki resides in myth with no pretence; she stepped into the world of symbols entirely without artifice: symbols are her reality, and therein lies the infinite wealth of her imagination. This abundance of themes is that of play, of visionary play, which is the world’s essence, and also its poetry. Niki demonstrated to us that human culture was born out of play.”
On shooting: “Some ideas provoke emotions. My ‘shooting’ was an emotion that evoked an idea. Thus, my rage was expressed through a victimless death ritual.”
“Shooting can be play as practice. Play produces the artwork, the kind of play that adapts to reality in order to make it theatrical, or turn it into an idea, a metamorphosis. When Niki shoots, she is adapting to reality through this fundamental gesture; a gesture which gives rise to a language, but also to a stage.”
“I have never shot at God. I feel a great sense of resistance and a powerful attraction. I shoot at the church. I exalt the cathedral.”