At first, it may seem like photography defines a composition that isolates a small piece of reality. The result is a suggestive image, a recomposed reality to be perceived within the limits of the frame. In some artistic practices, the dialectics between subject, frame, and off-camera is emphasized through the addition of fragments from various origins in order to create a collage. The act of cutting that singularizes the subject, and that of fragmenting, which “implodes” images, are the processes employed by artists to create a visual gap and multiply reading levels.
Avant-gardes already practiced this fragmentary approach as shown by the innovative research led by the Bauhaus and the De Stijl, the graphic experiments of the soviet and Czech movements, the iconoclastic leaflets of the Dadaists and of course the surrealists’ collages, not to mention the outstanding Merztbau de Kurt Zwitters. This approach was, and still is, actively used in graphic design and for communication supports. Alongside advertising purposes, a tighter relationship between text and image enabled the development of political messages that could serve propaganda art as well as anti-government movements. The anti-establishment approach of the great John Heartfield is one example among many.
In the art world, the techniques of collage and image manipulation have endured until the 60’s. Pop ‘Art joyfully used them to praised the symbols of our consumption society. Major artists drew from them, and some even made them a defining process of their art such as the Americans Rauschenberg and Barbara Kruger, which work can be considered through this spectrum. More recently, the collages of Martha Rosler were rediscovered, an artist who confronted consumption society and the Vietnam War through press clips.
While this practice seemed to have disappeared for a few decades, at a time of digital technology and its loads of software, image manipulation has come back in fashion. Simultaneously, more traditional techniques reappeared in some photographic practices. New experimentations enable the emergence of artistic languages centered on the exploration of photographic image on a formal as well as conceptual level. Perception is a vital concern for all the artists who “fabricate” images, and can become the foundation that opens up new fields of perception.
For this exhibition, we have selected artists who intertwine the various possibilities of collage.
Image association thus enables to build a new relationship to history through a transposition process that serves an original plastic language. This approach is visible in Catherine Poncin’s work, which image-by-image methodology is a form of collage and gives way to compositions with several layers of visual fragments from different sources, whether found or archival images. Catherine Poncin gives these fragments a new life by combining them with her own photographs –which can be real elements or macro reproductions of the details of a document or a work the artist has resized. Zooming as well as the play on very contrasted lights and colors contribute to the visual impact and final touch of the work. However, her work is by all means narrative and multifaceted since, although the artist has forged her own story through this appropriation of images, the visual narration she offers is open to personal interpretations.
Katrien de Blauwer’s subtle compositions made out magazines clips are imbued with a cinematographic atmosphere. They however escape the frame of linear narration, which rather peaks through what is outside the frame, the missing parts she replaces by black or colored flat tints. The minimal radicalism of her composition reinforces the surprising formal impact of her work given the modesty of her formats and the restricted number of parts she uses. The artist carefully observes and analyzes the elements that make up a photograph whether in the topic, the appropriation of a piece of reality through framing, the very space of the image as well as its various sequences and hues.
As for Claudia Huidobro, she does not hesitate to slice women bodies in order to create astonishing compositions in which pieces of flesh are related by threads which rhythm alludes to a surrealist music score. The artist resorted to various hues in the works exhibited here: sepia and black and white, saturated or faded colors that highlight the carnal tones of the bodies. The irony on the diverse temporalities of woman iconography is made only more obvious. The series therefore spurs a critical rereading of the sexual and consumerist perception of women bodies. However, Huidobro’s sensual work stands as a tribute to women and their freedom.
Bodies and sensuality are everywhere in Esther Teichmann’s work, even when evoked through shells or seaweeds rather than stunning nudes. In her approach, collage takes up different forms. It can be monumental when she combines her framed photographs with others used as backgrounds. The composition then becomes like a set, a stage that gives rise to a sumptuous oneirism supported by the mastery of the pictorial treatment of her photographic supports.
Her formal relationship to romanticism is even more visible in her standard format montages in which she combines photographs and reproductions of historic pictorial models. In these series, shape of bodies, materials and colors overshadow realism and narration. They transform the scenes into baroque daydreams that very much recall the orientalists’ desire for an ideal beyond.
This romantic concern is also at work in Anni Leppälä’s literary approach. Her Finnish origin inspires her photographs and books a Chekov-like atmosphere. A feeling that the subtle light and nostalgic beauty of her models emphasize. Very often, images focus on random fragments of reality the artist imbues with a new formal beauty. Her last creations only magnify the discursive suggestiveness of her work already palpable in the storyboard display of her small formats. Her compositions directly integrate the wall surface and relate the images through monochromatic flat tints or the use of one image as a background for the others. The whole work, which is to be seen as one single piece, however preserves the singularity of each individual photograph.
Benjamin Mouly is another artist whose narration unfolds along the walls. This young French artist explores exhibition modalities through the association of fragmentary images he literally pulls out of their frame and transfer into a new space that evoke both the image and what is outside the frame. On top of his conceptual approach, plastic artist and photographer Mouly investigates photographic matter through zoom in process, emphasizing luminous contrasts and radical cropping. Formal elegance is the result of the vision developed by the artist, which underlines the narrative suggestiveness of the whole along with the meticulous mural display of each exhibition.
As for Noemie Goudal, she surprises us by reinventing our perception of reality through the creation of dreamed architectural compositions she transfers into natural environments. Her monumental towers made of various architectural elements cannot but recall Ledoux’s symbolism. The visual fragments mounted on two-dimensional structures, only to be photographed and placed back into a three-dimensional perspective, are the instruments of her mathematic illusion. Our perception of space is disrupted and our eye, so used to the visual standards of the camera obscura, is lost in wanders.
Young Pablo Jomaron’s discreet collages are made out of superposing ink and pieces of images. They are the result of an editorial process that damages the image through photocopy or mimeo in order to leave only traces. His editorial collaboration with Quentin Leroy and Thomas Brun under the label RED LEBANESE gave way to a fruitful production of fanzines where collages prevail. Their collaborative installation both concludes and opens the exhibition to the editorial diversity of contemporary art revolving around image fragmentation. Their book-related practice echoes the other artists of the exhibition who also develop an editorial work that visitors can discover in the gallery library during the duration of the show.