Andres Serrano, The Way, the Truth and the Life

Andres Serrano, The Way, the Truth and the Life

“I say that my work is in the eyes of the beholder. How you see those people says sometimes more about you than about me. My work is intended to be a mirror, a reflection for you to see yourself in.”  Andres Serrano sits down with ArtPremium in Paris, 10 years after his last interview, and it is as if his utterance had inadvertently paralleled Oscar Wilde’s Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), that art merely mirrors the spectator, not life.

Unacceptability: a value that transcends the binary construct of our society – rich and poor, good and bad, sacred and profane. It is a solitary stillness in a world of noise and can be found recurring in Andres Serrano’s work.

Untitled XXVI-1

The artist visited Cuba for the first time in 2012 and subsequently released a body of work paying homage to this Caribbean island, its nation and its inhabitants. Serrano’s subjects roam in the mystery of individuality and in a very realistic personality. He photographs people and things as individuals and also, as archetypes and symbols. Voices seem to emanate from the remnants of a building in Abandoned, Havana (Cuba) (2012), or the algae-infested pool in Family of Enrique Rottenberg. Miramar, Havana (Cuba) (2012) and from the eeriness of the portrait and the peeled-off paint on the wall of Family Portrait (Cuba) (2012). Material takes on a strange persona in Serrano’s photographs that is wholly other than us. Otherworldly, unfamiliarity and strangeness entice Serrano and through his style, the artist awards himself such individuality.

Serrano: I have always felt like an outsider and I think part of it had to do with the fact that I was an only child. What ignites in me is the existential feeling or even a feeling of loneliness. In my work, I like to go to territories where no one else has gone before. In the art world, I feel separate from my peers and I like that sense of separation. I need to do what I need to do. I feel apart from the rest. Even if we exist in the same world, I am still in my world. My world is not their world and vice versa.

Consider The Klan series (1990-1992). Portraits of Raphaelic sombreness and presence deliver a subject that elicits the ultimate fear of man and confronts visually the manifestation of the ugliness of humanity. Serrano’s works offer an Aesthetic reading into the inherent separation of art and morality, or rather the elevation of art rid of didactic motivations.

There is a strong presence of reality in photography, which Serrano recognises, that evokes innocence and breaks pretences.

Serrano: It is simply about the beauty in something that is not supposed to be beautiful. I find beauty in the Ku Klux Klan. I find beauty in Donald Trump’s portrait (America, 2004). I find beauty in things that some people do not think beautiful but I make them beautiful

ZenaidaGomesJimenesHere, Serrano draws out the question of  the agency of the artist. Formally trained as a painter and a sculptor, he has chosen the medium of photography to convey a shared reality. Serrano’s photographs require the construction of an “agreement of purpose” (Freeland, 2001). His portraiture urges the spectator’s augmentation of perceptual consciousness, to see again what Andres Serrano saw.

The artist has, on multiple occasions, compared himself to the truth telling child in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes (1837). There is a strong presence of reality in photography, which Serrano recognises, that evokes innocence and breaks pretences. His Torture series (2015) is illustrative of this power in images. There is no longer the preoccupation to condone a meaning behind the artist’s intention to photograph the hooded victims from Northern Ireland, Fatima or a tortured captive in Sudan. This is demonstrated by the initial pictures commissioned by The New York Times to accompany the essay on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2005, which prompted the commencement of the series, and perhaps more recently, the article by art critic Jonathan Jones for the Guardian. These photographs are about the actuality of the perpetual human condition of conflict.

At once subjective in his perception and universal in his concept, there is simplicity to Serrano’s operation: three lights, a Mamiya RB 67 camera on a tripod and for most of the time, a backdrop. The artist focuses on the idea of the photographs. Within his simplicity, Serrano finds an infinite variety of subjects and methods of immersion for himself as well as for his spectator.

ArtPremium: When we look at the various subjects you have taken over the years, we see groups of people, religion, and even places. What would you say is the inspiration of your choice?

Serrano: A lot of the time, it comes naturally to me. You can see the progress [of my work] and it makes sense. It is about life, race, and poverty, about social injustice, religion, and sex. One usually leads to another in a very natural way. When I do something, I try to do it in such a way that exhausts the subject; but religion, you cannot do enough about it. Religion is a funny thing because you have to do it when you are motivated, when you are inspired. I would love to be able to meet Pope Francis and to get a commission from him – that would inspire me. I would love to do something for the Church, like religious artists of the past.


In truth, Serrano’s reflection does not stray far from art history. A crucifix submerged in an amber-tinged medium with an almost crepuscular ray shining upon the suffering Jesus Christ. Without the acknowledgment of the work’s title, Immersion (Piss Christ) (1987), the spectator continues to be encapsulated within the mysterious consciousness of the aesthetic beauty created by Serrano. Justly intimated by the British philosopher Owen Barfield on the art of poetry, a similar strangeness in Serrano’s photographic beauty arouses wonder in those who do not understand. Serrano’s larger-than-life photographs are the testament to the artist’s pursuit of Beauty, creating art for art’s sake.

ArtPremium: It is intriguing for us to reflect upon the fact that your work, in general, has always been subjected to a variety of interpretations or even condemnation. Your photographs, however, are not intended to irk your spectator. So why do you think people would want to label your work as provocative?

Serrano: People react in such a way because they see things that make them feel uncomfortable. After Piss Christ, it has always been controversial. They expect that from me. I would like to make pretty pictures but I would also like for them to mean something – not just on flowers, kittens and puppies. People want their beauty with provocation.

Family of Enrique Rottenberg. Miramar, HavanaContrary to the Dorian influence of decadent Romanticism, Serrano pursues a centripetal impetus in his work. The executor’s silent presence in the photographs allows the spectator to enjoy a greater freedom of interaction with the world of the subject. The titles employed in Serrano’s works however, function as a self-referential narrative to the photographs.  For example, from his early Mondrian-esque “fake paintings” like Milk, Blood (1986) to his using of the names of his subjects in Residents of New York (2014) or of the hooded figures in Torture (2015). They break the quiet murmurs of the reverie from the images and consequently distance the artist in a playful, coquettish manner like the character Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595/96).

William Hogarth identifies that “beauty is seen and confessed by all” (The Analysis of Beauty, 1753). In part, Serrano subscribes to the ideal, nonetheless, his canon of beauty proves to be challenging. The idea of beauty has been ruminated over and over by the greatest thinkers of humanity, from Plato and Aristotle to our contemporary, Harold Bloom. Creating since 1983, Serrano’s modus operandi becomes apparent. The artist searches for the intrinsic value of Art, to illuminate the beauty within the matter.

ArtPremium: Your work has taken you to Cuba, Jerusalem, Brussels, Northern Ireland and many more places. Where will you go next?

Serrano: The next place I would like to go is the place where I am going to do my next work. It will probably be in Paris in May. It has nothing to do with the homeless nor the immigrants. Someone once asked me to go to Texas to photograph the Mexican immigrants, I might do that. I have something more conceptual for Paris in mind. Actually, next year [2017] during FIAC and Paris Photo, I am going to have a show at the Petit Palais in October. The show will include more or less thirty to forty works of mine throughout the museum. Considering the range of my work, there is a big selection of pieces to choose from to decide the pieces they [the Petit Palais] will have at the venue. In addition, I am going to do another body of work here [in Paris] in May most likely. 
The world holds its breath as the supposed enfant terrible divulges this information about his new works in Paris. We are sure to be one step closer to dissecting this curious mastermind with the debut of these works.


7 artists from “The Beyond the Visible Issue” (I)

7 artists from “The Beyond the Visible Issue” (I)

Berndnaut Smilde

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde explores sacred architectures and day spaces through his photographs. Nimbus, his most acclaimed project until this day, is a series where he creates ephemeral interior clouds with vapor and a smoke machine. The phenomenon lasts no more than 20 seconds but it is kept alive through the photographic lens and its reproduction. His ephemeral sculptures emphasize time’s subjectivity and the dichotomy between lasting sculptural constructions and his transitory clouds. Smilde studied Fine Art at the Minerva Academy in Groningen, he also holds an MA from the Frank Mohr Institute. His works have been exhibited in art fairs such as Art Brussels, Bologna Art Fair, Amsterdam Art Fair and others. His first solo exhibition was held by the MOOT Gallery in Nottingham and since then his work has been showcased in Shanghai, Taipei, Washington, Lima and other cities around the globe. He took part in numerous residency programmes such as FORM in Western Australia, Irish Museum Residency of Modern Art, and so on. His work is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, Saatchi Gallery, Cornell University collection, Frans Hals Museum and more.


Nimbus Sankt Peter, 2014, digital c-type, print on aluminium, 125 x 181 cm, Ed. of 6 + 2 AP

Yutaka Endo

Founder of Luftzug, a creative collective based both in Japan and the Netherlands, Yutaka Endo is a Japanese designer who studied performing arts at the Nihon University.  His works aim at uniting men, technology and ideas. Endo’s designs revolve around human experiences and the spectator’s interactions. Time’s cessation is one of the main themes explored by the designer, and to convey it he often suspends objects. Proof of this is the project Light is Time, an installation in which 65 thousand watch base plates hang from the ceiling. Endo was responsible for the lighting and the sound, the installations travelled to Milan for the city’s design week and won the prize for best sound and entertainment, the Good Design Award in Japan in 2015 and the London International Award 2015 Gold. Among other projects in which Endo participated are Neoreal Wonder, Energetic Energies, Parts to the Furniture and more. His projects have won numerous awards such as the iF communication Design award in 2014 and the Elita design award in 2011. Most of his installations are light based, he continues to develop and work in Luftzug to this day.

Yutaka Ando

Asahikawa Design Week 2016 “Parts to the Furniture”

Tsuyoshi Tane

Architect Tsuyoshi Tane studied design at the university of Gothenburg and the Chalmers University in Sweden. His architectural designs are regularly made with organic materials such as wood, stone and glass. Following Frank Lloyd Wright’s style, Tane’s creations establish relationships between the environment and his constructions. Other than this, he won the competition to build the new Estonian National Museum. Furthermore, he collaborated with the Japanese artist Yutaka Endo on projects such as Light is time and Light in Water.

Tsuyoshia Tane


Rebecca Louise Law

British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law (b. 1980, Cambridge) is known for her skilful manipulation of natural materials. Encapsulating the life cycle of flora in a perfect parallelism to the decay of man, the artist presents the manifold interpretations of beauty from monumental, poetic floral cascades to still-life encasings inspired by Dutch Old Masters. Currently based in London, Law was trained in fine art at Newcastle University, England and has been exploring natural changes and preservation as an artistic practice for 20 years. Her work is at the same time an explosion of jovial, guileless emotions and a meticulous observation of our universe frozen in terms of our aesthetic perception.
Her large-scale installations inspire numerous commissions including The Flower Garden Display’d at the Garden Museum in London, The Grecian Garden at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, Outside In in Times Square, New York, The Beauty of Decay in San Francisco, as well as by major brands like Hermes, Cartier and Gucci. Law’s work has also been exhibited in public spaces like the Bikini Berlin in Germany, the Huis Ten Bosh Palace in Japan, and in museums like the Royal Academy and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Rebecca Louise Law

The Beauty of Decay – Installation at Chandran Gallery San Francisco

Teresita Fernández

Born in Miami, Florida in 1968, Teresita Fernández is an artist whose engaging narrative immerses the spectator at the heart of our world’s natural phenomena in order to raise questions on perception and the psychology of seeing. Her prominent pubic sculptures present spectacular illusions that reimagine the landscape and the structural integrity of the place of exhibition. Fernández is best known for her unconventional use of everyday materials that positions her urban site-specific works in an ecological environment, for instance, a rock formation effect through the piercing sunlight from the perforated aluminium discs in Fata Morgana (Full Project) (2015). 
The American artist is now based in Brooklyn, New York.The artist first participated and debuted her work in a group exhibition in the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida entitled 30th Hortt Memorial Exhibition. Her most recent solo show at Lehmann Maupin Gallery presents a series of her new works Fire (America).Fernández’s works are enthusiastically sought after by major art collectors and museums and are part of a vast number of public collections including Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in New York, Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, LVMH Collection in Paris, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and many more.


Viñales (Subterrean), 2015, glazed ceramic, 3 panels each – photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Hitomi Sato

Hitomi Sato (b. 1989, Shizuoka) is a Japanese artist who started her artistic career after graduating from Musashino Art University in architecture and design. By utilising the spatial illusion through special treatment of light and colour, Sato’s work awakens the essence of the different human senses. Her most notable installation, Sense of Field (2016), is a narrow walkway that is packed with optic fibre-like radiant light film. The artwork is palpable and goes beyond our known consciousness. Every movement caused by the spectator’s intervention creates a Komorebi effect, the untranslatable Japanese expression for when sunlight is filtered by the porous leaves in trees. After a year studying abroad in London, the artist is currently based in Tokyo, Japan.
Even as a young emerging artist, Sato has presented her works on various occasions since 2012 at the Water and Land Niigata Art Festival. In 2016, her work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan.
Sato has also received the “Excellent award” at the 2015 Mitsubishi Junior Designers Award.



Yasuaki Onishi

Japanese multidisciplinary artist Yasuaki Onishi (b. 1979, Osaka) is best known for his deft treatment of glue. His mountainous installations are lopsided landscapes that create an unnerving sense of vertigo as if a heavy object is encumbering the spectator but at the same time, its structure is incredibly light and fragile. Onishi is concerned with demonstrating the negative space and in doing so, capturing the invisible. The artist presents usual silhouettes, sometimes undulating, frozen in mid-air like Reverse of Volume (2015), other times tempestuous, rendering the concept of volume in physical terms like Ditch of Time, Edge of Space (2016).
Onishi studied sculpture at University of Tsukuba and Kyoto City University of Arts. Since his first group exhibition at the Metal Art Museum Hikarinotani in Japan in 2002, Onishi’s work has been exhibited globally. His recent solo presentations include Reverse of Volume at Arte Sella in Italy, Vertical Volume in The Mine in Dubai, UAE and Reverse of Volume in Vida Downtown Dubai, UAE.
The artist has received many grants and awards including the Sakuyakonohana Prize, sponsorship from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and more recently, as the Art at the Heart winner by Shire of East Pilbara in Australia.


Vertical Emptiness FP, 2016 / Tree branch, glue, urea, other Fresh Paint 8 – Yerid Hamizrach, Tel Aviv, Israel


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A Spring Symphony

Artist Miguel Chevalier animates the flora of the Domaine of Chaumont-sur-Loire and extends Spring into the deep Autumn in his exclusive multi-sensory, immersive digital installation, IN-OUT/ Artificial Paradises 2017.

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Friday Artist to Watch : The Color Space of Hans Christian Berg

Friday Artist to Watch : The Color Space of Hans Christian Berg

Hans Christain Berg - Color Space

Visual Vortex and Color Space

Anthropomorphous sculptures and geometric canvases give life to the work of the Finnish artist Hans Christian Berg. “New visual dimensions” are suggested in his series Visual Vortex as well as in Color Space, both being projects where the eye discovers light in different shapes and sizes. He studied sculpture and was part of the ceramics programme at the Aalto University of Art and design in Finland from 2002 to 2004.

Concerned about the loss of ceramic tradition in Finland, he founded, together with his fellow artists, LASIKOMPPANIA in the village of Nuutajärvi, a glass cooperative aiming at revitalizing this ancient practice in his home country. He has had exhibitions in numerous venues such as the Galerie Forsblom in Helsinki, the Finnish Institute in Stockholm, the Norwegian Institute in Oslo, the Kashya Hildebrand gallery in London and more.

In 2000 he received the young Sculptor Award in the memory of the sculptor Utriainen. Hans Christian Berg won the juried sculpture competition for the new “Fennia ”House in Helsinki , Finland in 2008 and was in 2014 awarded 1 prize in the execution of Contemporary Calligraphy at the 6th edition of the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennal. The Willian Thuring Foundation’s Main Prize for excellency in art for a mid career awarded the artist in 2009.His work is part of museum collections such as Kiasma, EMMA, Helsinki Art Museum, Art Nova Museum in Turku and many more.



7 African artists to watch (I)

Our first selection of seven emerging and established talents who are shaping the Contemporary African Art scene, featured on ArtPremium magazine.

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5 artists out of 20 selected by ArtPremium Committee who are featured in the “Beyond the Visible” issue.

A Spring Symphony

Artist Miguel Chevalier animates the flora of the Domaine of Chaumont-sur-Loire and extends Spring into the deep Autumn in his exclusive multi-sensory, immersive digital installation, IN-OUT/ Artificial Paradises 2017.
A Spring Symphony

A Spring Symphony


On a warm, breezy Spring’s day, a brilliantly iridescent dome adorns the Domaine Park of Chaumont-sur-Loire. The futuristic appearance of the installation entitled IN-OUT/ Artificial Paradises 2017 by French digital artist Miguel Chevalier is rather oddly in harmony with the Renaissance château and garden thanks to its reflective exterior mirroring the exuberance of the sunlight and the surrounding greenery.

IN-OUT / Artificial Paradises 2017 spans across at a diameter of 12 metres. The structure is a demi-sphere with a wooden framework, covered in holographic films in order to capture the prismic glory of the Sun.

Visitors are invited to embark on a journey between the real and the virtual garden within the dome, to be transported in an instant to a reality beyond our everyday physical experience. The artist’s generative digital installation Trans-Natures is projected on the curved walls at 360°, reflected by towering mirrors installed around the interior of the dome as well as the glistening black vinyl floor mimicking a visually echoing lake surface. Italian composer and expert in interactive and generative music Jacopo Baboni Schilingi orchestrates in particular a piece of music to compliment the mysterious floral apparitions in the artwork. It is an experience at once meditative and transformative.


IN-OUT / Artificial Paradises 2017 explores the question of the link between nature and artifice as a full-body hypnotic poem. According to the approach prevalent in the late 90s, Chevalier bases this creation on the observation of the munificence of plant life and transposes such abundance into the digital universe. Different species of trees, bushes, twigs, and foliages congregate to form an artificial ecosystem. This virtual biosphere’s structure generates and regenerates ad infinitum abstract arboreal forms in consonance with the algorithm written by Claude Micheli.

The artwork challenges the visitor’s spatial limits. Enveloped by this digital microcosm, the visitor develops a novel sense of distance towards the infinite. From now through to 2 November 2017 at the Domaine of Chaumont-sur-Loire, this vegetal ritual celebrates the beauty of life, an eternal Spring.


Venice Biennial: Viva Arte Viva

The 57th Venice Biennale is about to open its doors in May 13th. With the title, Viva Art Viva curator Christine Macel intends to celebrate artists, their work and life in this year’s edition.

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"It waves you to a more removed ground"

Anish Kapoor once famously said that for there to be new objects, there had to be new space. The artist’s work reveals the truth in his paradoxical conversation between the void and the perceptible.

Chamber of Reflection

Chamber of Reflection

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Night Sky NGS 3372 from the series “Night Skies”, 2013,
cocaine dust on photographer’s velvet, 132 x 306 cm. Courtesy of the artist


Photography and image-making by extension, have become part of the everyday rituals of contemporary western societies. The proliferation of images has become a synonym of acknowledgment, a symptom of our obsession for appearances and the praise of individualism. Susan Sontag’s call for an “ecology of the image” has been exceeded by social media and the “cult of personality”. To neutralize this visual superabundance, young photographers must innovate by giving new shapes to the imaged and by stimulating the ocular organ, they have to some extent, be able to alleviate the viewer’s gaze. Matthew Brandt’s strategy is to dig into photography’s past to present old-fashioned techniques of reproduction revitalizing them and offering a renewal in contemporary aesthetics.

At first glance, his are captivating photographs of vast landscapes reminding us of the tradition of the first American photographers who revealed to wider audiences the hidden treasures of the American West; photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Timothy O’Sullivan are among those who inspired Brandt’s body of work. His photographs from the series Water Bodies, especially Two Ships Passing U.S and Pacific Ocean bear witness to his penchant for ancient techniques. In a recent conversation held with the artist, he attributed the implementation of these procedures to what they enable him to do when creating an image: other than the playful asset, uncertainty plays a tremendous role. Brandt finds the mystery lying behind each take fascinating, ostensibly analog images magnify the desire to discover the image.

The brisk cascade of images in social media copes with the tandem of our contemporary world, the artist’s technique requires certain equipment and time of exposure and certain material that corresponds to the methodology used during the 19th century. The resulting images are far from the plethora of data in mass media. His artistic takes possess a particular texture and linear composition bestowing them softness and harmony. While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex. Photos are for him invitations to the past where each take is carefully thought about and constructed.

While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex.

Art and its techniques are an unparalleled footprint of a society’s way of thinking and seeing. Impressionism is an example of the evolution undergone by the human eye, without photography’s arrival, painting might have never been liberated from the mimetic burden. Clippings – a series created during 2014 and 2015 – uses the pointillism technique making a parallelism between photography and painting. These artistic avant-gardes explored human perception terminating with the Western tradition of perfect sight, they focused on blurry configurations. Clippings is an investigation of how an image is made and for the artist the latter relates more to a moveable oscillation of components than to a static structure. His unorthodox methods of representation – among them we can cite the use of kitchen ingredients in his series Taste Test in Color, honeybees, dust and recently cocaine for Night Skies – encourage spectators to be inventive and to understand that there is more to his photos that meets the eye.

Lewis Lake WY3 from the series “Lakes & Reservoirs”, 2013,
C-print soaked in Lewis Lake water. Courtesy of the artist


One wonders then, what is the requisite to making photography or to creating an image? New technologies have widened its definition, but Brandt does not choose technology. Instead, he introduces elements from what he portrays, conferring to each photograph a special “aura”. This concept was firstly evoked by Walter Benjamin in his essay The Work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in it the German philosopher underlined the inherent dangers of “new” techniques. Benjamin feared art’s trivalisation as well as the audience’s loss of interest for the original. Yet, Brandt’s work disputes the philosopher’s claims by creating unique photographic pieces. His series Portraits is made with body fluids provided by the people photographed, to some extent each take contains its special DNA, one that can’t be reproduced infinitely. Lakes and Reservoirs operates with the same logic as he developed the photographs with the water collected from the lakes. The approach is further developed with Bridges over Flint, as it takes a political nuance. In the wake of the American elections, the photographs appear as indicators of the genesis of a critical moment in history.

Boundless connections derive from each of his artistic projects, Wai’anae for instance is an investigation on how Hawaiians relate to their land. Brandt took photos of Wai’anae’s nature, he later developed them, folded them in banana leaves and buried them on the ground. Moisture, rain and the soil transformed the photographs into quasi abstract printings, the experience was correlated to a Hawaiian burial ritual in which the body is folded and becomes part of nature again. Photography’s connectedness to death emerges as we remember Barthes statement “that had been”, image making reveals itself as a morose testament, a modern memento mori. Memory is indeed a fascinating feature in photography making, a part from taking part in modern ritualistic activities, it testifies to our presence in exotic places. In relation to tourism photography, Brandt created a whimsical character, the epitome of bad taste and questionable behaviour representing mass tourism. With a fist in the air, a Hawaiian shirt and a hat, Hands up embodies mass tourism and photography’s role in modern holidays. It was again Sontag in her essay On photography, that described photography’s place during the holiday season and how picture taking eased German and American workers giving them the feeling of doing something with their idle time.


MB-Two Ships Passing_Pacific Ocean_U.S_300dpi

Two Ships Passing, US from the series “Water Bodies”, 2011,
salted paper print, 107 x 133 cm. Courtesy of the artist


Matthew Brandt’s photographs are historical journeys retracing the steps of photography and its evolution over the years. One of his latest exhibitions showcased at the Museum of Modern art in New York, was a video performance with the musician Julianna Barwick where Brandt was in charge of the video-making. This is a major factor asserting that Brandt doesn’t limit himself to photography’s stillness, movement is gaining in importance in his artistic practice. It is of little importance if Brandt’s interests broaden, what remains in his photographs and videos is his ardent curiosity for image and its by-products, a lucid testimony of what image has become.


Clemence Danon Boileau – You had to be there

Clémence Danon Boileau’s photographs bear witness to the set of choices she exercised in her everyday life. Her sombre use of colour and lighting speaks of a silent tragedy affecting every single one of us.

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Clemence Danon Boileau – You had to be there

Clemence Danon Boileau – You had to be there


Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist


The ubiquity of images perpetuated by social networking inevitably reduces the value of photography. The fundamental nature of the expression describes its infinitely reproducible triteness. On a scale from light to darkness, photography, as if transparent, reveals not the description of the event, but the consciousness of the photographer’s feelings. Clémence Danon Boileau’s photographs bear witness to the set of choices she exercised in her everyday life. Her sombre use of colour and lighting speaks of a silent tragedy affecting every single one of us.

If we talk about the language of paintings and that of sculptures, we think of the composition, the interaction between the form and the space, and so forth. What then is the language of photography? Many look at it as the closest resemblance to reality, that it is essentially the language of events recorded, external to the photograph itself. How are we, the spectators, supposed to read a photograph, to access knowledge that goes beyond what is printed in front of us? Indeed, the arbitrariness of photography gives us only a glimpse of the operator’s reality through the shadow by the mediation of light. A Roland Barthes’ punctum, if you may. Thinking of the silhouettes in Clémence Danon Boileau’s Ni là, ni ailleurs series, a lot can be said in the silence of the night.

Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering.

In a town southeast of Paris, Danon Boileau wanders about the familiar scenery of Fontainebleau. Through the viewfinder of her camera, she sees the forest and dirt roads not unlike those in Jitka Hanzlová’s photographs. The autumn leaves and dry bushes on the one side, and the bare branches of the towering trees on the other, evoke the presence of a sense of timelessness. It’s as if the wind was taken out of the equation in a vacuum of time, like a snap shot from a page in Wuthering Heights. Familière Etrangeté presents the uncanny – a paradox of intangibility and desire. Consider Danon Boileau’s photographs to be taken in the suspension of time, we retract the fourth dimension of our reality. Photographs are in their nature two-dimensional explaining Danon’s fervent research in giving substance to her work. Printed on a delicate Japanese paper, Danon Boileau gives her images physicality. The three-dimensional granulation of the paper renders a pointillist effect, drawing the spectator right in to the centre of the question: “What exactly am I seeing?” Her persistence in finding the right type of paper specifically for her different series grants her work a rarity value and transforms her personal observation into the spectator’s self-consciousness.



Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist


Completely self-taught, Danon Boileau picked up photography to construct her memory castle. The confidence in guaranteeing, through language, the things she sees in her daily life, is shattered in the mystery of photography. The familiarity of witnessing the modern phenomenon of smart phones, a portrait, a landscape in photographs illustrates the “striking instance of uncanniness” in Freud’s description. The strange faces, captured in Danon Boileau’s Dans le parking series during one of her many travels as a legal adviser to an NGO, are examples of her photographic sensitivity in revealing the modesty, innocence and purity of the ordinary. Achieving the technique of “Rembrandt lighting” without the constraints of a walled studio, Danon Boileau makes use of the raw light accessible in her surroundings. The features of her subjects are carved out resembling a Baroque painting. Yet, the spectator is more likely to be drawn to the intriguing details hidden in the shadows. The intensity in the everyman’s gaze is sharpened when the spectator is made aware of the soft, almost forlorn silhouette of which the explanation is absent in the photograph.

The spectrum of absence and presence holds the quantum of truth as to the photographer’s emotions as the shutter clicks. It’s not just black and white, but a testimony to an existence.  The many distractions in our circle of modern comfort complicate the sincerity of the artist. The construction of this reality in photography is dependent on the spectator’s recognition of these untold details. The great negative space in the image of a lady’s profile illuminated by the light of her telephone screen unveils the irony of globalised interconnectedness. The title of Ni là, ni ailleurs is evocative of the estrangement prevalent in our advanced society. This communication device brings us virtually closer to those who are far away but takes us further away from human contact. By removing this dependency, what is left is a morbid imagery reflected from the paleness of the lady’s skin. Danon Boileau’s subjects are neither here nor there.



Ni là, ni ailleurs, 2014, C-print, 50x70 cm. Courtesy of the artist


It is this automatism in photography and in our age that has conceived the dualities of such paradox and its contradictions and we cannot possibly perceive its extent. The socio-cultural reading into a photograph may somehow overwrite the photographer’s intentions and give the referent an overwhelming authority. In Danon Boileau’s Essai sur la fécondation in vitro, her photographs are freed of the necessity of a denotation. “Strip of one’s flesh, the essence of being takes shape.” The ambiguity of the subject matter is impregnated by the darkness of backlight. Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering. These photographs are experimental and high in contrast. Danon Boileau’s reality unfolds in front of the spectator’s eyes into an empathetic, beautiful mess of cognitive reconnection and fabricated memories.


CDB-Familiere etrangete-route copy

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist

The Kid - Howl

The Kid, combine different iconographies in order to grasp the future of a seemingly lost generation and to find a sense of reason amongst the rubble.

Brigitte Waldach, Thus Spoke the Silenced

Brigitte Waldach’s art is, in some manner, like a piece of writing. Like peeling off the layers of an onion, the artist dissects historical events and contemplates on the universality of the human experience.

Marcus Lyon : An idea leader

The works of the British photographer, Marcus Lyon,  alter the spectator’s visual experience by constantly raising questions about environment, globalization and the human condition.