Eric Bourret

21 juin - 7 septembre 2008

8338/01 Rabuons, Mercantour, Alpes-Maritimes, France, Mars 2007-2008, 110x330cm
Tirage baryté jet d’encre pigmentaire contrecollé sur aluminium Dibon numéroté 1/5
© Eric Bourret 2008

Galerie contemporaine

=>text in french

In the mica-tinted light of the photographs of Eric Bourret, the mountains seem so close that one could touch its leaves.

A good number of exhibitions concerning the representation of the mountain have flourished for over ten years, among which include, “Le Sentiment de la montagne” (The Feeling of the Mountain) at the Musée de Grenoble in 1998, “Montagne” (Mountains) at the Mart of Rovereto in 2004 or the “Alpes de rêve” (Alpes of dreams) in Forte of Bard near to Turin in 2006, and, more indirectly, “Les Figures de la marche” (The Figures of the Walk) at the Musée Picasso in Antibes, in 2000. Most outstanding is that they all move away from painting and move towards the contemporary photography represented by the works of Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, Andy Goldsworthy, some of the students from Bernd and Hilla Becher such as Andreas Gursky or Axel Hütte, as well as Gloria Friedmann, Suzanne Lafont and Walter Niedermayr. What is remarkable is that Eric Bourret has hardly figured. This is one of the reasons why, when looking at the exhibition created by Richard Long which is shown in the Contemporary Gallery of the MAMAC, two recent series of work of Eric Bourret, walking-artist, are installed with the works of the older Englishman.

After having surveyed the coastlines of France and Europe, ancient sites of the near East and South-East of Asia, the high Himalayan plateaus, and after having become interested in the industrial heritage of the coastline, the philosopher-photographer decisively turned from then on towards the great natural spaces which the mountain offered him, and most particularly, to the French Alps. The project Hun-Tun is mostly set in the Alpes-Maritimes, in the most literal sense since it is associated with the shoreline (from the Presqu’île de Giens to the Calanques in Cassis) to the Southern Alps (of Mercantour in the High Alps) “Last winter, he wrote, I have worked intensely on the terrain of the Alpes-Maritimes. It is sometimes distracting to notice how significant a liquid-mineral insertion can be in the same image. Is it anticipated in my box-like brain? Or does my corporal obligation feature in the scenery? Is the capture of a memory, geographical, energetic, a reminder of the mountain water?” It is suitable that these remarks are emphasized through the physical implication of a walker in nature to “make tangible the flow and the energetic relationship between the elements.” This is emphasized when he takes in an image by walking it himself: “At the time of taking the shot, taking my camera in my arms and taking the time to make a slow pose, I shake and my body moves.” It is the same intention for the first shot which, for him, is to “saturate, to give my body to the landscape and then give it to the chemicals in the laboratory to develop.”

Far from contrasting this, Les Panoramiques, slightly impressionist and abstract, and Les Polyptyques with elements of “surgical” photography paradoxically complete this. Historically, one can think of Alexander Cozens of the 18th Century who applied a smudging method to his landscapes, while drawing the lines, a bulk of features overtaking the topographical description. Refusing the horizontal composition and the hierarchy of layout, the landscape is, from then on, perceived along with her greatness for showing emotion. A little time after Cozens, Caspar Wolf introduced the process of showing topographical elements with a natural and crystalline lens; but he especially responded to the idea of the sublime romantic: suspended rocks or anthropomorphic rocks, crevasses, ravines and meteoric beauties. The evolution of scientific description and the development of panoramic go together. This can be found in the alpine dioramas of Daguerre but even more so, with Ruskin, who takes notice that the artist acts in order to “restore” the countryside in the attainable goal of finding a personal truth of the place.

One must notice that with Eric Bourret, there is a strong synesthesic attraction tied to the photographic medium; the artist actually quotes certain photographers (from Stieglitz to Giacomelli) but mostly Long, or Penone, Scelsi or Cage. “All or part of the images that I realize are a result of many hours of listening, mostly to contemporary music.” In a recent interview, the artist specified his thought on this type of art: “I would propose to you a list of artists who use different mediums at different times but who seem to me philosophically all developing an ambition of a repeated capacity to evoke the spiritual and material worlds, physically and mentally, naturally and metaphysically. In that sense, I take a familiar and sensitive position “around” the movements of Land Art, Arte Povera and Spectral Music, although the use, and/or the choice of medium used are different.” In other words, it doesn’t seem untimely to bridge his coastline engraving of a picture of an all over layout, and his alpines to the materiality of sculpture.

Without squashing the technical aspect, it is advisable to define the process of the silver film of Bourret, photographer and shooter of his own pictures, technically, who is not without a thought for a conceptual processing. For the coastline images, it is necessary for him to have height to capture his engagement of the sea, where his choice of cliffs and calanques are. For those of alpine scenes, he superimposes on the same negative, many impressions taken at different intervals of time. “In this way, he explains, I obtain on one hand, the changing state of this subject of photography – vibrant space – and on the other, a shot that results in the simultaneous capture of the time ladder of both humanity and geography. The solid sensation or fluctuating territories that I survey, aims to design a field of investigation like a permanent space of mutation.” After the shootings that he calls, “samples,” he will subsequently only analyse the contact sheets.

What characterises the perception of these landscapes, is simply the reversal of the common perceptive given to photography. He, himself confirms it, “it amuses me to corrupt the idea of the real.” Like in Antonioni’s Blow Up, the figurative “truth” demands a complex, scanning visual. Semiological corruption of the real for Marie Renoue, metamorphosis of materials, or of the real according to Gilbert Beaugé and Jean Arrouye, Bourret transfigures the visible, causing the scale of framing and of distance to move.

Hun-Tun is an unusual title for an exhibition and demands an explication; if effect, in the myth of the creation of the world by Vishnu, the God made magma rise up to create water, wind, fire, as well as a golden lotus flower where Brahma sits: the petals made the mountains, (Himalayan mountains Sumeru and Kailasa) from where the virility rivers like the Ganga flow. Because of this, Vishnu churned the sea, the symbol of Chaos.

According to Augustin Berque, China discovered the aesthetic countryside around 200 a.d. and one of the principle words used for designing the scenery is Shanshui, literally mountain-water but also the scene which he represents. This ideal implies a cosmic fusion of man and the universe in relation to the ancient extreme-oriental religions (Shamanism and Taoism.) At the heart of it, there is only a slight difference between the Chinese idea of Shanshui, and that of the landscapes pictured in Japanese art. Hun-Tun is evoked by Tchouang-Tseu like the primitive chaotic state of the world before the separation of Ying from Yang, without going so far as to mean chaotic in the Western sense. Bourret adds that “it is the ideal supreme of Taoism. Chaos is fullness, unity, nature. Chaos represents the natural state of the planet. In ancient China, not only did Chaos have a sense of trouble, but it was also presented as a respectable aesthetic state.” The artist states that Hun-Tun “empty and full, is the original Chaos that preceded heaven on earth. It is the primary breath that withdrew from the initial unity that was designed by One, of which this is generated by God, who represents all the vital breaths. Hun-Tun is the virtual state that precedes the act of painting.”

The attitude given to these phenomena reflects the physiology and the psychism of the walker: less heaviness and oxygen, and a rise of cosmic and solar radiations, all support the idea of a mountain made sacred. The horizontal plains replace the vertical aspects, and the more you climb, the more you embrace the scenery that reduces the distances around you. The physical domination of the Alps leads to a mental domination. The high mountain is exactly like the sea or the deserts, the biggest open spaces in the world, and are an incarnation of the power in the kind of Nietzsche sense. The more you climb, the more the vegetation finds it harder to profit from the minerals, the snow, and the ice. The force lines of the landscape, many at first, come together to the nuptial point of the summit, which leads back to unity, so important to Bourret. This is the same as the unity of his palette which revolves in the antithetic colours around black and white. In addition, the journey from the plain to the mountain, as well as that from noise, to quiet, although relative, invites the walker to what Nietzsche called, “the music of solitudes,” unearthly. A. David-Neel states, “in the Himalayas, I have known a place where an invisible flute player seems to have taken his place in the foot of a glacier.”

If, for Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, our northern Brahmans, walking encourages thinking, this is, on the other hand against what the Taoists and the most important people who practice Shamanism believe. Whereas Richard Long makes sculptures by walking, Eric Bourret photographs the place of the artwork.


Pierre Padovani, Gilbert Perlein
Translation from French: Lucinda Lovell