The Artistics gallery is presenting an online exhibition designed as a dialogue between two contemporary photographers, Bernhard Lang from Germany and Matthieu Venot from France. The work of these artists reveals a shared interest in patterns and color, but their photographs differ in their subject matter and intention.
This exhibition brings together the various series developed by these two photographers over the last ten years. The scope of this retrospective enables the viewer to appreciate both the coherence and the evolution of each artist’s approach. This dialogue immediately reveals the commonalities in their works: the pervasiveness of vibrant colors, which attracts and captivates the viewer, and their composition featuring simple and graphic forms – lines, circles, and other geometric shapes.
This graphic dimension is so prevalent that the first references that often come to mind belong to the world of abstract art: Malevich and the Russian Constructivists for Matthieu Venot, and certain paintings by Mondrian or Gerhard Richter for Bernard Lang (particularly his Tulip Fields series).
With his early series, Matthieu Venot quickly gained notoriety, first on Instagram, where he rose to fame starting in the 2010s (which explains their square format), and later with art collectors. His pastel-colored photographs, in which architectural details stand out against a clear ever-blue sky, take us to another world, filled with optimism, without foolishness, and paved not only with concrete but also with joy. Through his lens, the town of Brest (a French city in Brittany usually associated with grey buildings in grey weather, where he lives and which was featured in his earlier series like Prism and Ain’t Got No Troubles) takes on the look and feel of a seaside resort in the topics.
There is no need to search for sarcasm or mockery in his work. If his photography captivates the viewer, it is simply because the photographer is able to convey the pleasure he experiences by discovering motifs in the urban landscape that evoke both a pop and minimalist aesthetic.
Seashores are also the subject of several other series by Bernhard Lang, whether in Florida (Miami series) or on the Adriatic coast (Adria series). However, unlike Matthieu Venot, the German photographer is interested in the view as a whole, more than the details: all his photographs are aerial views taken from a helicopter or small plane, and sometimes even from satellite images (African Mines series). Hidden behind their equally graphic appearance, are a multitude of details that only become apparent after a closer look.
This is not the only difference. Although certain series are not devoid of humor and depict a light-hearted subject (summer and vacations for the Adria or Versilia series), they generally elicit ambivalent feelings. With his keen sense of composition and his talent as a colorist, Bernhard Lang transforms the landscapes he photographs into abstract awe-inspiring works. However, the real theme of his photography is the invasive and destructive impact of humans on the environment. From extensive farming in Spain (Mar del plastico series) or in the United States (California Plants and Circle Irrigation series), to the mines of Botswana and the steelworks in the Rhineland (Stahlwerk series), his photographs reveal scarred landscapes, irreversibly transformed and infested by the increasingly parasitic activities of humans. This shocking realization takes the viewer by surprise. The aesthetic pleasure that his images initially evoked is suddenly replaced by a bitter reflection.
Bernhard Lang and Matthieu Venot : a graphic dialogue – Online Exhibition
August 15, 2023 to October 17, 2023