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Galerie du Crochetan : Refinery – The end of an era –


The Galerie du Crochetan presents the exhibition Raffinerie – La fin d’une èreA photographic exploration.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Collombey-Muraz site is changing. The colossal deconstruction work at the refinery involved the dismantling of more than 1,000 pieces of equipment, the removal of more than 90 km of piping, the recovery of more than 30,000 tons of steel as well as the dismantling of 54 tanks for a total capacity equivalent to 200 Olympic swimming pools and nearly forty electrical installations. These structures that once stood on the horizon have disappeared over time, leaving behind a poignant history. Witnesses of a bygone era, these steel “mastodons” have in fact been the scene of decades of work. Men and women have worked there with honor to transform this coveted treasure, extracted from the depths of the underground. These lasting memories will remain forever engraved in their souls.

Now, the refinery site is plunged into deafening silence. The machines fell silent, the workers left the premises. Hearts are heavy, eyes full of melancholy. Only a few giant structures still lie, dislocated, on the ground, vestiges of a bygone era.

In order to bear witness to this major transformation of the Chablais landscape, David Bard, Bernard Dubuis, Lea Lund, Erik K and Jean-Marc Yersin had the privilege of accessing the interior of the disused factory. Each in their own way, according to their respective photographic style and their own sensitivity, they offer us a moving story of this mythical place.

David Bard’s drone rises gracefully into the air to reveal an unsuspected world. From unusual angles, he manages to show us the hidden side of this fragmented and “boneless” space. Its high-angle views offer us a most singular visual “spectacle”, where sophistication coexists with brutality. His subtle compositions highlight shapes and patterns, colors and contrasts to better reveal an ordinarily inaccessible reality. His images saturated with vivid tones only accentuate the fascinating feeling that invades us.

Presenting a quasi-pictorial and abstract aesthetic, his shots invite us to adopt a new point of view, another perception in order to discover a little-known facet of this historical setting. As an architect, David Bard shapes his images in a way that distances the viewer’s gaze, allowing an appreciation of the beauty of these striking structures. The arrangement of his compositions on canvas, raw, rough and textured materials, offers visitors an immersive sensory experience, inviting them to meticulously explore every detail and corner, while maintaining an aerial perspective that flies over the flat surfaces. This process creates new visual angles, thus allowing the emergence of new visions.

The artistic and love duo formed by Lea Lund & Erik K have a unique and singular vision of the world. Their love for photography, engraving and architecture pushes them to explore new horizons, in search of the beauty hidden behind each building, city and landscape. With this in mind, Lea Lund “captured” Erik K in creative settings on the refinery site. Always in search of the perfect light, they roamed the locations, looking for original angles, fascinating details and surprising textures. This industrial architecture was transformed into a new playground for them. Beyond a simple decor, they have been able to maintain a “dialogue” with this imposing metallic entity to provide us with photographs imbued with theatrical and romantic feelings which do not fail to captivate us.

An expert in the art of engraving and drawing, Lea Lund also enhances her black and white negatives, which she scratches and engraves with precision and finesse, while taking care never to reveal her technical secrets. This meticulous work gives a dramatic, even electric atmosphere to the already strong images. The contrasts become more accentuated, the details become more striking, like so many signs of a singular aesthetic. The photographer transforms the industrial, the very concrete universe into a timeless and dreamlike setting, where the abrupt lines blend into a mysterious and poetic atmosphere. Her images come to life in an explosion of textures and acquire unexpected depth. The eye lingers on each element, captivated by the harmony of the compositions.

A photographer passionate about the essence of raw beauty, Jean-Marc Yersin was able to conceptualised the massive constructions of the refinery to reveal them in all their splendor. This is how these gigantic tanks, vats and metal pipes rose towards the firmament under his lens, which fixes in a subtle black and white each nuance, each detail, each curve to reveal the cyclopean character of this factory. Using an artistic approach marked by great rigor and undeniable technical mastery, he was able to express the unsuspected harmony. In his quest for visual perfection, Jean-Marc Yersin explores the multiple perspectives that this “inhuman” environment offers him. By playing with viewing angles, he magnifies the power of the site, accentuating the verticality of these impressive structures. From a high or low angle, his lens captures with extreme acuity the majesty of these lines, emphasizing the austere magnificence and rectilinear ordering.

Bernard Dubuis places the human being at the center of his images. His primary passion is to photograph people, to immerse himself in their experiences and their living environment. The quality of his images lies in his interest in the gestures of those who work or demolish. Always in action, he fixes each movement with remarkable precision. His objective lays bare the very substance of the work, the dedication and professionalism of these “guardians” of the industrial history of the region that he strives to immortalize. His photographs bear witness to this alchemy, this fusion between man and machine where the technique becomes almost organic. Like a knowledgeable scrutineer, he reveals the quintessence of workers know-how. In particular, he shows the process of cutting the refinery tanks, between November 2021 and the end of 2024. his keen gaze, combined with judicious choices of perspectives and framing make us discover these steel colossi whose immensity defies the imagination. Around these metal “monsters”, the busy workers seem tiny, almost insignificant. The contrast between the raw power of the tanks and the fragility of the human condition then appears with particular intensity.

By contemplating the photos on display, we are transported into a universe where the splendor and majesty of the buildings mingle with the poetry of artistic creation. The talent of these photographers has managed to transcend the harshness of steel and concrete to reveal an unsuspected aesthetic and enhance the industrial heritage of Chablais. Their unique and complementary perspectives were able to uncover the powerful “identity” of this heritage, while offering a vibrant interpretation of the region’s working-class history.

Julia Hountou
Doctor in art history and head of the Galerie du Crochetan


Raffinerie – La fin d’une ère – Une exploration photographique
January 27 – April 5, 2024
Galerie du Crochetan
Avenue du Théatre 9
Monthey – Suisse

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