Painting, the ideal servant of photography, to divert the words of Charles Beaudelaire, sums up what is the issue for the three artists: Bertrand Delais, Stéphane Belzère and Virginie Isbell, brought together for the “Lisières” exhibition. None of them consider themselves to be photographers, but all use the medium’s technique to dig into the depths of photographic material and offer new, more pictorial representations of reality. Dark circles, delineations, blended tints and transparencies produce in each of the works an effect of watercolor painting. The common fascination of these artists for nature and light plunges the viewer into a dreamy contemplation, and calms the images. Because thus framed, cut out, drowned, landscapes, flowers and bucolic scenes are silent.
Bertrand Delais finds in the fiber of a Japanese paper, the shadow of a tree in the center of a landscape, the caress of rose petals, the blue of a hill in the falling light. Nature is his main subject, no human cohabits in these borderless spaces where color and matter are diluted. He makes clean cuts, plays with reflections in a mirror, pushes the sensitivity of the film until it loses its grain. All these experiments bring him closer to a light pictorial style that sometimes flirts with abstraction. The texture of the photo print gives the illusion that watercolor paint has gotten lost in it. However, everything is photographic, with this former documentary filmmaker who took his time to stroll in front of the still lifes of the Musée d’Orsay, or observe the images of Saul Leiter, and those of Sarah Moon.
For the painter Stéphane Belzère another score is played. After abandoning painting on the motif, he chooses the photographic image as a model. One day, he took a liking to these little pieces of reversible film inserted into a plastic or cardboard cover called a slide. Since then, he has collected thousands of them and created with them what he calls the Diaquarelles series. Transparency, composition, color, typography and possible annotations on the cache interest the artist more than the real subject of the shot. The scene depicted on the tiny slide reinterpreted in watercolor, in a size multiplied by eight, establishes a distance that mobilizes attention. By carrying out this kind of wear and tear on the image: looking again, re-producing, re-copying, re-painting, the famous question of a possible objectivity of the image arises again… illustrating one of the developments taking place in the pictorial arts.
Virginie Isbell reveals the thickness of her own fictions. Thanks to the printing of a monotype image printed on organza, placed a few millimeters apart in front of a second visual. The ghost: a face or a nude, printed on the veil stands out and merges with the painting or the photo placed behind. Elsewhere, she zooms in on foliage, flowers, a carpet of dry leaves that she reincarnates with the cyanotype technique. These exposures to light leave only traces and strange incarnations of nature to survive on paper. Like a memory magnetized by the paper, Virginie Isbell offers the viewer the surprise of seeing something that the naked eye cannot see and that only the chemistry of the photogram and the cyanotype can reveal. In front of these still lifes, the more details in the material, the more clues for the eye.
Frédérique Chapuis, Art Critic
Stéphane Belzère, Bertrand Delais, Virginie Isbell
Exhibition from April 21 to May 27, 2023
Opening on Thursday April 20, 2023 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Galerie Sit Down
4 Rue Sainte-Anastase
75003 Paris, France