Arnaud Lesage - Solo Show
With the support of the French National Center for Visual Arts (CNAP)
November 5th - December 5th 2015
Maubert Gallery presents an exhibition of photography and video art by Arnaud Lesage, entitled ‘Insight out.’ Its linchpin lies in the links it creates between both real and imaginary realms, which lead from the outside world to conceptual frameworks within the mind. This series of photographs does not stem from a pre-existing project and is not destined to be completed – in the sense of having a definitive end put to it. The compositions are not limited to a specific subject, realm or even specific timeframe. Au contraire! They create for possibilities and are part of the wider flux of a perpetual creative process. Lesage’s work emerges from a process split between two phases: that of photographing, then that of assembling his images in-studio to explore the links and associations that surface between them.
If Arnaud Lesage uses landscape to obtain materially tangible components for his work, it is actually the journeys he takes to obtain these images that constitute an irreplaceable territory of photographic exploration and discovery. What truly matters to the artist belongs to another realm: his mind’s journey commences upon his own physical return, as he sows his freshly-taken pictures throughout his archives. For this process, Lesage turns his studio into a development laboratory to structure and form series of all the pictorial moments he has collected. The artist’s studio thus becomes another territory to explore, a new ‘archival continent’ and cornerstone aspect of this artist’s approach.
Several weeks of research and experimentation were for instance required to create the Anatopées series’ assemblages, extracted from some 10,000 samples that visually appear simply vertical. The images, both in this series as in others, remain independently legible, but the ensuing combinatory process transforms their nature. Associations create new potential for reading these images, and what they reveal collectively surpasses what they conveyed singularly. Lesage’s artworks in essence stem from processes of assembling, splitting, repeating, and intertwining. Time and space between photographs indeed lend themselves to the final result as full-fledged materials.
Despite Lesage’s artworks’ apparent formal simplicity and frontal nature, they deploy complex boundary-crossing systems – geographical, iconographic, or symbolic in nature – at the very heart of his final bodies of work. A permeable process in itself, memory plays an important part during the phase of ‘archival steeping’, all the way up to when the next mental image begins to emerge, drawing from and creating new, fictional lands originating across territories – real or experienced.
Similar to work processes that blend outdoor discoveries with studio journeys – and the implied visual similarities alongside geographical antipodes, tangible images and mental pictures, presence and memory – it’s in this ongoing in-between space that Arnaud Lesage’s exhibition invites the beholder’s eye to set its gaze. ‘Insight Out,’ which we could also express as “the inner eye outwardly engaged” has a close rapport to these intertwining and at times even paradoxical notions, thanks to our perception’s reversible transferability.
Another process to which Arnaud Lesage adheres is that of returning to his home region, particularly its vast expanses of seacoast sand, and feeling his claim upon the landscape, particularly when nature becomes pared down by winter. It was later through travelling that he came to refine his perspective stance, his craving for simplicity, as can be seen in his many impromptu expressions of geometric abstraction, minimalism, or land art. All leave their marks on his work. His itinerary along his journey of acquiring marks, shapes, appearances, is what the territory puts forward in real time, with serendipity, leading him to roam and traverse with great interest in countryside, deserts, wastelands, and even mass tourism regions – with a certain angle.
With regards to this journeyman’s approach, it resembles the means of an animal without territory, a stateless being, sometimes for months at a time, across great distances and without staying in the same place for longer than necessary to explore the potential of visible reality – so fleeting in nature. Lesage spends nights in his car, which enables him stop at the edge of a given landscape, as far as possible from culture, to experience it all before returning to civilization, with the benefit of this somehow necessary clean sweep. To provide a statistical gist of his journeying: Lesage has experienced up to 25,000 km and 15 boarders in a row; 30 European countries and 17 American states; more than 1001 nights spent elsewhere, and up to 36 days without saying a word.
The austere, comfortless nomadic life that Arnaud Lesage has made his own, in his travels across the world, reveals itself to be a tremendous luxury. Beyond its coarseness, its replenishing visual potential makes it an incredibly privileged opportunity. Complete immersion out-of-doors in this lonesome state might explain the compelling means of photographic hunting and gathering in the midst of those territories through which he roams, and lining them up as potential building material – hominoid objects as uncertain mirrors.
Beyond encountering animals and storms, lie only illusory places of refuge and mute counterparts along his way. His body’s quixotic quest of its surroundings seems to push landscapes to their limits when, whether due to their vast, open nature or protrusions, abnormally transform into outgrowths of his intrinsic personality traits and his own self. For the want of finding a way out of this internal prison, why not give in to implosion or explosion? The countryside appears to represent a closed portal in each image, becoming a body compelled by a place, that thus becomes the exclusive habitat of a physical embodiment.