By Hadelin Feront, Curator of the GNF Gallery
EN - Aperture appears thought as a succession of openings. It does not impose a certain look, a particular interpretation. But it poses our glance in front of these openings. This act is not without consequence since it returns us to the mechanism of the glance and to the conceptions which underlie it, to its power of trans for mat ion of what is given to see. Our perception of the real indeed is built by dilations and openings, narrowings and fe r me tu res. As the iris- or the diaphragm, we filter the light, we allow it to penetrate us and, by its intermediary, to reveal us certain aspects of the real. But this mechanism of optical perception is of course only a tiny part of the infinitely more complex machinery of cognition. This one draws its food in each of our senses and, lawri of being only a means of acquisition of the real, participates in its transformation and its construction.
The work of Pierre Clemens speaks to us about this process by which we participate at each, instant in the elaboration of the real. By invoking the notion of landscape as one of the pillars of the history of art and representation, Clemens seeks to highlight human intervention in the creation of what we call "the real". Just as the "natural landscape" is the result of elaboration and framing, Clemens proposes to approach the real as a "landscape" resulting from a process of social and political construction, both individual and collective. His works regularly use motifs made up of fine ink strokes, rhythmic undulations with subtle, almost impeccable variations. These can evoke at the same time a meticulous weaving, a floating, or interstices inviting the glance to exceed the image built by the accumulation of the "threads" which present themselves to him.
Elina Selminen, for her part, uses another approach. Her works proceed by an interrogation of the matter and the construction of what is given to see. In particular, the articulation between matter, light and color is central here. The appearance of a color is the result of a meticulous construction between these three dimensions. The color is not directly accessible to us, but seems to emerge from the canvas and reach us by an indirect process. The result is an ethereal, fragile and almost inaccessible character of the color, as if it could at any moment withdraw, fade away, disappear. In her seemingly monochromatic works, it is the action of light on the canvas that contradicts the apparent uniformity, as it reveals the underlying complexity of what is being shown. Elina Selminen's work thus questions both what is perceptible and what we think we perceive, sending the viewer back to the consciousness of his own gaze.
It is thus of cognition, more than simply of the glance, of which these works speak to us, and of its capacity to open or close our comprehension of the world and of its complexity, of its nuances. It seems useful here to recall that we all have a tendency to "smooth" the real: our cognition seeks indeed permanently to recognize known motives in order to arrange them in categories of understanding. This cognitive process of recognition, simplification and categorization of reality is necessary in order not to be overwhelmed by its complexity. But it can also become problematic if it closes our capacity to perceive, feel and embrace the nuances that constitute the mesh of reality, that which links its different elements. Cognition is not an act of simple acquisition, but the shaping of our understanding and the beginning of an active transformation of our environment.
The work "Brexit" by Pierre Clemens (1st floor) is a fascinating illustration of this. It evokes in a very graphic way the environment of information saturation that is ours. The anonymous human silhouettes that dot this digital landscape suggest different levels of perspective on this information. And at the same time, the half-flying leaves that make up the work show the fragility, the floating and the possible bursting of the frame of the action itself. The human figures here are completely isolated from each other - there seems to be no connection or communication between them. In spite of the more or less great distance that they seem to take on the web of information that encompasses them, they do not seem to be aware of the fragility of the framework in which the action takes place.
It is clear that Pierre Clemens and Elina Selminen propose, each in their own way, an essential introspective approach: it refers us to the power that we each have to shape reality by the way we look at others, at things, at events. Reality is not something that happens to us. It is the result of the attention we pay to what surrounds us, of the framing we necessarily do - and this gives rise to a responsibility. We can look hastily at the complexity of the world and smooth out the contradictions. Or we can pay attention to the discrete mesh that connects us to each other and grounds our ability to act on our environment.