The exhibition at the Gallery Ferme de la Chapelle, Fragments d’ailleurs (Foreign fragments), shows how three artists perceive places they have visited. Drawings, installations, photos and objects remind us of dreams and legends, and urban growth, in deeply contrasting worlds.
Bernard Grandgirard has travelled to the United States three times. The vast deserts crossed by railway tracks and mythical trains, the enormous trucks travelling the highways, profoundly impressed him. On his return home to Fribourg, he conserved his memories by making line drawings of photographic precision. He has drawn the iconic 60-tonne lorries with chrome fenders and decorated cabins, and railway tracks winding over plains and through steep mountains under skies which stretch to infinity. He portrays typical service stations and small towns with houses straight out of a western. Each image is indeed treated cinematographically using the classical methods of representing space and perspective, and framing subjects. With great technical skill he uses high-angle and low-angle “shots”, long takes and zooms, aerial views and close-ups. We sometimes see the artist himself portrayed riding a Harley Davidson; Easy Rider is one of his favourite films. His name, shortened to Bernie as Americans would do, is always present: painted on a façade, sculpted on a fence or hidden in the surroundings like small pieces of himself dissolved in the landscape. The artist has constructed his virtual house in the gorgeous scenery; it is made of traditional logs, there is a rocking chair on the porch and a motorbike parked in front for long journeys in the future.
Benoît Billotte records places, maps and the topography of places he visits which he later conceptualises in drawings, installations or objects. He reinterprets architecture and geographical points or features in two dimensions in a new context in order to reveal the linear essence and universality of forms. There is a different formal presentation for each concept, using materials intrinsically linked to the original idea. The intellectual complexity of each piece is always moderated by the elegance and purity of its execution. For this exhibition the artist is presenting several works whose graphics and meaning are linked. The series of drawings entitled “Les Indes noires” is inspired by the novel of the same name by Jules Verne. The series consists of two superimposed presentations, one a cross-section and the other seen from above showing a maze of tunnels where we may easily lose our bearings.
Inside the gallery, the tombs in clay entitled “Thaumasia ou La Dynamique de l’Oubli” offer a contrast with the more imposing funerary monuments whose fragile material reminds us of the fleeting nature of memory. The large wall hanging “Mirabilia” uses the geometrical shapes of Roman wall paintings which were arranged around a central space opening like a window. Here the artist has drawn a city plan which plays on the golden ratio. The three series are joined by a line on the floor, named Portulan after ancient navigation charts, which draws an imaginary route from one work to another in a burst of tracks.
The Bifröst series presented by Shannon Guerrico was inspired by two trips to Iceland. During her first visit in 2015 she was incapable of taking a single photograph because she had the impression that all possible photos had already been taken and that they would, in any case, look too much like images for a calendar. However, she became interested in the history of the Vikings who colonised the country and, looking at the sky, told herself that it was the same sky that had been seen by the ancient inhabitants. She used a scanner to record fragments of sky which turned out to have surprising colours when they were printed. On her return to Switzerland she made objects which evoked fragments of mythical tales, legends and other texts. On her second visit to Iceland in 2016 she dared to take photos, albeit rather tentative ones, and then later refined her impressions while still collecting material. From that visit she brought back work for two exhibitions one of which was in Montpellier where the artist created a universe midway between presentation of an unknown country and a museum of curiosities. At the Ferme de la Chapelle she presents views of the sky interspersed with objects such as a hoard of seal masks, their muzzles pointing towards the visitor brave enough to go into the crypt.
/// Benoît Billotte
/// Shannon Guerrico
/// Bernard Grandgirard