PASSING THROUGHT TRANSPARENCIES
by Christine Buci-Glucksmann, december 2001
The fact that transparency has forever haunted painting, from Baroque aesthetics to Picabia and Polke, is probably the springboard and initial fascination of Hervé lc’s work. For if there is one kind of transparency that evacuates its space through an enveloping light, a glossiness and a blurredness, in which the picture becomes mirror, there is another kind which fills it by a series of layers, coats, strata, veils and images, all superimposed, which are mixed together to such an extent that they turn the picture into a translucent and diaphanous screen. Seeing is glimpsing, seeing many different images and planes through the camera shake. To borrow Duchamp’s words, it is passing from appearance to apparition, even to negative apparitions, peculiar to an unstable visuality, disturbed by the host of fragments, viewpoints, and real and virtual cuts. And it is precisely this passage through transparencies that Hervé lc offers us, by way of three pictures and three differential scenarios, which I would call flowering (H.A.R.O and F.I.R.E.), vanitas (K.H.Ü.N.), and dust (D.U.S.T.).
Flowerings, then, like the broadcasting of little fairy-lights on crystal chandeliers, or like those flowers of the transparency of the fore- and backgrounds. A Baroque angel, hailing from a church in Ajaccio, beckons to you as if at the Opera, immediately duplicated by the darker back of another sculpture. A tongue-in-cheek Baroque, for, with its pink porcelain body which conjures up the polychrome sculptures of Catalonia, it holds sway as an ironical pastmaster of kitsch. But what does it point to, if not another image: a superimposed warship, painted with great precision, based on photographs taken in the Maritime Museum.
Angelic, bellicose and floral: three visual forms of a composite image where intermediate worlds of transparentness destroy all evidence of the image. For, unlike the Dutch Baroque which practised « an art of depiction », here we are dealing rather with « an art of re-piction », where more is less. To a point where the static image shifts in its interstices, its conflicting fragments and the many different forms of its surface. But what do we really see?
Forms of vanitas, perhaps. In a famous painting by Nicolas van Veerendael, Vanitas (Caen Museum), two lover’s skulls are interlocked in death by a bunch of symbolic flowers: lilies, roses and guelder roses, flowers of time and beauty, flowers of a passage between life and death, being and nothingness. We find the same offbeat, off-kilter and re-invented scenario in K.Ü.H.N. Here the two skulls of the sculpture covered in goldleaf and placed on a mirror belonging to Hervé lc are superimposed and appear through it, mixed with the pleated sails of a boat. Death, war, and flowers: a hybrid pictorial image, which makes us imagine what has been covered up, and what remains of it. But there’s no Alice on the far side of this mirror, and everything is there on the surface, in a passage through and a metaphorical journey. Maybe it’s a ghost vessel, plying who knows what river of oblivion. For the picture is like a palimpsest, a Freudian magic block, where oblivion makes a comeback in a floating time-frame. But from where?
Dust, or reduced to dust. But dust of light and life, in this installation, S.T.A.R., where the picture D.U.S.T. is illuminated by a string of fairy-lights flashing on and off, changing to red, blue, yellow and even black, punctuated by the repetitive music of Steve Reich and his vocal evocation of New York and Los Angeles. In the dark room the picture changes and becomes an actual pure optical and acoustic image, which gives the painting of transparencies both truth and delusion. A screen image, a picture turned video, in an uninterrupted flashing of lights, which, for me, irresistibly conjures up astral constellations or a city like Shanghai.
For the passage through transparencies invariably creates true-false images, revelatory « intermediate images », yet brought together by the veiled surface of the superimpositions. The picture is neither a window, nor a mirror, nor even a map. Rather, the screen of composite and hybrid impressions, a neo-Baroque screen in the age of virtuality, which is capable of challenging the traditional hierarchies between the decorative, the figural and the abstract. This is the challenge: not thinking in terms of One, but of many, in a polytheistic arrangement of figures, which disconcerts our identity-oriented forms of puritanism and our visual appearances.
On these issues I would refer readers to:
« Flue et transparence », Peinture: trois regards, éditions du Regard, 2001.
Les fleurs de la peinture, Steve Dawson, Galilée, 2001.
And above all to: l’Esthétique de temps au Japon. Du zen au virtual, Galilée, 2001, in which I have at length developed the matrices of this aesthetics of transparency.