Text by Julie Crenn
29/01/2015 - 28/03/2015
The archipelago is drifting, from land to sea, it harbours the waves and the early hours. Edouard Glissant, Traité du Tout-Monde, 1997.
Thomas Tronel-Gauthier's work is the translation of an experience: the encounter with a landscape. From the North of France to the Marquesas Islands, via Thailand, the artist invites us to join him on his journey. Using sculpture, photography, video and installations he brings back fragments of a land or seascape deriving either from natural phenomena or from violent interventions. These fragments, seemingly isolated from their original context, turn out to be zones of projection. They harbour a mental landscape, one which we (re)create after our own souvenirs, our demons and our imagination. Gauthier's works release a field of possibilities where memory and perception become mutually dependent. "For the landscape to appear, the gaze needs to wander"¹ The casts and moulds are the remains of an ensemble, of a territory of which the artist aims to retain a specific moment. The process of moulding and the process of taking pictures (still or moving images) creates an intense relationship not only with space, but also with time. This allows the artist to absorb and to translate a natural and fleeting event: a wave passing by, the glistening sea, a rock, swallows taking flight, the movement of the sand once the sea has withdrawn. We tend to perceive these moments like miracles, and yet they're part of an ongoing cycle. In isolating them, the artist brings the landscape back to a human scale (its body and temporality) and reminds us of its immense nature.
His monochromatic paintings work differently. The idea of a landscape is conveyed by the production of rhizome-like imprints: motifs in the shape of roots featured on blue, white, black or green surfaces. In a similar way, the artist uses shells, particularly fan mussels and engraves their backsides with images of explosions. These latter ones echo the testing of nuclear weapons carried out by the French in the Pacific Ocean. Thus the artist captures something invisible. While the tests have modified the life there in a way that's indelible, the nuclear presence remains indiscernible. Shellfish, usually an object of exotic reveries, becomes the carrier of a political reality. Thomas Tronel-Gauthier preserves the trace of a journey, of an emotion, of a sense of uneasiness or else, one of exaltation. More than just a reminder of a lost moment, each of his works gives evidence of a vision and a way of being in this world. In this sense, the artist applies the philosophy of Edouard Glissant, in particular his notion of traces: "A mode of thought centred on the notion of traces presents itself, in contrast with a mode of thought centred on a system, like a wandering journey that provides some orientation. We recognize that traces connect us, all of us, regardless of where we are coming from.[…] Traces teach us how to read the branches and the wind: being oneself, drifting towards the other. Like sand in a real utopian disorder. […] Traces make for fierce divagations in our common mode of thought."²
Thomas Tronel-Gauthier's relationship with landscapes is centred on giving back, in a physical and sensitive way, a journey. Through his eyes and hands he brings it to the surface to reveal its trace.
[Julie Crenn, translation by FRANK'S]
¹ JULLIEN, François. Vivre de paysage ou L’impensé de la Raison. Paris : Gallimard, 2014.
² GLISSANT, Edouard. Traité du Tout Monde. Paris : Gallimard, 1997.