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Martial Verdier

 

 

Dissolving

Martial Verdier’s work constantly challenges the representational dimension of the photographic image. All images are based – even if they do not always make that fact perceptible – on the contradiction at the living heart of photography. What is captured by the camera in the present moment of the shooting is past once it has become an image, but it will go on acting on the viewers. The gesture of dissolving means producing, in the image itself, a perceptible form of this contradiction.

Martial Verdier’s pieces inscribe the dissolving of the motif at the very heart of the process of their elaboration. The artist uses the calotype process, a process dating back from the origins of photography, which is characterized by the production of a negative that can be reduplicated. The use of that technique nowadays does not mean that the artist wishes to go back to the origin of photography and rejects present day techniques. On the contrary, he uses it to challenge the self-evidence of the photographic image.

For Martial Verdier, this self-evidence is an obscure and unstable zone. Yet, it is the basis of our belief in the power of images. The gesture of dissolving is the technical gesture that transforms the image into a shadowy zone, and the mental gesture that can make nameless forces emerge at the heart of the image. Dissolving means making these forces appear “on” the image and letting them act “in” the image.

For that purpose, he does not put the produced image into an acid bath; in the treatment of the image, he includes the passage of time, which he speeds up, and the intrinsic instability of every being, objet, person or landscape, when exposed to the revealing and dissolving power of light. This dissolving process is made perceptible by the fact that the image seems to suspend the very process that creates it.

The apparently negative meaning of the term “dissolving” must not hide the fact that, for Martial Verdier, this process is the secret driving force of photographic creation. He shows the moment when the unexpected appear at the heart of what is already known.

He brings to light these shadowy zones and subterranean forces that haunt reality, and he makes them reach the realm of the real. But these forces of elevation are perceived and shown as dissolving forces. For Martial Verdier, the motif is therefore not secondary: it is the main vector of his work. The fact that it is simultaneously self-evident and denied makes it possible to integrate in the making of the image the possibility of its dissolution.

His recent pieces put to the fore certain aspects of the present day landscapes. Our landscapes are filled with disturbing and terrifying creatures, such as nuclear plants and petrochemical factories. Choosing such motifs makes it possible for Martial Verdier to give the gesture of dissolving a new power, that of connecting, inside the image, the most secret aspects of our mental processes and our psychological attitudes towards the most grandiose and dangerous realities of our modernity. He thus shows us the way we act in the world, creating “forms” and “things” that are, in fact, deadly and destructive. The gesture of dissolving puts upside down the temporality of the image since he shows us our future in the present.

Jean-Louis Poitevin, Paris 2009
English translation by Gérard Mélis

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