With great excitement, last Friday, Georgia and I went on our gallery gallavant for the first time in a month. I shall refrain from bemoaning the paucity of worthwhile art, and instead, dwell on the positive! One of the highlights of our meanderings was Tania Mouraud’s Borderland at galerie Dominique Fiat. And, while the problem with most of the other work we saw was its superficiality, Mouraud’s work stands out for its exploration of the surface.
These photographs are not what they appear to be. Apparently she found a stack of black plastic covered hay bails on the side of the road and set about photographing them. The result is mesmerizing for the vast array of differences between the individual photographs. Each of the images captures the reflection of the surrounding landscape on the surface of the plastic and of the photographic image from a different perspective, at a different time of day, in different weather conditions. As such, the photographs become like stages on which nature, the technology of the camera and the plastic material play out their unlikely meeting. Some of the abstract images reminded me of Gerhard Richter’s overpainted photographs — so, of course, I loved them. Others, however, look like the view of the countryside through a window on a rainy day. Still others look like cubist paintings or collages, and still others like impressionist watercolors. If we were not aware of what they were, we could be forgiven for mistaking them as photographs of reflected water. Whatever the associations we bring to them, the photographs discourse on the curious relationship between reflected light, water, landscape, and representation.
They are as diverse as they are superficial. Indeed, the play between the sameness of the subject matter and the difference of each image is what holds us: we keep looking to see if we can find the consistency between the images. And we can’t. This play between diversity and sameness is also underlined by the fact that they all come in different sizes and proportions, many of them unusual shapes for c-print photographs. Mouraud’s manipulation of the size is a way of further making strange the photograph, strange in the same way that the scene is made strange by the photograph. This constant return of the concerns of the photographs and of photography to the surface of the image, is what makes them a cut above much of the superficial images that pass for art in the Marais.