Nicolas Dhervillers, Crossfade détail, 2021. © Nicolas Dhervillers / Courtesy Dilecta.

« It happens that the photo does not function as an object but gives itself immediately as an image . » 

Jean Paul Sartre1

At the beginning, there is blur: foggy images that the light tends to reveal or to silence, the photography coming as much to penetrate as to resist to the drawing, also from an artist fond of theater and cinema for whom the disciplinary non-choice is widespread. This state of original indecision carries in its heart the baudelairian dispute fearing the put to death of the beautiful in front of the photographic reproducibility judged trivial. In the Salon of 1859, the poet and critic bitterly denigrates this art of the imitation, only capable of offering the true. It is in the hollow of this 19th century, disputing the good taste as much as its emancipation, that Nicolas Dhervillers dialogue the actors of the quarrel by summoning, on the same surface, the American romantic painting known under the name of Hudson River School and its antimodel, the photographic medium. If the skeptics of the time saw these pictures as simple documents faking reality, nothing could prevent the magic felt by the viewer; the "emanation” of which Jean-Paul Sartre speaks a century later, between the original and the image. This enchanting descent operated in the image is activated thanks to the spectator and its "picturing consciousness".  

With the "Crossfade" series, Nicolas Dhervillers forces the viewer to become this participant in the construction of the image by calling upon their memory. Just as the American landscape artists gave to see an idyllic nature, passed to the filter of a intention, the "Crossfade" thickens in the prism of the references of the one who faces them: Le Lorrain, Turner, among others. It is necessary to note that the references to the painting monopolize us at first sight and put in tension the photographic object, imperceptible but very present. This union of the "brush and the lens2", so called by the pop artist Richard Hamilton, leads Nicolas Dhervillers to produce hybrid images where the authority of reality is challenged by the game of metamorphosis. The photographic impression of a borrowed American cliché - all or part of it, the enlarged detail, decentered, stretched to the edges, upsetting the scales - on the vaporous bottom puts the different scopic regimes and conventions into friction until the creation of a new essence. Images edges, free from the frame, let us catch a glimpse of the pastel impasto, like a photographic cuticle welcoming or encompassing its historical layer. This mockery of the supposed flatness of the medium materializes the image by gracefully discovering the backstage of the theater of illusions. If the crossbreeding sometimes tends towards abstraction, the clarity of the photographic detail, if small, prevents the exhaustion of the images; the eye always hangs on and crosses the referential layers. Playing with the technical and polysemic potentialities of the medium and devoting himself to the invention of the creation protocols, Nicolas Dhervillers re-engages the principle of seriality in a long time where only, perhaps, the drying up of the primary image bank could put an end to it.

Nicolas Dhervillers, Crossfade, 2022. © Nicolas Dhervillers / Courtesy Dilecta.

The stretching of the shapes is pushed to its paroxysm in the series "Remake" flirting then with abstraction. The photographic clichés of the 19th century are pushed out of the frame, the pastel remains. Off-camera, the artist photographic catalog is a shared memory which, never, comes to materially prints the canvas. It is up to us to deploy our memories and knowledge, aesthetic or physical. Following romantic poets’ footsteps, Hamish Fulton, returning from these varied walks, shared the maxim: No Walk, No Work. In the same way, the "Remake", like traces of the experience, works of atmosphere, require plunging in the deepest of our impressions, those of the wandering, of the fog even of the fears felt by the immensity of a landscape without end; those still, if we look up, of a heavy sky, of malicious cloudiness or from a celestial dive. Only the mottles, sometimes darker or more pressed, fix our look and accompany us, by humming, to the illusionist forms of the art.

« Have you noticed how much, in the bottom of any poetic emotion, we find, if we know how to look with sincerity, a concrete and deep reality? Rose’s color and perfume, birds’ song, or feathering, are they, as the short minds believe it, only fictions or poets’ illusions? Quite the contrary, they are clear-cut, scientific facts . » 3

Questions, in 1897, the geographer Franz Schrader remembering the mountainous tiers he discovered one by one.
No need to crisscross the earth extensively; Nicolas Dhervillers affirms it: these landscapes, he knows them, an act of synchrony of experiences and knowledge. Because to travel while paying attention to the nature that surrounds us, invites in a same set, just like on the canvas, the great American spaces, the rocky peaks, the great North lowlands, the history of conquests and native nostalgia. The series "Crossfade" and "Remake", freeing themselves from the obvious to better transfigure it, form an orchestra of chiaroscuro reveries.  

Nicolas Dhervillers, Crossfade, 2022. © Nicolas Dhervillers / Courtesy Dilecta.

1. Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Imaginaire, Paris, Gallimard, 1940 (réed. Coll. Folio, 2005).

2. Richard Hamilton, Collected Words. 1953-1982, Londres,Thames & Hudson, 1982, p. 65.

3. Franz Schrader, À quoi la tient la beauté des montagnes : conférence faite le 25 novembre 1897, à Paris, Paris, Isolato, 2009


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