Gabriel Orozco‘s ‘Fleurs Fantômes’ (‘Phantom Flowers’) is a long-term large-scale monographic exhibition (2014-2016) in the Château-de-Chaumont. Entrusted with the third special commission by Centre-Val de Loire Region for the Domaine of Chaumont-sur Loire, Gabriel Orozco created a new body of work inspired by the wallpapers adorning the once occupied private apartments of the Château.
Gabriel Orozco’s solo show takes place after the interventions of Greek contemporary artist Jannis Kounellis in 2008-2010, and Turkish-born Armenian conceptual artist Sarkis in 2011-2013. For this new exhibit, the Mexican international artist chose to inhabit the Guest rooms of the Château in an intimate way, and created a new system of production of images, drawing from the Château’s history. ‘Fleurs Fantômes’ is thus a unique collection of oil on canvas which lie at the border of photography and painting, questioning our perception of the medium and our interaction to the surrounding space.
Once a fortress in the year 1000, the castle was destroyed by King Louis XI in the XVth century and soon rebuilt by the noble Amboise Family as a masterpiece of both Gothic and ornamental Renaissance architecture. The feminine presence of great figures, minds and philanthropists of their time, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers in the XVIth century and later Madame de Staël, and especially the Princess de Broglie which owned the property in the XIXth century, is still today palpable in the confines of the numerous architectural details, the fine furniture, and the floral tapestries.
The 30 medium size canvases and the 8 new larger works on view since April 2015 displayed in the not-yet renovated rooms of the Château are produced thanks to a vintage machine from the 1970s advertising era in New York which sprays oil paint on canvas. The palimpsest of ancient printed wallpapers became the perfect subject matter for a two-year experimentation-based process, where many tests, some visible in the first set of smaller paintings, were necessary to adjust the calibration and thickness of the paint. Unlike any other printing machine, white is one the five primary colours, enabling a broad variations of greys and nuances. The slow and imprecise process conveys a unique blurry aspect, merging colours and patterns, and allowing many ‘accidents’ which paradoxically magnify the final image.
Each painting is primarily the result of a close observation of the walls torn overtime. The artist takes a photograph using his iPhone to document, frame, and enlarge a particular segment, which is finally reproduced on canvas thanks to the machine. “With the close-up, space expands. […] The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject.” (Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936). In a certain way Orozco is rethinking the medium and the act of painting, thanks to a specific set of rules which defines a new “creative act” to explore and grow with. In line with the conception of ready-mades, the presence of the artist is only required once the object is finished, to observe and validate the result produced by the machine.
More than a reproduction or a photography, each work becomes a physical individual object. The reciprocity between the historical setting and the work is at the core of the artist’s project. The repetitive translation from medium to image adds to the tautological playfulness of presenting a representation of an existing context. As a result, Orozco emancipates his work from its original environment by showing six of the new large canvases independently. Their scale and physicality offer another type of contemplation and reflection. The viewer is thus invited to wander and engage himself in the ongoing dialogue between the second and third dimension, through image, time and memory. Irreverent and subtle, Gabriel Orozco invites us to join his experimental, intellectual, poetical and conceptual process.
‘Fleurs Fantômes’ is on view through December 31. 2016. Chaumont-sur-Loire Centre of Arts and Nature’s 2015 contemporary art program features 15 artists including also leading artists Tunga and El Anatsui, as well as new works by Melik Ohanian, Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger, Antti Laitinen, Naoya Hakateyama.
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