“The only loser, in the struggle between reality and its representation, is photography, i.e., the instrument, the one most commonly identified with its aptitude for conveying the highest percentage of reality into representation.” Aldo Nove, November 2010
This summer, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie is delighted to present Un – Vrai – Semblables Paul Thorel’s first solo exhibition in a French institution. The French/Italian artist will exhibit a major body of new works made especially for this occasion.
Thorel’s often large-scale digital prints have been likened to the experience of watching television in the 1960s and 70s, where the picture was frequently distorted by the lines of transmission. His works thwart one’s grasp of visual reality, forcing an acceptance that one will never have the full answers to the questions that they pose.
Central to this Paris exhibition is the human figure: all works to be exhibited are rooted by this one central element. Included in the display will be portraits, landscapes, botanical pieces and works from a new series depicting crowds, while the botanical works originate in imagery of crowds, the landscapes hold as their starting point a portrait. It is only when he is working on the pieces that the lines and forms of the original image take on the life of something new, a process of ‘shifting’ that is essential to Thorel’s digitalised method of working.
Attempts to ‘read’ Thorel’s works reveal that they are in fact the opposite of traditional photography. His canvasses force the mind’s eye to compensate for details that are either missing or obscured beyond recognition: one enters a semi-reality where hard facts have given way to the ebb and flow of colour and texture, light and dark, movement and stillness. Yet at the heart of each image there remains the foundation of an original structure, even if it is traceable only by the ghost of its former presence. Only in some cases is one aware of the original image, while in others the process of shifting has lead to something wholly new.
Paul Thorel was introduced to digital technology in 1979 and he is one of the very first artists in Europe to have realised its possibilities, utilising it as early as 1981. His approach to the making of each piece is far from that of a painter: instead of building-up to an image, here the image is a starting point from which he slowly moves away. Works always begin with a clean, photographic image within which ‘interferences’ are created by layering the original with a multitude of others, each successive layer being distorted and mutated by the next. A final piece can involve many hundreds of layers, taking several months to create each work.
Thorel’s art has run alongside his personal interest in the psychoanalytical world. Thorel’s works force the mind to re-evaluate what it is seeing, putting back into the image that mix of character, emotion and atmospheric condition that cannot be photographically reproduced: a near-reality.
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
Paul Thorel: Un – Vrai – Semblables
Opening: June 26
Exhibition dates: June 27 – September 2, 2012