Thursday, February 4, 2010
Révélations - Patrick Beaulieu
Landscape work has always unnerved me. That may have a lot to do with growing up in the countryside. Out there, there is a real violence to vision which doesn't exist in the doldrums of urbania. This rarely comes through in landscape work, that most hallowed of Canadian genres. When it does, it is most often found in either alienation, or a kind of menace. It is the latter which is clearly on display in the works of Patrick Beaulieu currently being displayed at ArtMur.
His works curl through three rooms. Half are large installation pieces and the rest are works done on a scanner. In a charming gesture, many of these images are actually framed in small black scanners and hung on the wall. Their contents are less charming but exude an equal kind of tactile fascination. Scanographic work has been one of the more curious fields of development in digital art over the past decade or so. Unlike much other digital work, it tends to retain a far more intimate, as well as atavistic, quality and this is put to work quite nicely in Beaulieu's works.
All of the works in the exhibit are heavily attuned to the theme of light and its often harsh relationship with objects. The scanographic works play on the physical violence between light and the object most forcefully since, in a far more explicit way than photography, this is what the process which creates them entails. It's a method which renders objecthood in its most literal sense. The tactile marker of this moment of violence is what creates the foreground of the image. This clarity is either situated in the centre or in the periphery. The objects' surfaces are a distilled clarity. Their surface an intensive presence. Rather than being delineated as a total, captured object, they are a miniaturized constellation of details made all the more forceful by the background. Even in muted browns and greens, their intimacy is completely at odds with the black and grey that surrounds them. The world around the object is an alien space; a grainy flat landscape from which the object pops out, almost like a projectile.
But these aren't any simple minimalistic or phenomenological landscapes. The cold intensity of the images betrays a certain teasingly metaphysical sensibility. Such overt materiality, suspended in a void of black, a digitized variation on the romance of an inchoate nature, finds and interesting turn in the installation work. Taking an extremely different tack, these works are physically daunting, taking up most of the space in the rooms where they are situated. They are mostly white – one a field of rib like objects curled around each other, the other a field of feathers. Lights violently play on both. In the first, the light cuts up the objects by breaking shadows continuously across the surface of the carefully spread pile. In the second, the strange solemnity and softness meet in the eeriness of the shadow they cast. Each shadow is like a blade, an important notion since, unlike the scanographs, the installations are all depth; the surface is never really assembled and the objects are rendered as deliriously still monuments in a constantly decomposing space.