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February 2 - March 30, 2019

What lies behind photos? From her first years at the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris, in Patrick Tosani’s studio, Constance Nouvel was interested in what constitutes the photographic medium; in La 25 eme image [The 25th photo] (2010), she literally dug into the layers of paper glued together to form reliefs, each stratum of which evoked yet another off?camera (unseen) element. Whether naturalistic or abstract, in two or three dimensions, her photographs, always taken by her, explore the concepts of frame, depth of field, materials used and so on. In her early works, the grid was everywhere, not only in the compositions, but also sometimes in a literal form, printed, for example, on a plexiglas plate placed on a photo (Decors II, 2010). At the Jeune Creation show in 2013, she even exhibited a straightforward photograph of a grid, a piece of cloth turned the wrong way round, the motif, as if by dint of being an obsession, extracted from the photos. A real mystery emanates from these somewhat indeterminate compositions. One is tempted to think that their content hardly matters, but we get caught up in the blues that are a little too blue, the strangely garish greens, the slightly overly bright oranges that colour the water, skies and rocks. Hesitant, we then make out an aquarium photographed from below (Décors XI, 2011), the decor in trompe-l’oeil of an indoor pool in Germany, in which a Riviera landscape appears (Décors XII, 2012), the model of a mountain covered with a glass case through which we catch sight of a diorama (De?cors XIII, 2013). The artifice that reigns over these scenes is significant. Gradually, progressively, Constance Nouvel’s photos began to unfold in space, starting with Bascule [Tipping Point] (2011), a work in which a photograph, which is a little too long, sticks out beyond its frame. What looks like clouds, sea and sand is actually the reflection of the light shining through a window onto a ceiling. There’s a movement from a real space to a suggested space: that of the ceiling, photography and what is out of shot. The sculptural element of these works functions as a real augmentation of photography, which would seem, for the artist, to offer a detour allowing her to reposition herself within her medium. Thus the Persistants [Persistents] (2014) series is made up of pictures pasted on small plaster modules that give them a unique dimension. Over the course of her work, as others have done before her, Constance Nouvel has questioned herself regarding the possible basis for her photographs. With her most recent work, La Derniere Levée [The Last Hand] (2014), she went as far as attempting to put the frame into the image. She created a kind of thread, drawing a maze, which runs to the centre of a maritime landscape at sunset. Out of this colourful vision, all we can make out is a gradation in colour. Gradually, as we approach the middle of the image, we see a relief (like in La 25e Image). The structure of the piece evokes a games tables inlaid with marquetry, games in which the last trick is the most important. Recently, in the Incidences [Incidences] (2013) series, and perhaps in an attempt to escape her own images, Constance Nouvel began some more abstract research. Sheets of white paper were folded and unfolded and then photographed. Then prints of these photos were folded and photographed again repeatedly. Constance Nouvel is looking for «what happens between the capturing of the real and its adaptation as an image». Photos never reproduce reality, this photographer seems to be saying. At best they transpose it.
Constance Nouvel was born in Courbevoie in 1985. She lives and works in Paris. Translation, Jack Sims

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