St Leger, France

SYLVIE BONNOT (St Leger, France)


Born in 1982, France. The polymorphic landscapes of Australia, Japan, Ireland, Norway, Russia and France, have informed Sylvie Bonnot’s multi-faceted oeuvre, which has featured in group and solo exhibitions, and entered museum collections in France and abroad. Her photographic alterations were discovered during the 58ème Salon de Montrouge, 2013, exhibited in a solo show for YIA Art Fair, 2015, Paris, or during Nuit Blanche 2017, at CNES, 2017, Paris, (France).

In Making Things Happen : Young Artists in Dialogue I at The Merchant House and simultaneously at UNSEEN, both in Amsterdam, 2017, Netherlands, Sylvie Bonnot made her images jut out from the walls, and coagulate as sculptures with a flourish of singular vision and technique next to her photos.

Sylvie Bonnot’s latest project Contre-Courants, Musée de La Roche-sur-Yon, 2018, France, includes a monograph published by Nouvelles Éditions Place, Paris, 2016. Her most recent artist book, entitled « Beyond The Restraints » (original title : Derrière la Retenue), is the result of a two-year photographic project commissioned by EDF and was published by the Facim Foundation and Actes Sud, 2017.

Artist Statement:

Sylvie Bonnot
The World Sense series

The photographic alterations in this series are pioneering explorations in materiality. Interacting with and within the materiality of the image, they evoke forms of rupture inherent in the subject of the image, in its architecture, in one’s active experience of it.

For the past five years, I have been developing the process of removing and transposing the photographic gelatin onto another support—the mue technique (French for ‘molting’)—which I see as a quasi-organic migration of the image, reflecting my preoccupation with conveying movement. Due to the sheer thinness of the layer, the transposition augments the image’s reality and its substance. Extended to this series, the mue creates a situation where a dissected physical matter, the layer of gelatin, can be renewed through the physicality of the body. By finally making the mue process itself the subject of the series (a mise-en-abyme of the mue), it became possible to activate its making through the motricity of the human body.

The bodies adorned with the skin of the image evoke the effect of a tattoo. The membranes of the images are in fact directly reflective of the way in which my trips imprint themselves upon me. My “photographic missions” call for total commitment: it is about survival in a hostile environment and about complete attention to a performative situation. The photograph registers the impression on the eye while the rest of the body, like a seismograph, records the pulse of the experience. This data is complementary to the technical act and yet deeply penetrating, akin to a mental tattoo and the need to etch what is most precious into one’s skin.

The photographs I continuously make in deserted or in hyper-urbanized areas are part of my accumulating archive, of a subjective atlas, a kind of documentation of forms and structures, of natural or human-made architectures, of all that can characterize a place and render its essential energy. These vast itineraries, which I covered on my own, in all weather conditions—from the brittle ice of Spitsbergen (2010) to the twisted streets of Tokyo (2014)—have both “accepted” my presence and put me to the test.

For the World Sense series, I wanted to build on the logic of archiving the performative arts, which bear a close relationship not only with my approach to my subjects but also with the mue as a transpositional act. Making a mue is a performance in and of itself; it is a risky hands-on procedure and there is never a moment of certainty before completion, which gives the work its fragile, magical logic. The works of this series capture the opportunity to extend the possibilities of the mue, and even our sense of photography and performative acts, to strikingly new dimensions. World Sense allows for the unique stratification of an image with regard to the territories traveled, desired or abandoned: photography where the muscles ripple across the skin and magnify the all-powerful rigor of architecture—urban, industrial or elemental.

Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?

The World Sense series is using silver gelatine as a subject, though the images were generated by a digital reflex, in a « mise en abyme » of the black and white photographic matter and of the new process of photographic alterations that I developped using analogue papers.

In the darkroom, while working with enlargers to create human scale (125 x 125cm) prints on fiber base paper, I understood that the process and the materiality of photography were as important as the subjects within the work.

Also if I now swich from time to time to digital photography (depending on the context of the field and subjects I work with), it is always with my analogue Hasselblad that I have to most important results. I think that it not only about the wonderfull technic of the camera but it also has to do with the rythm, a slownessness. The prism of the medium format magnifies the subjects, giving to it another dimension.

Baryte printing has always been the anchor point of my researches, even when I finalize the digital photographs on analogue supports. After researching onto the complexity of the layers of the prints, I started to transforms my enlargements into sculptures by folding them.
The process is increasing the voulptuousness of the photograph while the folds swallow parts of the image. The aspect of paper changes too, becoming stronger, almost metallic.

Since 2013 I am focussing on a new process: the “mue” (= moulting). It became the epicenter of the work, while consisting in a transposition of the gelatine silver layer from its first support to another one: first on paper, then on wood, plaster, stratospheric balloons… until this very recent work: on skin. The materiality of the analogue print is reduced to its minimal state, an incredibly fragile membrane, a new matter.