About JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL
(order is not for humans – dates are flags on the surface of time, they don’t stop it)
by Rosanna Albertini
This is a completely European story and Californian by accident: “Not Things, but Minds” is John Cage speaking, and I live in Los Angeles. Space and light have changed my mind. Yet here I am, forever European. The story is about Garnell, the French artist who has given his soul to photography for decades, and now paints and thinks and sometimes carves delightful little spoons from pieces of wood.
The forest isn’t far from the artist’s house. Paris is surrounded by a wilderness which is now largely tamed and embroidered by gardens and buildings, often empty shells that look as if they are waiting for the next exceptional person anointing their doors with fame. The forest floor is crowded, it sends back echoes of painter Jean Fautrier, of Karl Marx’s grandchild, as well as Jean Paulhan, Voltaire’s family, horses, Chateaubriand, and contemporary steps by Paul Ricoeur. Past heroes are all there, hung up among the branches. Good manners, chandeliers. Trunks are wounded by bullets from the last world war, and from hunters. Space has become the body of time like every square meter of Europe, soaked with history.
But Garnell is a hunter of elusive images, trying to discover the musical score that light writes in each of them. When, where, are missing. Literally, we have abstractions, or moments cut out from life, old verbal definitions maybe worked for modern art, now they sound awkward. And history, a human-made divinity in the universe of written pages, is silenced by his art, although it’s always there, covered by the image, a hidden giant that breaths. The double portrait of the same garden — a garden designed like an open book of eighteenth century geometry — speaks of human imperfection: a minor displacement breaks the visual continuity as if the scene were observed by two different eyes of the same person. The central figure of a woman turns her face away from the view. She seems lost in her thoughts, maybe despondent, or perhaps indifferent. We live a time which often gets lost, and we idly move our feet, with no direction, in a stream of sensations. Thanks to them we love everything we can perceive, images become unexpected moments of discovery, they are not things, they are our working mind. Perfectly rational decisions have become dangerous. With Keats we could say, “I didn’t read any book, the morning told me I was right.”
“En de rares endroits, quelque chose échappe à cette main mise des hommes. En ces quelques phénomènes.” (J.-L. Garnell)
( Something, in some rare places, escapes from manmade interventions, in these few phenomena. )