JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL’S Photographic Plenitude
from Chatenay-Malabry (Paris) FRANCE
LE BOUT DE LA TABLE ― THE EDGE OF THE TABLE
A Sparkling Goodbye by Rosanna Albertini
A mental distortion, perhaps caused by my American life, shows me at a small scale the photographic representation of a big historical ending: European good manners’ last sparkle, humble objects in a splendid farewell.
Goodbye to the Age of Empire and to flaking off dreams of primacy that European countries had thrown like blankets over distant, different civilizations. It doesn’t matter that a new globalization has replaced the first one, built at the end of the nineteenth century. Each European country, the people in them, grow the arts and self awareness out of a specific state mind: a silk thread still holding the civilized road, despite the absence, today, of Eurocentric illusions. The notion of style, maybe, is stronger than political or intellectual empires. Bossuet and Pascal, longer lasting presences than Foucault and Derrida.
“The qualities of the spirit are not something we acquire by habit, we can only perfect them; from which we will easily see that delicacy is a natural gift, not at all acquired by art.”
“To be attached to one thought that doesn’t change, tires and ruins our spirit.”
Pascal, Discours sur les passions de l’amour
Delicacy, maybe, is Jean-Louis Garnell’s secret style.
Objects are dumb by nature, they have no speech. Not so their images, changed in spirit by human senses. Viewers indeed won’t stop wondering about their fantastic transfiguration, spreading thoughts like dead leaves on the ordinary life they come from.
George Steiner* wrote that poems, statues, sonatas, and we might add visual poems, “are not so much read, viewed or heard as they are lived.”* Did he open the magic gate? An invisible grid of feelings and intuitions, a crowd of unsettled thoughts produce in human lives a space for the arts. It is so boring that words must be precise trying to pin down such an uncertain matter.
Intimacy, through this changeable texture, is a molecular cohesion of humans searching for aesthetic forms they can love, maybe understand, if they accept that their thoughts are exhausted by life, and discolored by light. Only in embracing death as a fact can an artist bring the most mundane, fragile glass to an instantaneous, elusive smell of infinity. Words won’t catch it.
Shaped by daylight, stories we tell to ourselves are temporary and movable, like the dance of reflections the artist has captured, expanded life already flat and colorless. But among the lines and flat bodies around the edge of the table and the images of glasses and leaves on the table, of more leaves printed on the tablecloth, spreads the beauty of freedom. Visual joy as it might come from meeting a new, glorious day.
Jean Louis Garnell lights a candle, puts up an electric lamp. “An apple after Cézanne? more than one. Repetition isn’t only time, it’s also a new feeling of light that plays with human thoughts and contemplates them.”
The foreground, a devalued surface that seems to be the land of nobody because there is nothing beyond le bout de la table, is his secret planet. There, Garnell is a petit prince, inevitably grown up.
*GEORGE STEINER, Real presences, Chicago – London, 1989
(A different version of A Sparkling Goodbye is published in the volume JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL, Centre photographique de Marseille, 2016)