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6 July 2013

Antoine Gonin, Empreinte*

Empreinte is both an extension of and a rupture in Antoine Gonin’s work on landscape. Although his earlier Horizons resembled a long inventory of French landscape and heritage, its black and white images were primarily descriptive and established, in a narrative mode, a kind of photographic panorama of France’s natural and architectural beauties.

With Empreinte, he seems to lose his fondness for documentary intentions and to cross information borders, just as he crossed those of France’s territory, to give free reign to a personal style, which marks the evolution of his photographic work.

Whereas he previously allowed landscape to be seen in its entirety, today he travels the world and slices through, to extract so many abstract, graphic and poetic compositions, where the natural elements turn into signs that surface and come to compose the image. The Brittany sea becomes a white page where deep cuts fall into line, the salt marshes of the Great Salt Lake evoke the work of some abstract painter, and Venetian mussel breeding is embodied in what seems to be a curious musical score.

Nature thus transposed by Antoine Gonin’s singular gaze does not lend itself to a descriptive reading. In his images—mute because they have no points of reference—the reading, enigmatic, lets itself become and is revealed in its mysteriousness and its secretiveness. It is as though he is analysing natural spectres.

He detects the trace that man has imprinted on nature and which transforms the landscape. A natural environment irremediably marked by the stigmata of human activity: furrows in the black soil, terracing in the salt marshes, oyster-farming sacks breaking the surface of the water.

And so, Antoine Gonin’s images are imprinted with man’s modifications on landscape and with the rare singularity of his gaze upon a natural world that he seems to discover with infectious joy.

Caroline Benichou


Exhibition venue: Atelier des Forges, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2013.