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20 August 2009

Elger Esser, Rencontres d’Arles 2009

After spending his childhood in Rome, Elger Esser joined the Bechers’ class at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. These strong, complementary figures had a lasting influence on his work. His memories of Rome include long walks to places with no obvious character, but where he could observe the changes brought on by light, wind, clouds and the seasons; he preferred these to other, more historic sites. Nevertheless he left Italy with a solid grounding in the history of art, a fondness for the drawings of Poussin and Claude Lorrain and a familiarity with Italian landscape artists. He acquired a general mastery of photographic techniques with the Bechers, studied major nineteenth-century landscape photographers and became fascinated with the descriptions of the natural world to be found in the correspondence between Flaubert and Maupassant. Moving away from the Bechers’ objective, documentary vision, yet sharing their concern about the inevitable disappearance of traces of our history, he came to focus almost exclusively on the slow transformation of landscape. Faithful to his recurrent concerns, Elger Esser has composed for this public commission timeless images devoid of human presence or any precise architectural reference. The Rhône is his guide: he follows it to the gates of Arles, as Charles Nègre did before him; he draws its meandering course through the Camargue plain, and his eye lingers on the emptiness of the horizon as the river surrenders to the sea. He nostalgically offers the beauty of original nature with its peaceful waters and the gentle light of the rising sun, which erases contrasts and heightens with a sepia tone the monochrome quality of these ‘photographic drawings’.

Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr

Commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and Communication / National Centre for the Visual Arts (CNAP) from Elger Esser for the Rencontres d’Arles 2009.

Exhibition venue: Abbaye de Montmajour, Rencontres d’Arles 2009.