There’s an open area on a busy street in the 9th arrondissement. Children pass by as they leave school. In this scene, Marine Giangregorio’s photographs hang on the side of an embankment. But not just images; the photographer’s words are there too and in more than one sense, she is their author given that she wrote them (except for a quote from Derrida) and wrote them by her own hand. The interaction between the text and the images, at first glance, seems curious. Several of the poems evoke love, lust and sensuality while the photographs, for the most part are “depopulated” – depopulated of humans in any case, yet an animal’s gaze, particularly the sad gaze of a captive animal, brings them to life, in the strict sense of “giving them a soul”. Marine uses poetry to bridge this distance, “…don’t cling to any shore, except that of the moment”. The lack of people, however, does not mean that the images are cold; the artist asks us to appreciate “the sensuality of the tree and the stream”. The sensuality of the hand is also praiseworthy as well as the flow of the handwritten text which contribute to the polyphony of impressions created by the Énigme du désir exhibition.
Marine Giangregrio is a first-class photographer. Her photographic images are essential, largely due to the intensity of the blacks and whites as well as their particularly silent quality. They are not talkative photographs yet they show the fundamentals, meaning the interplay of all the fabric that the world weaves. The sky, the waves, the fog and the plants are all part of paintings that are as authentically Chinese as any photo taken in China even during a road trip in the Yunnan, a “journey to the heart of the mists”. The waters can be raised in luxurious bursts of foam or sometimes clear, interspersed with very vividly captured waterlilies. The trees of the Far East bear a resemblance to those found in the Vosges’ forests. A peaceful surrender reigns over an old cemetery, which signals the return of everything and everyone back to their origins.
The artist wisely decided to avoid any suggestion of quaintness. Occasionally there are small traces of daily life that confirm the existence of an inhabited world, but they’re not staged scenes imbued with psychology. One of the exhibition’s most beautiful photographs depicts a road in Tibet reaching straight toward the immense sky, through nowhere. The caption refers to utopia, not in the sense of an ideal parallel world but in another way of making sense of the world, unencumbered by humanity yet not inhospitable. The space is accessible both to the traveller’s desire to move as well as the viewer’s tendency to daydream, viewers who are completely free to experience the image however they see fit. The generous offer of these pieces of the cosmos, whose choice and arrangement show proof of a great talent without imposing an unequivocal meaning upon them, makes viewers reluctant to turn away from Marine Giangregorio’s photographs but always delighted to discover them once again.
Énigme du désir – At the Galerie « L’oeil du 8 », 8 rue Milton, Paris 9th arrondissement – until May 19