Exploring forms, structures, colors, black & white.
Luc Piron’s More Recent Work

When I first came across Luc Piron’s work, it was in Eichstaett,  seeing his “Figurenfeld series”. 
The Figurenfeld is a field of sculptures, mostly human “figures” which are more than life-size, very expressive, and which were arranged as part of the curving Franconian Jura landscape, suggesting dying combattants as well as some horses, a few onlooking civilians, in what recalls a battlefield after the battle has ended. The scene, just outside Eichstaett, is a clear J’accuse, against any war, especially the last World War, started wantonly by Hitler Germany.

The project that had brought Luc to Eichstaett was a project of three visual artists (one of them Luc), as well as a poet. And what they intended and, I think, achieved, was a reflection, a commemoration, a visual or textual appropriation and transformation, of the Figurenfeld – the creation of a pacifist South German artist, Alois Wünsche-Mitterecker.

In Eichstaett, facing the exhibition “Erfahren. Erinnern. Figurenfeld”, I have felt immediately  attracted by  Luc Piron’s series of clear and infinitely varied computer prints  which contrasted poetic views of the hilly, gently flowing, sculpture-studded landscape  with an ever-changing variety of strong, black geometric forms inserted into these digitally transformed photos. It was clear. To insert these shapes amounted to a V-Effect, a strategy of making the familiar look strange, in order to enable the viewer to see it in a new and different way. Parts of the sculpture-studded valley and hillside were blotted out; other parts were accentuated; they were emphasized.  The naivité of any direct, quasi-naturalist approach to the sculptures and their place was subverted; it  was undermined or put in question. A new, much more distanced look became necessary.  Every added blackness that was confronting the viewer so strongly, in such structural clarity, was asking to be perceived, in relation. In relation to what was seen, of the landscape, the sculptures – and in relation to what was no longer seen.  Standing, no, lying, or being simply present, “in front of”  part of the digitally metamorphosed photo, a part that was no longer visible, it was posing a question. It was asking us to pose questions, to take a step back, to pause, to reflect. It was also producing a contrast, no doubt, to the finely grained, or coarser structure, the distributions of light and shade, of emptiness and fullness, of the manipulated photo. At the time, Luc Piron wrote,

 “The works that form the Figurenfeld series depart from photographs taken on location. Then, the photographic material was digitally manipulated. The soft hues of the sunlit landscape (of which the Wünsche-Mitterecker sculptures are an integral part, are preserved and transported by the filmed material.  They contrast with black, very abstract, strictly geometric, and (in a way) architectonic shapes. The effect is a sort of Verfremdung that undermines (or negates) the mere, illusionistic reduplication of the visited place. An enigmatic element is introduced in that the photographic structures are frequently hidden or partly hidden by the black elements at random. The relationship between the elements in black dynamizes space. But black may also stand for grief, for the dark unknown, the black box of time and past suffering and memories hidden inside surviving bodies, or taken to the grave by those who have died. ...”

These words say what has to be said about the “figure field series” better than I could have done it now.

The figure field computer prints were in fact -  most of them, at least, I take it – the result of a montage.  Combining, as we saw,  photos digitally changed on a computer, with another layer, the black shapes of the  geometric forms mentioned. And these forms were added by way of the lithographic printing press.

Luc is not only a fine computer artist but also an expert printer; he taught both etching and computer art for many years, notably at the Rijks Hoger Konstonderwijs, the Royal Art Academy in Brussels, and he received many prizes for his outstanding and magnificent work, notably the Pro Civitate Prize for Graphic Arts and the Belgian State Prize for Graphic Arts.

A more recent series of works, the various “Hortus” series, mixes or more precisely, combines two media as well, largely black (chalk & graphite) paintings and computer prints,  contrasting and fusing them at the same time.  As Luc notes, the digital prints and paintings of the “Hortus Rosa” series depart from a copperplate engraving  by Basilius Besler (done in 1613) that shows a variety of roses. The computer manipulated prints constitute a sequence of ever new metamorphoses of the roses engraved and printed by Besler. As in the case of the figure field series, the images which the artist departs from are “made strange,” giving the imagination again and again a lot more work to do than any Rohrschach blot. Not only does the relationship between each computer print and the original roses matter (a relationship we can only guess, as we don’t see the Besler roses except through their transformation) but also the visual rapport between each of Luc’s prints. There are developments. There are tensions. And then, within each work, composed of a balanced left and right part, there is a further tension or contrast: between print and painting. Between organic nature, metamorphosed or metamorphosing, which is always positioned at the left,  and the by and large non-figurative quality  of the “black, minimalist” chalk & graphite paintings, to the right.  In terms of color, the computer prints vary from bright to very mellow to pale colors to different shades of gray and black with, at times, hues or faint nuances of rose or red. When we view these latter works which oppose  painted black squares to more or less dark (largely gray and black) prints, the otherwise prominent color opposition between the left and right part vanishes almost entirely; it is just the different structure that sets the two halves of these works apart. 

Zooming in onto the Besler original, Luc has also created an animated video which produced fantastic, sometimes strangely surrealist effects.

The computer prints that constitute the video, in a kind of single frame montage, are combined with music by The Jaynetts, “Sally go Round the Roses.” A song about secrets. Secrets of form, color, substance, life blooming and waning, things organic – but also the secret of black, of the square, and whatever it may suggest.

May 15, 2008

                                            -  J. Weidenfels