Asparagus 3 (2008) - image
Andreas Weiland

Luc Piron's  "Asparagus 3" (2008)
4 panels with a total size of 120 x 305 cm

Encountering this work of Luc Piron, other, earlier works done by him come to mind. Particularly, the works of the Hortus series that relied so much on the combination or montage of a panel that showed a computer print, and another panel that was a counterpart - a painting. That painting often was a black rectangle or black square, with small variations of the intensity of black: small, anthracite or dark grey or not quite so dark grey rectangles that seemed to be inserted into or "cut" out of the black space. The computer prints, on the other hand, were derived from reproductions taken from an old book on the Hortus Eichstettienis, a book that showed carefully done, early modern botanical depictions of the plants of the Eichstaett garden. These old depictions, works that had been achieved several hundred years ago, were already the result of a reproduction process then very modern. Fine drawings were reproduced by way of etchings. These were , in a way, the beginnings of technically (or as Walter Benjamin would say, "technologically") reproduced art in modern times. When the modern reprint was done, it meant a further but perhaps, from the artist's point of view, a bit more casual reproduction process, aiming at utmost faithfulness in duplicating the images of the ancient book. Taking this reproduced material as his starting point, Luc Piron has pursued the opposite aim: not 'faithful copying' but 'Verfremdung', if I may use here a term proposed by Brecht. Luc's computer prints appear as  manipulated, displaced, transferred images from the book in question. The Hortus Eichstettiensis images (treated almost as 'found objects', objets trouvés) have undergone diverse processes of analogous and digital reproduction, of diminuition and enlargement that in the end made them 'strange' and 'different.'  Different from what?  For one thing, certainly from the starting point or 'basic' material encountered at the outset. We may still sense the affinity that exists between the images encountered in the book and the 'final result' derived from them, the computer prints integrated in art works combining prints and paintings. In the case of the earlier works of the Hortus series, we could even think that we 'recognized' large blow-ups of tiny sections of etchings reproduced in the book: enigmatic images that took on a Rorschach-like quality, that had become ambiguous, janus-headed: suggesting a distorted human face perhaps at the same moment that we saw 'unnaturally' large, mysterious petals of a flower that was more like a flesh-eating plant than a rose now.   In other words, each displacement achieved by exposing an image from the reproduced book to several, simple or complex, modern reproduction processes brought about none of the easily recognizable, scientifically relevant, botanically studied - in other words, 'naturalistic' - plant images that the early modern artist obviously had aimed at.  Instead, we were seeing  irritating forms. Sometimes suggestive of animal or human or humanoid figures. Of beings that perhaps 'mixed' animal and human and plant forms and traits. As in the case of the surrealists of the 1930s and 40s, the inspiration for this came from visual encounters with 'everyday life': a mere book that reflected, in its own way, an encounter with 'everyday reality' - that of the garden seen and studied a long time ago.  But it becomes obvious that this reality is not taken to be transparent and immediately accessible or easily understood. It holds secrets, it remains 'un empire de la mystère.'

Much of what I say here in general about Luc's more recent way of working,  and specifically about the Hortus series, can be said about Asparagus 3, as well. Despite its difference, it appears to me like an echo of the Hortus works. Or rather, a continuation of the process of exploration I encountered there. A further, still more radical search or a new attempt to probe, to intrude more deeply, into the secrets of reality and the mysterious language of forms, colors, visual rapports. 
While we encounter, again, the basic strategy of combining a computer print and, as a counterpart, painting, this time the concrete visual realization is more complex: instead of a black, painted space   we get in this work two white (perhaps cream-white) spaces or areas or panels. Paintings that appear, mentally, as 'pure white' - as an 'emptiness' evocative of silence each time our looks touch them, in a rhythm interrupted by what is 'in between.'  Their concrete, physical 'whiteness' alternates, however, with the whiteness of two other panels that are not monochrome. One of them is a painting, the other a computer print.  In one case (the panel to the left, that is to say, the computer print) we see minute splashes as well as clusters of  blacks and colors within a white surface, like musical notes in the midst of the whiteness of a sheet of music. And, in the other case (the painted panel installed in between two white, monochrome paintings), we get tender hues of soft, almost translucent colors. These hues appeared to me like the fleeting rouge of a kiss or a fingerprint. Like the untouchable, far-off blue of the sky. Like the orange of a wing of a butterfly that has disappeared already, that has left only the trace of orange in our memory. Or is it the faint orange glow of a flame, the flaming orange of the sun seen behind closed eyelids? And yet, more tender - more fragile, more evasive and evanescent. There are other colors and their combined appearance, in the midst of a white
surface, reminded another artist of the colors of a glass window in a church. The colors of Gerhard Richter's glass windows in Cologne, perhaps. I can only wonder if there are other, even more bewitching parallels to be found. 

In contrast to the softness and evasiveness characteristic of the appearance of this non-monochrome panel flanked by monochrome whiteness, the other non-monochrome panel, with its minute splashes as well as the clusters of  blacks and colors that appear before its white surface, shows "patterns" of the print produced by a machine, rather than painted colors.

Here, without doubt, the starting point is again, directly or indirectly, an image of the reproduced book mentioned above. Perhaps Luc departed from a result of a transformation process (or of transformation processes) that had lead him to a work of the earlier Hortus series. Perhaps he again departed from a book image. It is clear that large xerox copies of a plate reproduced in the book grant very coarse deformations of theoretically regular dots that make up dark spaces in a reproduction. They stand out before a white surface or background. If colors are added, by digital manipulation, several prints superimposed on each other may grant black as well as colored dots and splashes.  It seems, in fact, that the large, then further enlarged points of dpi dots were blown up to a size a hundred or a thousand fold their 'original' size - if it is still permissible to speak of an original and an original size.
Looking at it, I see black blobs. Blots. Splashes of black flowing into each other. And as I imagine "realities" appearing inside and behind and by way of them, they are transformed, it seems, into a human figure emerging from out of a void. A whiteness, a cloud, a mist. And thus, there it is: deciphered, guessed, searchingly grasped and questioned again - the figure, perhaps, of a great nude. Her face slightly raised. Her arms at her side. The legs slightly crossed. The breasts bulging. The magical nest as if stressed by one of the four white squares that are positioned, one above the other, leaving equal spaces between them. Rhythmically accentuating the visual space of the work...

The entire space of this panel, with its blacks with its turquoise greens the accentuation of a black outline, seems as if studded with colored snowflakes, pastel colors: light pinks, blues, yellows, faint bluegreens, orange colors.
The music of these 'snowflakes,' these 'notes' on a sheet of music (that is covered, we know, with black dots and splashes as well) appears to permeate the emptiness of the surrounding white visual space with an air of hilarious, happy nonchalance, freshness, an unconscious happy-go-lucky mood of being in love, or being finally free. It's the sensation, to me, of having thrown off chains, having shed gloomy memories. Having freed one's self, that is, from the unnecessary and the much-too-rational and calculated. But also the irrational. From all, perhaps, that is oppressive and that is characteristic of the narrow-minded egotism and hunger for power and wealth and "love that money can buy" which are so typical of our present societies.

If I choose to read Asparagus 3 from  left to right (which is not untypical in most Western societies since the time we read books where words are printed horizontally, from left to right), the computer print on the left panel just 'described' sets the starting note. And from here, the eyes wanders and rests in the serene and warm emptiness of cream-white. And it wanders further, to the music of near-transparent hues, their bewitching colors dancing in the whiteness, floating in the white 'air' or above a white 'ground.'  And then, again, the rhythm of our wandering eyes carries us further, again into soft warm cream-white and the music fades out or we scan back to the beginning, and the dance, the music, begins anew.

The work, with its composition of print and paintings, of monochrome spaces and white spaces featuring colors and forms (and blacks, too, in the case of the print) breathes a freedom that is rarely found these days. It is open to the most diverse readings, and yet it is part of a tradition thousands of years old, a tradition that goes back as far as Chinese landscape painting, Classical painting, that is, with its integrated, free and open white space that gives so much room to the imagination and that is also filled with silence, a void, in other words, that mystery which had to wait for composers like Isang Yun and John Cage, in order to be discovered once again. Luc Piron has brought this to light, he has made it apparent in a work that is clearly and rationally structured and that is nonetheless intuitive, confronting the secret of reality, and teaching our eyes to again feel and think.