• It was only recently that Le Corbusier’s photographic and film work has received its overdue attention. The fact that next to his famous sketch books the late architect had also used the eye of the camera to record urban situations - architectural details, angles, perspectives, harbour views and city outlines - has only recently became the subject of expert studies. These then show that Le Corbusier’s work was rather influenced by the technological advances in photography. When in the 1930s the first microscopical photography allowed close up view on nature, from focusing solely on straight lines Le Corbusier started to include organic forms and curves in his designs.

    2009: Chaux–de-Fonds, Le Corbusier ‘s birth town in the Swiss Jura - at 1000 meters above sea level the highest city in Europe – is designated a Unesco World heritage site. The town commissions three young photographers – Matthieu Gafsou, Milo Keller and Yann Amstutz - to document the town their way. Chaux–de-Fonds has an interesting history and unusal make-up: founded in 1656, it was rebuilt in its entirety after a fire 1792. The for the region unusual grid street plan applied is still a singular case in Switzerland. Famous for its watchmaking industry, it is after Geneva and Lausanne the third largest city in Romandie - French Switzerland - with just under 40,000 habitants.

    2012: The exhibition ’Experience de la Ville’ at Musée des beaux-arts coincides with ‘Le Corbusier et la Photographie.’ Here, two paths cross.

  • 2014: The series ‘La Chaux-de-Fonds’ by Matthieu Gafsou opens Galerie Eric Mouchet as inaugural exhibition: “Matthieu and I met at the exhibition and things developed very naturally. ’Experience de la Ville’ also included some of his images of the Le Corbusier designed Unité d’habitation and church in Firminy, east of France.“

    Le Corbusier expert, art dealer and architect himself, Eric Mouchet knows what he is looking at: “There is a depth in the work that continues to surprise you. What you see at first glance, is not necessarily be the same you see the second or third time you look. Like the bouquet of a perfume it has higher and lower notes, the images unfold the more you engage. At first sight the image may have a rather brutal aspect, but the further you go in, the subtler and more diverse it becomes.”

    And, scent-like again, what resonates most with the viewer is deeply personal. Matthieu Gafsou plays off texture and context visually and symbolically. By occasionally showing, and often enough erasing the traces of time, he takes away the history. If Le Corbusier “would take a photo of a glove that shows the form of the hand who has worn it, or a manmade brick, whose surface has been eroded by natural elements” then Gafsou is doing quite the opposite.

    By taking away the ‘paint of time’ he strips shapes right down to the point they resemble model buildings or computer drawings; at times the perspective seems to have gone awry.
  • Dealing with the photographic surface as a painter’s canvas, he recreates his own timeline, his own perspective, rewrites history - and develops a personality of the image that’s quite his own. In fact it may be so facetted that cubism comes to mind: the same image seen from many angles, at the same time.

    While the earlier ‘ism’ however relates mostly to painterly aspects, besides the time factor, Gafsou brings in the human notion. In the architectural series we see isolation, personal habits, egos, suburban dreams, contrasting ideals from Swiss chalets to postmodern building blocks, urban eye-sores and remnants from a different time in the midst of traffic. In a nod to the situationist ‘expression and mediation of social relations through objects’ he presents social alienation through manmade environments – still, in the slipstream of time.

    His ‘mischievous side’ as Eric Mouchet puts it, brings along a good dose of humour which he manages to tickle out of the most unlikely object or site. Yet: always concerned, caring, never condescending. One look at the human condition takes two eyes: one laughing one crying. And who has the heart to pull it all together? That’s true art.

    La Chaux-de-Fonds
    Galerie Eric Mouchet 45 rue Jacob 75006 Paris.  21st October- 22nd November 2014

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