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Manon de Pauw

Manon de Pauw

Épreuves: Spectres (detail), 2008-2009 Photogram on silver paper, 51.7 x 41.5 cm each

In Manon de Pauw’s works, photograms, photographs, performative set-ups, single-channel videos and multi-channel video installations investigate light and the image in ways as varied as they are poetic. Manipulation of accessories, materials and colours, recourse to various means of mechanical and digital recording, and use of surfaces of inscription like paper, tables, screens and lightboxes are all part of a protocol of artistic experimentation that generates visual writing through which various ages of the image run like veins.

If Manon de Pauw explores the appearing of the image – with its measure of unpredictability, suspended materiality, narrative potential and motion – it is because much of her work is produced in the darkroom or the shadows of the studio. She has the ability to latch onto this fragile breath of the image as it emerges under the effect of light, recording its luminous fluidity to create the tangible body of the image that asserts itself before our eyes. From the flickering caves of Lascaux to the candlelight paintings of Georges de la Tour, from the pure chromatic spaces of the canvases of minimalist artists to the coloured-light arrangements of James Turrell, the same emanating body of light and shadow endlessly recasts the image’s spell.

The notions teaching body, apprentice, proof, workshop and repertoire in the works’ titles best define the undercurrent of research centred on experimentation and the image-inventing process. Spectral silhouettes, rotating bodies, effects of transparency and opacity, fleeting and sustained glow in rays of light, multiple temporal effects and sound presences fuelled by the arsenal of technology all create a fascinating merry-go-round that cannot fail to intrigue the gaze and renew our unquenched thirst for the image. But all images betray a doubt of reality, as Jean Louis Schefer writes. And the artist Manon de Pauw tirelessly locates the outlines and explores the intrigues of this doubt of reality that underlies every search for meaning. We, in turn, stare wide-eyed at her work; our gaze travels into the images, sometimes is amused, often finds enjoyment, but always strives to trace the origin of the image, to understand its features, to be moved by the darkroom and studio operations that spawned it.

Manon de Pauw’s work possesses the peculiar quality of providing access to a hitherto unseen visual world, dealing with the issues of time, the history of the image and, more specifically, the question of the body, the writing of the form and movement. Among de Pauw’s more recent works, Répertoire, undertaken in 2008 and first exhibited in 2009, makes all these aspects converge in multiple audiovisual projections. Self-representation, 16 mm and video excerpts, videotapes of slide projections, the aural imprint of manipulations, effects of circularity and a preponderance of black and white are some of the means the artist draws upon to show the link between images and the instruments that produce them.

Six wood and metal tables are arranged like a star around a vacant centre, where technical equipment is assembled on the floor (DVD players, speakers, power bars and so on). Each table is equipped with a vertical metal structure with a thin Plexiglas screen hanging from it. On the other end of the table are video projectors. The work requires viewers to move around the system in order to appreciate the distinct character of each projection and soundtrack. Either by attempting to isolate their gaze in front of one of these image-and-sound units or by comparing several at once – with what that entails in the way of an audiovisual mixture – viewers ride this carousel of varied images with its mechanism, temporalities, arrangements and technological imprints.

Each haiku-like filmlet has its own development that examines an aspect of the artist’s repertoire. The universe Répertoire sets in rotation is both poetical and formalist. But the work is also an appeal for heightened vigilance before its fragility. It is about scrutinizing its appearing and trying to retrace the prehistory of the image, of our image, our visage.

Artist: Manon de Pauw is an artist who lives and works in Montreal. She holds an MFA in visual and media art from the Université du Québec à Montréal (2003) and a BA from Concordia (1997). She has presented solo exhibitions at the Galerie de l’UQAM (2009), Optica (Montréal, 2007), Trinity Square Video (Toronto, 2007), Expression (Saint-Hyacinthe, 2005), among others. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and festivals in Canada, Europe, and Latin America. Her work can be found in the collections of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

Writer: Louise Déry holds a doctorate in art history and has been the director of the Galerie de l’UQAM since 1997. She has served as curator of contemporary art at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. She has realized many projects in Canada and the USA as well as in Europe and Asia, featuring individual contemporary artists (Sarkis, Nancy Spero, David Altmejd, Dominique Blain, Raphaëlle de Groot, Jana Sterbak, among others). She is the author of more than fifty exhibition catalogues. She was the commissioner for Canada at the 52nd Venice Biennale, with an exhibition dedicated to David Altmejd.