Between iconoclasm and minimal aesthetics, romanticism and Land Art, the work of Cyprien GAILLARD (born in 1980 in Paris, lives and works in Berlin) questions man's traces in nature. Through sculpture, painting, etching, photography, video, performance and large scale interventions in public space, GAILLARD has established himself as a major emerging artist on the international art scene.
Whether he commissions a traditional landscape painter to paint colourful views of housing projects in Swiss suburbs, surrounded by their luxurious natural environment (Swiss Ruins
, 2005), or introduces a view of a tower-block into a 17th Century Dutch landscape etching (Belief in the Age of Disbelief
, 2005), GAILLARD shows contemporary architecture as a modern ruin on the verge of being taken over by nature. Just like 18th century French 'ruiniste' painter Hubert ROBERT did when he painted the Louvre as an imaginary ruin, GAILLARD follows French philosopher Denis DIDEROT's advice according to which 'One must ruin a palace to make it an object of interest'.
In The New Picturesque
series (from 2007), Cyprien GAILLARD questions the representation of nature through the notion of 'picturesque', literally 'what is worth being painted': originally, in the 18th century, rough or rugged landscapes, far from the 'beautiful' landscapes the notion later designated. Intervening either with white paint on 18th or 19th century landscape paintings or with torn white paper on old postcards of castles, GAILLARD covers all narrative elements and decorative details, thus revealing their truly 'picturesque' quality.
These series echo in a minimal gesture GAILLARD's seminal Real Remnants of Fictive Wars
series (2003-2008), short-lived Land Art performances documented on videos and photos, where the artist activates industrial fire extinguishers in carefully chosen landscapes (amongst which Robert SMITHSON's iconic Spiral Jetty
), stressing their beauty at the same time he vandalises them.
Confronting Robert SMITHSON's theory of entropy to issues such as urbanism, vandalism and the decay of modernists utopias, GAILLARD's ruined architectures and disappearing landscapes, just like Hubert ROBERT's paintings, romantically embody man's ineluctable fate through the passing of time. In the video The Lake Arches
(2007), for instance, a young man breaks his nose after diving in the moat-like pond surrounding a ghostly post-modern tower block, thus making it look like a castle impenetrable by the youth.
GAILLARD's vision for an 'archaeology of the future' is brought together in his Geographical Analogies
series (2006-2008): in wooden boxes recalling display cabinets in natural history museums, nine Polaroid photographs, shot by GAILLARD in locations around the globe, all baring some sense of entropy, are carefully arranged, according to analogies sometimes obvious to the viewer, sometimes personal to the artist.
Parallel to this project of gathering occurrences of worldwide entropy, GAILLARD has started to create his own 'parc aux ruines', with monuments scattered across the world : a monumental bronze sculpture of a duck taken from a derelict Modernist neighbourhood of high rise buildings in Paris, that he had transported to the terrace of Berlin's Modernist masterpiece Neue Nationalgalerie or inside Kassel's Fridericianum (Le Canard de Beaugrenelle
, from 2008); rearrangement of trees masking the façade of a contemporary art centre on the beautiful yet artificial island of Vassivière (Homes and Graves
, 2007); crushed concrete remains of a tower block from the suburban city of Issy-les-Moulineaux laid out on the main ally of a Renaissance castle (La Grande Allée de Oiron
, 2008); or some more concrete, from the demolition of a Glaswegian Modernist social housing project, recycled into a 4 meter high obelisk (Cenotaph to 12 Riverford Road, Pollokshaw, Glasgow