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stefan beyst
desir 1 desir 2 desir 4 desir 8 desir 4 desir 8 desir 4 desir 8 desir 8 desir 4 desir 8 desir 4 desir 4 desir 8 desir 8



After having staged the human nude in 'Sans tête(s)', and the human mass in 'Auguries of Innocence', in my new series 'Seize obscurs objets de désir',I wanted to explore an entirely different domain: that of imaginary, non-existent entities.

Which does not imply that I turned away from the human as such. I rather set myself the task of revealing dimensions of human existence that cannot be transmitted by the human figure, through the staging of entities of my own creation. For, after all, the human body has its shortcomings: not only is it susceptible to illness and decay, even more than words, it often utterly fails when it comes to transmitting what is moving it internally. That is why I inscribed myself in a trend in the history of painting, that is moving away from the human figure and in so doing first discovered the possibilities of having the landscape and the still life speak, to, eventually, conjuring up self-created, geometric or organic entities in abstract art. Although the potential of this latter domain have largely remained unexplored, due to the anti-mimetic fervour, which withhold the abstract painters not so much from deploying the required formal richness, as rather from providing the required anthropomorphic clues. In 'Seize obscurs objets de désir', I wanted to explore this virgin territory.


There is some irony in the fact that, of all things photography, that lies at the roots of the above mentioned anti-mimetic fervour, provides an exquisite method for finding non-human bearers for the staging of the human drama, without having to relapse in the reductionism of abstract art. For, the photographer can also resort to what I call 'mimetic reality': instead of merely having himself inspired by a mossy wall, like da Vinci, he can just photograph the wall itself. I resorted to this method already in 'Sans tête(s)'. But, whereas in 'Sans tête(s)' the double nature of the image has been retained deliberately - there is a meaningful contentual relation between a body in decay and the images in which it is transformed - I now deliberately eradicated every trace of the starting point. A first reason why I called my 'objects of desire' 'dark': it is impossible to find out from which part of the real world they are derived. This time, I wanted to create simple - unbroken - images in their own right. The technique of the double image had merely to enable , without resorting to all too cheap methods of the dark chamber or of Photoshop - to escape from the impotence of the existent to reveal in its outer appearance what is moving it in its inner being.


In the technique of the double image, reality works like a magnet that attracts images. These images are not projected consciously into the real world, they rather seem to emerge unasked from it. In that sense, such 'found reality' works like an ''attrape-désir'. What leads an often hidden life in our inmost being, suddenly looms up as an outer appearance before our eyes. In a first phase, we experience such an epiphany as a discovery, as an 'image trouvée'. But, that this images continues to intrigue us, makes us recognise that we only found what we have previously hidden.

And, what our self-created entities thereby bring to light, is immediately recognised as something that also moves us in our deepest inner being, although it is all the more estranging to establish that that deepest inner being is expressed, there before our eyes, in the outer appearance of an alien entity. As if we would have descended in these alien entities as in our true body. Second reason why I called my 'objects of desire' 'dark'...


In so doing, I not only criticise a photography, that, as a result of the development of painting, let itself all too easily reduce to a mere 'rendering of the existent world', but also of painting itself, that, conversely, opposed itself to photography through entrenching itself in the domain of (expressionistically) 'deformed', 'surreal', or 'abstract' reality. Thereby, painting not only denied itself the charms of the natural beauty of the appearances in the natural world, but above all annihilated the tension between 'organic appearance' and 'geometric essence' through reducing it to the staging of one-dimensional geometric forms (see 'Mimesis and abstraction')

In 'Seize obscurs objets de désir', I rather wanted to, conversely, heighten the tension between the organic outer appearance of imaginary entities and the 'seret' underlying geometric construction, as well on the level of the composition of the frame, as on the level of the composition of the plane within that frame. Although the staged entities are imaginary, they look as if they could live in the real world. Because I resolutely opted for the meanwhile as 'photographic' experienced 'academic' tradition, and for the optical seductiveness of the natural appearance, that is often scorned as the 'glitter' of advertising. In se, there is nothing wrong with a ''Rafaelesque' look: it sounds only hollow when it goes hand in hand with an inner void. In 'Seize obscurs objets de désir', the often alluring beauty of the appearances only heightens the opposition to the sometimes repellent desire that they embody, or it fuels the fascination with what could all too easily repel us. And it is to such dialectics, that joins the dialectic between organic appearance and underlying geometrical pattern, that - as I dare hope - my 'Seize obscurs objets de désir' owe their often intense inner tension.


An often intense inner tension: for, in this series, I wanted to stage - the often all-consuming inner emotion that moves the living world of which we are part. For, the often ambivalent desire to contemplate desire in all its ambiguity is itself the deepest desire of the eye, and the central, most originary motive for making an image.

Whence the title of this series, to which you only have to add the 'oh!' of pureaesthetic astonishment, and to change the number 'seize' (sixteen) into the pronoun 'ces' (these), to have the words phrased that come over the lips of all those who are fallen under the spell of the fascinating image.

Stefan Beyst, November 2006.