« Poegraphs » by Michel GOGNY-GOUBERT, A caribbean artist praising the « Marvelous Realism »
« It is complitely obvious that mystery lies in us as well as in things, and that the land of wonders is, above all, based on our sensitive nature » Pierre MABILLE, « Le miroir du merveilleux » 1940
Although Michel Gogny-Goubert only discloses, today, part of his works, his interest for the art of photography goes a long way back. How is it possible to find a clue, linking a life dedicated to a « scientific » professionnal activity and an artistic experience displaying a poetic vision of the world aiming at nature’s marvelous side ?
Even if Michel Gogny-Goubert chooses to use numerical devices, he is still very keen on a photographical practice, one could describe as « handicraft », which aims at Beauty, totaly handmade, from the shots till the enlargements and framings, without forgetting the printing on very fine papers. As a perfectionnist, it’s with the same scientific strictness that Michel Gogny-Goubert, refusing to take the easy way out, devotes himself to photography. An art he practices with an almost chirurgical accuracy. If he uses the oportunities given by modern technology, he resolutely turns his back on tricks and special effects, and on fashion performances. And in the meantime, because he is also a sensible man, he pursues an idéal, in which beauty consists in this additional, one may call « soul » : which man adds to the exact reproduction of the perceptible. An ideal greeks used to name « poïesis », and that we call artistic creation.
The displayed series, although different, expresses the reality with a very particular eye. A way of watching which overcomes what is visible and its appearances, both familiar and reassuring, in order to reveal the mystery, the unusual, « the disturbing uneasiness ». More often, we stop to fix our eyes on a piece of reality, one could find meaningless, and that the photographic lens seems eager to pierce in order to reveal as the lens would do of a microscope, another invisible truth to the naked eye. The photographer, while introducing us in this parallel universe, influenced by aestheticism, becomes a « soothsayer », according to Rimbaud’s word, that is to say « Poet ». The chemical reaction due to the light that Roland Barthes (*1) calls « revealed image » is similar to what Rimbaud refers to as « illumination ». They open the gates leading beyond what we can see. An oniric universe in which the tangible world turns into sign and symbol.
Thus, isn’t it possible to see in the cock-fightings from the collection « Pitt à coqs » the image of the present violences of the current events ? As far as the shots are concerned, don’t they perfectly illustrate the relatioship photography sustains with death according to Roland Barthes’s « Ça a été » (« The way it was ») ?
Positively seduced, the observer will certainly be surprised and even troubled. So, the development of the photos underlines two opposite aesthetics, « realism and poetic ». Then a stressing atmosphere, which could lead to a state of permanent disquiet can be felt. Faced to the aestheticism of « poetical realism », the observer will have to give up the comforting rationality of a well-known universe in order to follow the photographer in the super-natural one.
«Your soul is a chosen landscape …” (*2)
As any piece of work, aiming at becoming a masterpiece, a photograph isn’t the accurate reproduction of a part of reality, but, its representation, that is to say, a different illustration, which makes it an entirely new creation. And furthermore, an original piece of work referring to the etymology of the word « poïesis », and symbolizing the artist’s vision of the world … while also revealing to itself.
Except for a few coloured photographs of “Pitt à coqs” in which the animal can be felt as a metaphore of the human being. At the same time, in the other poegraphs exposed, almost exclusively printed in black and white, human being is, in a way, absent. The same is particulary noticeable in the “Landscapes shots”. In spite of the places which can always be recognized, those landscapes arise as immemorials. In a way, archetypes of forgotten landscapes keeps off our memories. They can also evoque the origins of the world, a « zero time », somehow. They may ,as well, take us back to a sensitive memory, a nostalgic evocation of a forever lost childhood’s world. However, through this photographs, the observer is invited to lose himself in a state of meditation both metaphisical and poetical. Where aesthetics is tighly linked to spleen. As Saint-Exupery says in « Le Petit Prince » : « This is for me the most beautiful and sadest landscape . (…) It’s the place where he appeared and disappeared ». A far away world, forever unaccessible, underlined by the choice of a square frame. As if it was seen throughout the window of a prison cell.
In fact, does Michel Gogny-Goubert’s art consist in facing us, with inhabited landscapes, in spite of their apparent steadiness, the insidious erosion of time, and facing the blank before it vanishes ? The landscapes, summed up to few lines and plays of lights effects, and furthermore, liable to an abtraction, tend a brief sketch: thin stems plugged in water, the emerging curb of a branch, lightfall slowly darkening the sky, the melting of the sea and the sky … As a painter would do, the photographers rubs out as much as he comes into sight. Everything seems to play with light he uses sometimes to spread, sometimes to dramatize, so as to open on mystery : the landscape which either doubles in water, and, once straightened up, transforms itself into a tree ; the luminous presence introducing through the door gap, revealing what darkness was hiding ; the outside ruins, reflecting on a pane, which, at the same time, gives a lighted lamp to be seen in the room. And, through this confusion between outside and inside, darkness and light, gives a dizziness feeling, makes perceive a world falling into deliquescence, in which the omnipotence of death seems to overcome the life forces.
A « Painter of modern life… »
If Michel Gogny-Goubert’s « Landscapes » and « still lifes » appear to be brake off from reality, almost out of time, his more recent « urban photographies » tell us about our contemporaneous world. A world falling into chaos, into a deadly violence, to which the « Pitt à coqs » series refers in a metaphoric way.
It is striking how Michel Gogny-Goubert’s eye hit generally, in an almost obsessional way, while he goes on rambling alone along the streets, choosing themes : wire fences ot what he calls « Huis » , as doors and windows. Most often, these two themes being traeted together so as a to match in geometrical frames, indeed restraining, but also stabilizing due to their identical repetitions. But those « huis », which are true windows allowing to catch a glimpse of the world in a splitted way, are a metaphoric way of the framing made by the photographer’s eye, who select a field of view. An eye which shows its ability to seek the outside as well as the surrounding : tagged walls or venitian blinds opening on a lighthouse. The horizontal stripes make sense with the lines of the blouse, whereas a dynamic graffiti, a « K » letter, seems to be relying too heavily on an old traditional creole cabin.
While strolling, Michel Gogny-Goubert watches closely to related and unusual spots so that he shows then as obvious. Facing an heavily barred window, sealed with thick wooden beams, one can identify a rebellious logo as well as to make out Spanish scraps (« Policia », « Carcel », « Recupera tu vida »). On an other snapshot, in a small window of a shop, above a line of old bottles, one can see, on a poster advertising for the play : « Carmen », the Virgin and the Child.
Elsewhere, Michel Gogny-Goubert chooses to focus and cut off a « small section of yellow wall ». This photograph is a symbol of the overall pictures. The artist pays a particular attention to produce a none artistic reality from which he has extracted a part. Without any special effect, in an hyperealistic style, the photograph is build up through three levels leading to unsteadiness. We have already seen these three levels in the landscapes, where land, water and sky are superimposed. There, we have many signs of shakiness. Diagonals and oblique framings dictate an overhanging sight of the world. In spite of a few stabilized logs, the pieces of wood piled up seem very shaky. As for the wall itself, full of cracks, with the bricks piled up chaotingly without concrete, suggests an impending danger. The whole thing could collapse on the splitted pavement. Facing this sight, the walker as well as the observer is facing emptiness what buddism refers as « impermanence ».
As a conclusion, one has to keep warry about misleading appearences. Seeming to hold himself from a post-modernty style which recommends spontaneity and fleeting gesture, Michel Gogny-Goubert does not fit in documentary photographers as Raymond Depardon, who tends to fix countryside or usual surroundings landscapes in decay. He is even less in the contemporary stream which desanctifises the image, when the artist uses mixed technique melting painting, photography, sculpture and writing. With landscape photography, wildlife photography and urban photography, Michel Gogny-Goubert made the deliberate choice of a new take on the classics based on his own sensibility and themes that harken back to his background: a man born in an island, Guadeloupe, which has constantly been a land of human and cultural melting pot. His photographs must therefore be viewed as a hybrid artistic form, through which a realistic observation meets a surrealistic aesthetics proper to the Caribbean area, often called “marvelous realism” or “magic realism” to differentiate it. His art, influenced by the clean and uncluttered universe of Japanese prints, has a universal ambition. It leads the observer to challenge his aesthetics and philosophy, without giving up on a poetic pleasure.