Gilbert Garcin

By turns whimsical, mystical, classical, political and profoundly surreal, Marseille-based photographer Gilbert Garcin - approaching the ripe age of 80 - is director, producer and subject in his own epic odyssey into a grainy monochrome dreamscape of stark, inescapable beauty. It is very difficult to accept that his work spans only a very recent period in the history of art - 1993 to present, in fact, culminating in the publications of his complete works in October 2007; there is a definite impression of a dated and yet enduring style, a quality of the timelessness of the 'classic' in the individual sense of the aesthetic. He blends studio sets in both 2-D and 3-D, compositing, perceptual illusions and some techniques which are purely inexplicable. The result is something both endearing and intensely sublime in its equal irreverence to reality and the ultimate inability, or unsuitability, of art to purely express reality.

The man himself is an accomplished actor and comedian, approaching his sets with the deadpan whimsy of the traditional Surrealist; a common theme in his compositions is the resolution of the eternal struggle of figures in Greek mythology, for example. Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux, an image of Garcin as Sisyphus with a newly constructed wagon track on which to roll his boulder up the mountains of Tartarus; a later piece, L’atelier de Sisyphe, shows Sisyphus pushing his boulder onto a large see-saw. The kind of soul-destroying labour assigned to the sinners of Graeco-Roman mythology frequently reappears - Tantalus and Atlas are two of the clearer references - and the spirit of this theme is absorbed into some of his more satirical and humorous work.

Le Chien d'Elliott (above), uses the idea of repetitive, pointless motion in a lighter sense; other images are more cutting, and add it to a sense of the monumental weight and ultimate futility of the passing of time in the universe. Yet even the most grave of metaphors in Garcin's collection is beautifully realised; his subjects are lost in disorientating labyrinths of repetitive lines, whorls and shapes but they all, as one image takes as a theme, Faire de Son Mieux (Do One's Best). Life in the dreamscape is ridiculous, timeless, beautiful and ironic.

The vast majority of his works are exceptionally well-presented, although all at the size depicted above, at his website Gilbert-Garcin.com and several others that are not in his collection are at Kunst-Handel. Amazon.fr stocks his photography books, intermittently, including several collaborative efforts.

He is currently exhibiting alongside Peter Cresswell at the Independent Photographers Gallery in East Sussex until 1st December; other exhibitions, past and forthcoming, are listed in French on his blog.

also on aS.blogspot

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