les presses du réel

Natacha LesueurSurfaces, merveilles et caprices

Surfaces, wonders and caprices
(excerpt, p. 165)

When, in the late 1980s, Natacha Lesueur began studies at the Villa Arson in Nice with the idea of becoming an artist, she was practicing an expressionist-type painting (Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon figured then among her references). Her attendance at the school quickly sparked a major break (“It was like a slap in the face,” she admitted), which led her to change both medium and manner, to change styles. The conditions in which this veritable upheaval took place are worth emphasizing. It was through an absence of knowledge, a lack of information, that she began to focus on a discipline whose status, as she saw it, was far from certain; it was because she did not really know what photography and its history were that she decided to shoot photos; in short it was based upon non-knowledge that she set about producing images that involve know-how in a great range of areas. And she still freely and completely accepts this know-how today, that is, she makes it the mainspring of the formal work itself, makes it not an “nonpower,” a hindrance to invention, but rather the impetus of her highly constructed images in a way. Indeed, for nearly all of the visual fields she has opened up, Lesueur, in order to concretely work out her artistic vision, or work out new kinds of know-how to attain her desired formal results, has had to learn particular techniques that have nothing to do with the technique of photography itself. Thus, there are compositions based on vegetables and gelatin (the Aspics series, 1998-2000); or glazed according to the art of chaud-froid, which involves the use of a cream-and-gelatin bouillon (certain pieces from the 1998 series Jambes, Legs); or involving the use of cold cooked meats (several Portraits done between 1997 and 1999); or confectioners' sugar, royal icing and chocolate (in the series on men sporting eyeglasses in 2003, or the series on helmeted men dating from 2004 and 2005). All of these required her to learn the gestures culinary professionals must make, just like those that come up in the use of the pastry cone, which enabled her to draw motifs, to form letters and attain the perfection of rendering she was hoping to obtain. For the imprints left on the skin (Pressions and Dessins pressésPressed Drawings—from 1994, 1995 and 1996), those forms of embossing that appear very early in her work, Lesueur had to find solutions on her own that allowed her not only to draw such lines, but to render them lasting, just a little bit durable. Thus Lesueur had to experience a profound stripping away before all forms of knowledge—and, might one legitimately deduce, before all forms of confidence and mastery—in order to give herself the means to produce her visual world, in order to provide herself with the resources to do something. And that requirement to learn a skill, that is, for invention and mastery, can go quite far, to the point of wanting to fashion the beads herself for the production of her first photos. The striking trial of paring down, a kind of dispossession of all aptitude and, most probably, all certainty too, such would be the beginning of art here, its point of chronological and processual impetus, its trigger event.

Thierry Davila: other titles

 top of page