Les Nouveaux Constructeurs
Upon the invitation of Julie Gutierrez, curator of the Fernand Léger Museum in Biot, Stéphane Couturier worked intensely with the oeuvre of Fernand Léger, one of the masters of modern painting in early 20th-century France. Léger was particularly attentive to the radical transitions of his time. The central focus of his work was the changes people and cities went through due to machines and mass production. Drawing from the form experiments of the cubists, his body of work found its particular artistic expression, which merged the cubist avantgarde with communist engagement.
“I became aware of the many elements that brought him closer to me—his fascination with the city, with industrial elements, with architecture, with the geometry of forms…”, comments Stéphane Couturier on his involvement with Léger’s body of work. As images of urban landscapes and industrial architecture are combined with the painter’s compositions, the principle of superimposing two images that the photographer elevated to an essential element of his art is raised to a new level. As two different yet closely related architectural structures meet, works emerge that are simultaneously painterly photographs and photographic paintings. Constructive and constructed, these works depict the visual reality and yet venture beyond the visible. No reproductions, but images with their own reality. Processed as Cibachrome and mounted in black object frames, these images become precious objects that incorporate the old and the new in a unique way also on a physical level.
Stéphane Couturier’s engagement with Fernand Léger’s work seems only logical as his work has focused on the human-shaped environment since the outset of his artistic career. His images of construction sites, streets, façades, bridges, or temporary architecture yield structures that recall abstract painting. Like Henri Cartier-Bresson capturing people at the right moment, the “moment décisif”, Stéphane Couturier seeks the right moment and the point of view that will offer him the world as colour, form and composition.
Through Stéphane Couturier’s superposition of two photographs as digital double exposures, the austere architecture and urban landscape images become poetic all at once. The two images overlap in a phantasmal way, and a new reality emerges that can only be seen as such through the apparatus. Couturier’s digital montages are more than the mere fusion of two images; they make lucid spaces visible, which seem to emerge from a realm between dream and reality. They playfully work around the boundaries of the photographic image, the real and the virtual, thus challenging their media as well as our ways of seeing.