The man believes what he sees

Since the first Renaissance, the Quattrocento, passing by the periods of modern art and contemporary art, the image built a much diversified way of interpretation. What the image represents turns towards its own representation allowing a narration more in the meaning (the concept) than in the appearance (the form).

In classicism, the image was an icon of divine representation; the Renaissance renounces a part of this representation to emphasize the meaning of the image. The Quattrocento gives to the artist the possibility to show simply what he sees, a true image without too many interpretations

The image has a communication and transmission power in time. The photographer plays with its various significances and forms, transforming it or leaving it in its simple state which will pass more unnoticed. The photographic image nearest to my work results partly from the Renaissance paintings.

Same as during the Renaissance, or more exactly during the School of Fontainebleau which cultivates luxury and mannerism, my work struggles between the abandonment of a representation of reality and a theatrical aesthetic. My work becomes a kind of door which binds together reality and imaginary, a door which manages time and space in an “achronic” way.

The result is the product of a narration which is lost between the absence and the presence of characters at the same time, marked in space by time and recorded in their movements like a form of memory.

This narration led by imagination does not follow a precise history but various events recorded on paper. In this way, I propose to the spectator a course where he is located freely. His eyes must seek to understand the various significances of the characters and the objects. The composition develops its full meaning and becomes reality. The man then believes what he sees.

The most important aspect is not to mislead the spectator by this visual narration but to transcribe this narrative in signs which have content. The glance then moves as an organized one, the image recognizes itself in time and it thus expresses its true feeling.
Roland Barthes has been explaining perfectly this concept of true image. The pivot is the most important element of an image. The image creates a split between what we see and reality. We are confronted with a change inside us. In other words, we are facing a feeling.

For me, this feeling can be defined as the transition from a two-dimensional space to a dimension which is transformed into space and time. It represents my position in front of what I see. At this precise time, I try to cross reality to find myself on the other side of my images. I want to place the spectator into the image. Alice in Wonderlands had also been trying to cross this silver-plated and brilliant surface on which she could only see fog. As in the fairy tale, history and spectator become inseparable and create their own interpretation.

In the history of photography for example, key words like representation, imitation or reality were quoted thousands of times. Photography made it possible for the artist to pass to the other side of this two-dimensional surface. The creation of various visual codes and these key words had a reference power with the beauty and the aesthetics of photography. But in spite of these efforts, we are still facing a daily discovery and we cannot define things only with words.

“If I could say it with words, I would not need to take a camera with me,” said Susan Sontag about Lewis Hine. For me, words and image are two inseparable constants. Nevertheless, in my work, I encounter the difficulty of attaching a word to my images, and vice versa. I cannot disregard the significance of the images or their visual certainty. This significance which can appear very intimate is the research of codes which have already been used in art for a long time.

These codes always fork on the same imagery, the human body. Since the Renaissance, painters have been trying to represent the body as they were seeing it. Today in contemporary art, we rather seek to represent what we do not see of the body. Art wants to give a different vision from all that there is around the body. It was then essential to me to become aware of the importance of body and its place in space. This is the reason why I insist on the grace of the body, as well as the need to return to a more concrete art in its meaning and appearance, while keeping a coherent “contemporaneity” and a less constraining art in its narration.

The meaning and the appearance resulting from my work must be perceived as independent elements. My camera acts as a predator of shadow, allowing the light to create silhouettes which stand in only one time which is suspended. In photography as in video, I feel the need to capture the invisible and to create a universe which suspends time and introduces characters, a space-time which generates an unspecified feeling.

This space-time is a narrative which occurs in front of, behind, before, during and after the spectator. Velázquez, for example, had succeeded in putting in his paintings this reality. His work was registered inside and outside. ‘Las Meninas’ was the exact example of this new innovative glance. The artist dared to take the central place in his work and place the spectator inside the narration. He even dared to take the place of the king, we suspect, as concerning Da Vinci. He had indeed remade the shroud of Christ with his own face. All that is only a proof that the artist has always been in search of an image which carries at the same time a meaning and an appearance to the eyes of the spectator.

Today my response to current reality is based on an ideal of aesthetic beauty, places of dream and perhaps the artificial and formatted world in which we exist. This creation of a universe is for me the biggest concern representative of the artists of my time. I can only speak for me but I have the feeling of a return to the true meaning of the image in art.

Klaus Fruchtnis © 2003