For its third exhibition, Maëlle Galerie presents Antoine Poupel’s photographic work. A former student at the Académie de France in Rome, recipient of the Villa Médicis grant, his experience in Rome enabled him to develop a style of photography that is deeply connected to the act of painting. «If I chose the photographic medium, it is to deconstruct its mechanical character, to reintroduce the part of the artist which uses light like a pictorial substance.»1 The body, eroticism and the representation of the sacred and death are the most recurring themes in his work.
In a true contemplation of nature, Poupel examines fruits and flowers as he finds they have an innate capacity to convey not only skin and flesh, but also life and death. « Man is only skin deep,»2 if he takes pains to show us our enveloping flesh, and lingers over the surface of the epidermis, his ultimate desire is to question the inwardness of the body, question its longevity.
Poupel brings us face to face with our terrible anxieties, our terrible demons. Since Hegel thinks that ‘A body is never depicted per se but according to perception’; so with a sense of powerlessness Poupel gives a view of the body in its capacity to yield to death. «We live oblivious to our metamorphoses»3 is perhaps what the photographer is trying to whisper into our ears.
Each of his photographs latently portrays the countless ticking of time passing, lurking in the shadows. Time which plays tricks on the body, which marks, changes, pummels, deforms, weakens and withers it, inevitably leading it down the pathway to finiteness.
In «(…) His portraits of flowers, as pink and pearly as a woman’s sanctuary, he treats them like skeletons unaware of each other. Real Grand siècle style vanitas with a sumptuous infusion of flowers gathered into a large quadriptic, potpourri with red and purple-blue hues, withered with rusty stains, from where the tips of female breasts surreptitiously emerge, sometimes pierced with rings, voiceless lives with sadomasochistic hints, promised to pleasure and destruction alike. The rose petals, like the flesh of women, are forbidden fruits subject to the torture of death and decay.» 4
(1) Antoine Poupel, Manifeste
(2) Paul Valery, L’idée fixe
(3) Paul Eluard, Le dur désir de durer, 1946, Œuvres complètes t.II © Gallimard, La Pléiade, p.83
(4) Emmanuel Daydé, Les démons