Bn PROJECTS & Maison Grégoire are very happy to invite you to Legerdemain an exhibition specially conceived by Etienne Courtois for the space of Maison Grégoire.
The exhibition title, beyond its mysterious and poetic character, taken from the title of the work which we used for the invitation card, illustrates indirectly and not without humor the swift transformative and transdisciplinary spirit which characterizes Etienne’s approach and use of photography in his body of work. Legerdemain is indeed a seldom used English noun derived and aggregated from a French locution (“léger de main” id est literally “light with one’s hands”) characterizing the skillful use of one’s hands when performing conjuring tricks.
The noun which can be associated to synonyms such as prestidigitation, wizardry, illusion, dexterity or trickery is sometimes used in finance to characterize metaphorically a sleight of hand.
After a career in finance, Courtois started his photographic parcours as an autodidact some 8 years ago, devoting himself entirely to a free and uninhibited exploration of the medium.
Through the often complex and multi-layered character of his creative process, his creations are often imbued with a strong visual plastic impact.
Marked by a strong porosity of approach, his interventions or integrations on photographic negatives and prints resort to some kind of sculptural and pictorial gestures, whether it be in their formal materiality or on his subtly devised iconographic arrangements.
His compositions often articulate a confrontation of very diverse found objects, gathered in his domestic vicinity or collected during wanderings through the city, on flea markets or in the countryside, combined with objects he fashions himself. The elicited encounters are always discretely but effectively surprising, in a slightly surreal contemporary fashion, further enhanced by the pictorial and sculptural treatments he applies to them.
A carton of milk covered-up with brick-patterned vinyl becomes a kind of house emerging from a striped bag, standing off a polarized grey carpet evoking a grass lawn, whilst on another picture, a knee pad meets a grinding wheel covering up pliers.
A further dimension enhancing the ambiguity of his images is brought about by the sculptural forms – often in plaster or wood – which he includes in his compositions or sometimes applies to the prints. This is namely the case in the eponymous composition used for the invitation card, or in the sculptural panel which he has installed in the garden: Tubes of painting which Etienne fashioned in plaster seem to emerge from a ribbed basket found at the flea market, standing off a composition of colored abstract grounds.
The ambiguous polysemy resulting from the stratified creative process is also brought about by the double/multiple exposure which the photographic negative is sometimes subjected to, with the subsequent alterations to the chromatic values and forms of the initial subject.
This is namely visible in L’Ami du Peintre, a seemingly abstract composition, made up of colored stripes, enshrined in an undulating frame. As a matter of fact, it originates in a small abstract painting which Etienne made himself, before photographing it twice on the same negative. The resulting composition was then printed it on a triplex board, applied onto a mdf panel, further enhanced with an acryl painting strip, and finally adapted to a waved frame entirely done by hand.
It is maybe in this work that Courtois’s ambition to overcome representation is most obvious.
It also crystallises the discrete but persistent resistance that his works offer to a direct apprehension or understanding of their essence.
It illustrates, albeit in a mediated way, the ambiguity which underlies the formal surprising confrontations brought about by his more figurative compositions, which are always singular, very personal and full of humour.
Artist: Etienne Courtois
Venue: Maison Grégoire, Brussels
Exhibition title: Legerdemain
Curated by: Emmanuel Lambion
Date: October 13 – December 1, 2018
Text/Press release and images provided by the event.
© Etienne Courtois & Maison Grégoire, Brussels, BELGIUM E.U.