The Christophe Gaillard Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition by Stéphane Couturier within its walls, Monumental, an occasion to present several as yet unseen photographs from series acclaimed across the globe.
Since the 1990s, Stéphane Couturier (born in 1957) has pounded the pavements of cities, making urban architecture and its contemporary transformations the main subject of his photographs. In his first works, he revealed anonymous urban transformations (Archéologies urbaines, 1995–1998; Monuments, 1999–2002) before turning his attention to the architecture of cities constructed ex nihilo by twentieth-century architects (such as Chandigarh designed by Le Corbusier, Brasilia by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, or the Cité Climat de France in Algiers by Fernand Pouillon). Since 2004, the photographer has embraced the digital revolution. He creates “shifting digital images” to present – and reveal – the urban fabric and think about the spaces we inhabit. From the series Melting Point (from 2004 onwards) to that of Nouveaux constructeurs (since 2018), the strata of reality are superposed and hybridised in compositions that open up a new space-time.
Stéphane Couturier multiplies points of view, playing on the layering of details, the accumulation of planes, and variations in textures within a single image, in order, he says, “to come as close as possible to the pure sensations perceived as we wander”. This photographic approach, which associates a treatment similar to the pictorial all-over with a monumental frontality, is less austere, less systematic than it seems. On the contrary, it provokes a movement, a fluidity that enables the eye to lose itself and drift, in a to-and-fro that sometimes verges on dissolution: it places spectators before what resists them, as though they were facing a fragment of the density of the real.
Stéphane Couturier’s photographs, writes Quentin Bajac, “share the same abolition of perspective markers – the grid as an absence of hierarchy and centre – and, most of the time […] a temporal interaction occurs. Couturier’s grid […] is only superficially a spatial affair. It is much more – as is all of Couturier’s photography – a temporal one, of interwoven temporalities and (hi)stories, collective and individual memories.” 1
In his recent images from the Nouveaux constructeurs series, Stéphane Couturier combines views of the city and port of Sète in colourful geometric compositions, directly echoing the cubist paintings of Fernand Léger. He uses editing tools and digital technologies but chooses the Cibachrome procedure for printing his photographs (an analogue technique used in the 1960s, appreciated for the exceptional quality of the rendering of colour and light). Between reality and fiction, documentary photography and plastic research, Stéphane Couturier forms a dialogue with painting that engages an examination of the potentialities of photography and redefines it, in his view, as “a game of construction and deconstruction of reality”.
A game that Ingrid Luquet-Gad has studied in remarkable depth: “Refusing any determinism of the medium, combining traditional and digital procedures, photography is seen as the sensor for possibility. The meticulous recording that the medium allows is diverted from its function as proof: photography no longer attests, it invents. It reconfigures, through the real itself, all the while endlessly indexing other potential worlds […]. By pluralising perspectives, photography becomes the vector of the explorative power of fiction, describing a reality for us that is invented to measure.”
Stéphane Couturier (born in 1957) lives and works in Paris. He started his photography career in the 1990s and produced many renowned series, obtaining the Niépce Prize in 2003. His work has been the subject of several monographs, notably with Editions Xavier Barral, in 2016, and is currently presented at the Artothèque d’Angers as a solo show.
His photographs are present among the finest institutional collections such as the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (FR); Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (FR); Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg (FR); Los Angeles County Museum (US); San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts (US), National Gallery of the United States, Washington (US); Art Institute of Chicago (US); Canadian National Gallery, Ottawa (CA); le Musée National d’Art Moderne du Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg (LU); Israel Museum, Jerusalem (IL); and Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne (CH).