Catherine Gangloff – The contemporary modernist
An essay by Frédéric Caillard
From the start, Abstract Room has been willing to develop exhibitions projects that can grow with time, incorporate new artists and practices, explore new dimensions of their subject topic, adapt to the passing time and reconfigure themselves with new works. With this in mind, I was struck by Résonance 2, a work by French modernist collage artist Catherine Gangloff, which would perfectly fit into a new occurrence of our Everyday Abstraction: Images at Work project that was curated by Dorothée Deyries-Henry and dedicated to the relationship between abstraction and images. In her Résonance series, Catherine Gangloff presents a small painted piece of wood over a blown-up picture of that same piece of wood. The approach towards our abstraction vs. images subject could not be more literal, but it is yet very profuse.
With Résonance 2, Catherine Gangloff whimsically plays with the notion of all-over painting, that has been widely defined by the lack of focal points and subject matter, and which was pioneered by Janet Sobel before being made famous by Jackson Pollock’s drippings in the 1940s. Like an all-over painting, Résonance 2 has the same foreground and background, but unlike an all-over painting, its foreground and background do not fully merge together, as the piece of wood and the digital print each remain in their own separate plane. But the main tour de force of Résonance 2 is to use an all-over abstract composition as its main subject matter and to succeed in putting it in focus, which manipulates the very idea of all-over painting in an acute game of mirrors, freeing it up from the critical dead-end into which it was stuck for years.
The juxtaposition of an actual object and its representation also recalls one of the main interest of Jasper Johns, who has always attempted to narrow the gap between the two (cf his bronze casts of a savarin brush pot, of beer cans or flashlights). Johns even fully merged objects and their representations in numerous works (a painted map is not only a representation of a map but it is also an actual map. The same thing is true with targets and numbers). In Résonance 2, Catherine Gangloff is also pairing an object (an abstract painting) and its photographic representation, but her intent seems to go farther than Johns. First, the chosen object is not a regular “useful” object but an artwork, which physical presence is not as essential as its visual existence or its embedded ideas, meanings and messages. Then there is a difference of scale, the picture being 4 to 5 times larger than the wood piece. Details are much easier to grasp from the blown-up picture than from the actual work. The delicacy of the paint work, the underlying wood tones and the balance of the colors are more pronounced on the photography. Résonance 2 enacts the preeminence of images in the contemporary world, and posits the inversion of reality and representation in our times, as exposition to images now largely exceeds direct visual experiences, especially for artworks. But if pictures are capable of revealing hidden aspects of reality, Catherine Gangloff also points out that it can somewhat alter its intrinsic characteristics: in Résonance 2, the picture is strikingly flat whereas the original wood piece has a strong three dimensional consistency with its thick painted edges. In any case, 60 years after Jasper Johns started to explore the relationship between objects and their representation, images have continued to proliferate, and Catherine Gangloff is thoroughly grasping their ever more pivotal role in her Résonance works.
Image: Catherine Gangloff, Résonance 2, technique mixte. Courtesy of the artist.