To create within doubt and history, tiptoeing through the wild branches, with everything that goes on between our hands, in an exalted ready-made in constant mutation.
For his first exhibition at Super Dakota, Etienne Courtois presents an ensemble of composite works.
Like his pieces, the artist has an atypical background. Self-taught, he started with photography before slowly moving away from it. The printing process remains but this technique is one among many he uses in his artistic process.
First comes observation, the eye, ensuing a focus on the objects, accumulated like collages that outline
the promise of a sculptural artwork. Etienne’s pieces will know different states before reaching their end result, images more akin to an integrated object. Moving from one space to another they undergo many transformations, having a physical reality before becoming images, and from images becoming objects again.
From outdoors, to the studio and ultimately the exhibition space, the pieces respond to each other. Counterpoint of spatial abstraction, between shapes and focus, between colours and lines, between the material and the subject, like atonal music. There is something of Schoenberg in his work, modernist forms, Arp’s lyricism, and Braque’s protean techniques. All the influences mingle cleverly, with subtlety, to create a trompe l’oeil language.
And there is the photographic legacy of Eggleston and Shore. Both opened the door for framing, of subject and composition and thereby of contemporary photography we know today. There is also Jan Groover, whose formal still-lives punctuate Etienne’s work.
However the apparatus is a lure. From the ready-made sculptures that are subjected to painting and collage, and other digressions, which enrich the process. Here, photography is used as a means to an end. The relationship between image and object is freed from the usual dichotomy to reveal the movement, images that reflect, rather than obscure, qualities of technical intervention. Throughout the successive states that make the true nature of Etienne’s work, layer after layer, images and objects unite to become one single unique state. It is for the viewer to complete the process through his retinal perception, his physical apprehension, and his pledge: “to look at the whole not just the surface”.