REVELATIONS & CARNATIONS

By Romain DUVAL,
PHD in Aesthetics and Art theory from University Paris-I-Sorbonne 

It is a weird show filled with both fascinating and disturbing, ghostly scientific images. Some morbid yet fake memories with an entrancing pulse are shading on the delicate, poetic side of Serge Delaune’s work. The quality of his artwork perks on the subtile employment of textures and framing.

It would obviously be difficult and restrictive to outline a man’s work in a few lines, implying personal choices and biased opinions but it could also draw the attention on what affected us in the first place, and what we got from this strange encounter.

First, there are his Tentures, a palimpsest evoking memories of the Shroud of Turin, a pareidolic depiction of the face of the Christ on the linen relating to photography: revealing an invisible figure with a negative image. Photography history is all about raising bodies and figures from the shadow, revealing them and make them come back to life. Therefore we dive in a blend of science and mystery, woven together by a tragic irony depicted in a peculiar way in Serge Delaune’s work. Through physical contiguity, some materials symbolizing precision, like  radiography, glue themselves to more blurry and approximate, almost religious and worshiped objects. By brewing clean, scientific evidences with mysterious and dark, fetishized relics, the artist is kind of clouding the issue and creating even more confusion between distinctions and art genres.

The choice of the term Tentures evokes the rich and vibrant idea of fabric, mural decoration but also funerary artefacts, like a black hanging, left on the door of the deceased.

So what are those wall hangings made for? Are they serving a decorative function or evoking the memory of a mortuary habit? The essence of Serge Delaune’s artwork has two implications: first a decorative, physical object, then the artistic expression of what appears to be a fight against time.The word palimpsest evokes the strates of memory, the superposition of ephemeral, different component traces, all erased to make room for a later, greater work but of which traces remain. But those hangings are also, at least partially, teints with colored pigments fixing themselves to the canvases and fabrics. Those stainded shrouds are romanticizing a dissoluted, missing presence by revealing strange, moving figures. The modalities of this reversibility are established in the passing of non-mimetic elements, an enigmatic process in the magic of image-making, expressed beautifully in Serge Delaune’s shrouds.

Those Tentures are also textures, deep flesh tessitures, woven like skins, shreds of a technical, religious and artistic knowledge. But there’s more. The artist continues to blur the lines between religion, spirits, art and science with a perfectly orchestrated display device. For example, the vertical stretch of the rectangular shapes express a visual tension suggesting the upward dynamic the artist is seeking in his work. Shape and substance can only be distinguished form one another in a practical or semiotic Forme et contenu can only be distinguished in a practical way or through language.

This is a condensed version of the work of anamnesis made from Serge Delaune’s Tentures. A new question comes to mind and it’s about the framing display of the Portraits and the Paravent. The historian of arts Meyer Schapiro explains the different fonctions and possibilities frames have to offer. The "old" frames with large borders encompassing the Portraits isolate the x-rays, but the relation between the frame and the visual rage is highlighted to draw the viewer’s attention to more formal and expressives qualities, like the staging of the installation.

Traditionally, before modern-art, the bay-frame recedes the perspective and becomes a part of the same tridimensional space as the viewer, building an alternative space between the viewer and the imaginary space it’s supposed to showcase. In this peculiar case, the artist uses the frame like a gallow, to hang down the radiography using cords and strings. They do become hanging objects, hard material, hung elements just like the frames are.

However those Pendants with disincarnate figures belong with each other, and offer what we could call "dissimilar parallels".

This is how we should look at the Army of souls, but we are stopped on our way by the Paravent which, along the Portraits, looks like a quadriptyque. It’s naked structures become frames, linked to one anoter and disposed in broken lines from where are hanging the x-rays of anonymous bodies. They appear in rectangular and stretched forms, like the Tentures and have the same frame display the Portraits do, making the entire artwork extremely coherent. They become the hinge holding in place the other works, like explicitly shown with the fragile articulation of those vertical panels.

The art of Serge Delaune captivates us to the will of being silent. The only thing left to write, once more, is that we should stay still and create at least for a moment, an artwork of silence
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