For the past two years, the artist has been collecting motifs testifying to the ways in which natural resources are exploited in France and Germany. His drawing entitled Open Pit Mine shows us, with a attention to detail close to miniature, the pharaonic-sized excavations in the open pit mine of Hambach, North Rhine-Westphalia.
What at first glance appears to be a vast rocky canyon turns out to be an area devoid of any vegetation, its soil and geology having been destroyed by monstrous excavators in order to reach the deep layers of profit-generating lignite. The white line that runs through this polyptych appears to be the signature of this disastrous intrusion into our environment. The mine, the largest lignite extraction site in Central Europe, which alone is responsible for a large part of Germany’s CO2 emissions, is exploited to the detriment of one of the last primary forests in Germany, that of Hambach. A small reserve of woodland has been saved thanks to the stubborn occupation of environmental activists for several years.
In his sketchbooks, the artist has multiplied the drawings that capture the various aspects of this forest territory, located just opposite the coal-mining area. Broader perspectives alternate with fragmentary views of plants growing freely and communicating with each other. Through the slow and immersive appropriation of these motifs, the artist expresses his respect and admiration for this impressive nature, which it is our responsibility to protect.
Viktoria von der Brüggen, PhD in art history, independent curator
Interim director of CEAAC, Strasbourg
Catalog excerpt : “Des herbes folles“, CEAAC, January 2021
The starting point is walking. I cross territories, here or further away. Territories that challenge me. There is this notion of crossing. From one territory to another, from one border to another, from undergrowth to no man’s land. I am attracted by this process. From the collection of visual fragments by the photographic medium on the one hand, to its transcription, line by line on the paper on the other.
My iconographic choices are then part of a more global approach of interest for the living and ancient ecosystems under threat. This approach leads me to go to the site by going through different sites in tension. I travel throughout France and Germany mainly to meet militant, associative and artistic communities. This choice to be immersed in fragile territories and to immerse myself in the messages of activism and environmental issues, then allows me to graphically translate this sum of fragments of landscapes.
From this immersion in the landscape are produced drawings but also panoramas which are mostly localized and all present a dichotomy between two worlds: representations of nature little anthropized are in contrast with others where the extraction of raw materials is pregnant. The notion of landscape in my practice can thus be read under different regimes and is multiple. I seek to inscribe socio-political aspirations in it in order to draw from it current problems of our time, the themes of which are natural resources and their exploitation, inherited, transformed and neo-formed landscapes.
I consider the landscape as a witness of human activities and from this obstinately blind grammar I tend to make perceptible the tilting, the inescapable, the vertigo or the erasing.
The landscape is the reflection of our society and within this context, it is for me to question the geological imprint of humans in the present and the future of the planet in order to propose a representation of it.
Today, the main forests that protect our planet from global warming and that shelter numerous animal and plant species are being destroyed to make way for the vacuity of the territories. Our world is more and more hostile to plural life. More precisely, to create the conditions for our modern western life, we are obliged to create spaces of non-life. I thus aim to make perceptible through drawing, the impacts of humans on their natural environment. The landscapes that I have crossed are by definition destined to disappear. From this accumulation of visual data I try to reconfigure a space, ours, the one we are losing.
Emmanuel Henninger, march 2021