gilles conan

gilles conan on / off
jérôme dupeyrat _ nov 2009

light, the main component of gilles conan’s work, stands out at a particular place in the art field. the way it is absorbed determines the colors, painting often attempts to represent it or make it appear on the surface of a canvas, its capture is the base for photography and cinematography and it is also an essential element in the architectural work. its role is so peculiar that it asserts some kind of certainty. like time and space, it is one of those things that we all experience and sometimes conceive, yet without the ability to clearly define.
the work of light, as done by gilles conan, embraces this certainty and transforms it into an act of creation, while keeping the fragile balance between the common and the spectacular.
the art pieces that are derived from this approach manifest first and foremost the characteristics of the fluxes of light and the technical mechanism that allows its production such as: spotlights, halogen and incandescent lights, leds, etc.
thus, for the self-portraits ( 2002-2009 ) serie, zoom profile spotlights are modified in order to display the image of the bulb that produces the necessary light for the projection. the reflection lies on a self-referential which is often an underlying motive in the visual artists’ work in the form of tautology or ‘mise en abyme ‘.
 dispersion ( kunsthaus bregenz, 2006 ) was a light installation inspired by random dynamics of glow-worms and was spread out on the façades of the contemporary art museum in the city center. this way of pacing space through light, using computer software, was also used for the art piece ‘carrousel 154’ ( 2009 ) and ‘rollin’ - what goes up must come down’ ( 2010 ). these two installations take the shape of a spinning wheel, in which rotations are not placed on a computer screen, but in a gallery or in a public place. conan’s pieces often play with a dual logic: switching on/off, impulsion/reflection, transmission/reception, analogical/digital. in all cases, the processing of light leads to a redefinition of our perception of space, using not only sight but also sometimes balance, hearing and/or touching.
nowadays, the place of light in its artistic approach strives for a conceptual extension. it is not only its production anymore, but also its capture that is at stake. in this respect, the plastic characteristics of new generations of photovoltaic panels pave a new way of work. the panels’ surfaces are reflective, which resembles the minimalist art: not only do the panels allow the production of energy, but also, like mirrors, they reflect part of the light that they absorb. moreover, it is also with respect to the turn off of light where the artist’s work can be found. this process is already displayed in the construction of dispersion ( 2006 ) and rollin’ ( 2010 ) that brought the switch off of nearby streetlights. in this case, it is no longer about turning on or lighting but rather of a standby mode. it is, therefore, a reversed usage of light which stands out in conan’s work. light is not only considered merely as a material but is also conceived through its display and mechanism that suggests its existence, often while taking a critical point of view. in the artist’s work, light appears on two levels: tangible and symbolic. this dichotomy can be seen, for example, in a public installation that was created in roubaix in 2008. the kinetics of 77 parallel and horizontal light lines displayed on a wall of the building ( fading jenny 0-100 ) respond to the ‘static’ pv panels of mur de pv ( literally meaning photovoltaic and fine/ticket wall ) and allow an energetic balance. on an edge of the roof, those panels form a rectangle sculpture that captures natural light while evoking the windows that were blocked in the former textile mill ( rehabilitated into the french national school of youth judicial protection). this mechanism produces as much light as it retains and thus places in one dual piece natural and artificial, opening and deprivation symbols.
one might note that the perception of all of the above-mentioned pieces is strongly connected to the contexts in which they appear and interact. that is due to gilles conan’s approach to light, which involves the environmental aspect both the literal and the ‘prophylactic’.
 having that in mind, the artist devises his implementations, taking under consideration not only their immediate energy consumption, but also their production process and their impact when and after displayed. low consumption devices, energetic compensations, overcompensations, switch off, real-time or deferred, selective choice of materials, recycling from one piece to another and other strategies are designed to conciliate the work of light and the crucial ecological demands of our time. these demands often require solutions and implications more complex than the ones we are taught to believe at the eco-marketing surrounding.
in gilles conan’s eyes, it is a matter of a rational choice and an obligatory behavior. this pragmatism, which nevertheless supports political and economic way of thinking and researches already undergoing, does not form parallel dimensions in his work: one regarding public consciousness and the other regarding the artist’s practice. on the contrary, these elements are mixed one with the other in order to produce a global artistic statement.
this is the specificity of gilles conan’s work.