While the controlled mastery of pigment, stone or clay is a goal for some, Geneva based artist Opale is interested in the unpredictable possibilities, offered by the manipulation of materials. Through an experimental approach, the artist superimposes different representations of photographs, sculptures, paintings and textures throughout his projects. In the Nymphes series, Opale reinterprets pages from fine art magazines by partially covering them with paint. This stage is followed by an unpredictable process in which the paint and images and texts of the magazine are transferred onto the adjacent page. The artist adds further to the result by digitally transforming it. Through this method, he creates new links between representations, matter and temporalities. This relationship with the medium also allows Opale to establish a dialogue with the immaterial. For him, his layering process is intimately linked to memory. By tactilely manipulating images from the past, the artist adds his own subjectivity, his experience, in a process that aims to create memories. Through his practice, Opale operates as an archaeologist of memory turned towards the future.
In order to uncover more of the artist’s work and process, SuperGlue talked to Opale. Find the interview below…
Firstly, thank you for speaking with us. How has your past year been as an artist? Has your approach changed at all during this time?
My practice is influenced by everything that happens around me, so the situation impacted me. This constraint of not being able to see anyone and staying at home pushed my research in a different direction and I finally tried to work outside as much as possible… During the first lockdown, I really focused on developing La piste de la Veuve series, for which I was outside printing family photos on plants. The lockdown pushed people to gather with their families, so I took the opportunity to look back at my family albums. This allowed me to rethink the strange relationship we have with these objects, which we look at very little but which are very important family souvenirs. Through La piste de la Veuve, I wanted to change this exceptional relationship to a daily practice, in the same way as one looks after his/her plants.
In your works, such as Exhibition souvenirs, Nymphes, or Sur la piste de la Veuve, you superpose images, various materials, textures… What drives you to create these palimpsests?
In my creative process, I always try to move towards an encounter with uncertainty. My approach can be compared to a journey, or a narration that unfolds slowly, during which I don’t really know what will happen. This allows me to get a better grasp of the stories I am reproducing and to bring my subjectivity into it. From existing images, I add other stories, in a process of building memories. In all my work, the notion of memory, of forgetting, of the transmission of knowledge is central. Bringing things together allows me to create links, not logical but rather analogical, which will have a central role in the construction of my memories.
Within your practice, the relationship to materiality and immateriality is very present. You base yourself on representations and physical manipulations of the material to better question your relationship to memory, your experiences, and history. Can you talk a bit more about this ambivalence?
What is immaterially if there is no materiality? How can you define one without the other? For me, these two notions are related. In my work, the immaterial plays an important role in the sense that I am doing research on the invisible and the way in which I can make it visible. It is this work, through the material, to show something that is not necessarily visible, like a journey, a path, a new process… This relationship is not fixed but can be seen as a process in perpetual change.
Something really intrigued me in your titles, you mention that the dimensions are “infinite”, can you tell us why that is?
Nowadays, the majority of works are digitally reproduced for communication, archiving, or other purposes. Most of the time, I will also digitise my projects at a certain stage of creation. For me, this is really an intermediate phase that leaves an infinite way of possibilities in rematerialization and in reimagining. Indeed, the dimensions can change and I can replay them in different ways. I could remake an image in very large dimensions, very small dimensions, with different supports, etc. Always in a process of infinite movement, I can change the size of the image.
There are several references to art history that are found in your work. In Exhibition souvenirs and Nymphes, you play with, superimpose and create a dialogue between paintings, photographs and sculptures from different periods. The way in which you create images with the help of double exposure photography also recalls the approach of surrealists such as Dora Maar, Man Ray… What is your relationship with art history? Are there certain currents or artists that have been important for the development of your practice?
All the movements I have seen, or studied in class, have marked me in some way, for different reasons. I have an anachronistic approach to art history. I try to stay in conversation with it, not to base myself on predefined ideas, but rather to question it by bringing in links that could lead to other dialogues, or other narratives. My relationship to art history, or simply history, is dynamic and opposed to fixity and definition. Georges Didi-Huberman highlights this anachronism of art history and refers to Walter Benjamin’s approach, which speaks of a constellation created when two periods meet. What I like about this idea of encounter is that it evokes a kind of breach, where suddenly everyone can make their own narrative, reappropriate the subject, and do something else with it. In Nymphs, through representations of sculptures, paintings or photographs, I refer a lot to the history of art in a very accessible way. I work with paint not only to add material, but rather to link something paradoxical, which is as much veiled as revealed. It’s as if by the gesture of veiling these images with paint, of forgetting certain parts, I would remember them better. It’s a way for me to learn about art history in a tactile way.
Is material experimentation an important factor in your practice? What role does the unexpected play in your creative process?
There is a trend at the moment of artists looking for cycles, or works that change… When I am in my material research, the immateriality of my work resides in this process where everything can change indefinitely. When you see the images of my work, this conversation seems a bit invisible. The viewer is faced with the image, which is only one sentence of this long conversation I had with the material while doing the research. I like not being in total control of the material, leaving room for chance and uncertainty. Often, my material research starts with very spontaneous gestures that lead to the observation of results. There are things that touch me more and that I want to develop and go further. I am really interested in this non-control. When you go on a trip, you have to remain open to the unknown to be able to really understand what is happening around you, to meet people… In my practice, I operate in the same way, I remain open to let myself be guided by the material.
How do you relate to glue?
In my work, I use glue a lot to link different images together. SuperGlue made me think of a super glue that makes connections that have never been made before.
Thank you for taking your time to speak with us. What have you got planned for the future?
I will continue my current research. Both with prints on plants and with the plant’s chlorophyll. I will also continue my research on the question of the image, the representation of art history, and also in relation to my photography practice.
Follow all of Opale’s art on his instagram account @eauxpale
Keeping it glued since 2021