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French artist BERNARD MONINOT explores space and takes a bite at philosophy in a show that is about seeing and believing and, of course, thinking. Words: Neil Cooper
Think May 68. and you think of Paris in the sprinO. when academic and activist. aesthete and artisan rose as one for a brief. spontaneous flowering of revolution. Whilst it shouldn’t be overly fetishised. there’s a notion of this fusion of high ideals seeping through Bernard Moninot’s work. which is to go on show at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery.
In his glass-based works. Moninot employs a drawing technique called (i'ecochement, which he first employed in the 1970s after watching masons work. Not for him the pedestrian pastime of pencil- bound imprecisions. B stretching and suddenly releasing a string coated with pigment. he could create a perfect straight line in a second. Utilising this labour- saving device to make detailed drawings. Moninot then transfers the work to glass. Hung at a distance in front of a wall. it then creates a shadow which adds further to the optical illusions at play.
‘At ﬁrst.’ Moninot said in a recent interview, ‘my work was, in a very traditional way, the end-product of a trace left by any instrument, any tool, whether a brush or a quill. Then. gradually, I started to conceive my work as using phenomena. To me, the question of
78 TllEle'l' 28 May — 11 Jun 1998
'Painting is a fantastic locus for thought to materialise. In that sense all painting is conceptual.’ Bernard Moninot
Conceptual moments: Bernard Moninot's Constellation
perception is automatically linked to the question of
the conditions of perception — light and shadow.’
He goes on to quote the French philosopher Descartes. who talked about attempting to extract vision from the visible. It is something rarely heard from our own hyped-up conceptualist Brit art brat- pack. ‘You’re not coming round here talking like that. sunshine — Rene’ Descartes or not,’ you can imagine Damien Hirst bawling before reaching for the formaldehyde.
Descartes aside, much of Moninot’s work looks not unlike the end result of a more sophisticated Etch- a-Sketch or Spirograph. two old-time toys that solicited similarly geometric methods to create a series of swirly. curly. wurly patterns and shapes.
‘The works of art which fascinate me most are not those in front of which I spend a lot of time. but those which have a power of immediacy. and also allow you to think back on them.’ says 49-year-old Moninot. ‘Something builds up in your mind in the absence of the piece. I am following the same direction in my work. I want to create something which does not necessarily appear at first glance but which builds up in your mind as the result of an instantaneous impregnation.’
Quite. And while something may have been lost in translation. Moninot’s mix of the spontaneous and the studied proves elusive to capture in words. Draped in philosophical shadows. it begs the question of whether it might not be better to let the work do the talking. Not so. says Moninot.
‘All art is conceptual,’ he proclaims. ‘Painting is a fantastic locus for thought to materialise. In that sense all painting is conceptual. All pictorial experiences are conceptual.’
Bernard Moninot is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh from Sat 6 Jun-Tue 21 Jul.
Putting the artworld in the frame.
THE EVER-RESILIENT Demarco European Art Foundation looks set to rise again during the Edinburgh Festival this year. Headed by Richard Demarco, one of Edinburgh‘s most eccentric and determined 'can-do' arts initiators, the Foundation frequently faces funding and venue crises: its current home at St. Mary's School is up for sale. But Demarco is thinking big. Joining forces with the European Youth Parliament, he is to take over the former Royal High School on Calton Hill — until recently the proposed site for the new Scottish Parliament. Through a programme of art, theatre and music under the title Conflict And Resolution, Demarco will use the venue to dispel 'the heresy that art is just about entertainment'.
MEANWHILE ON A lighter note, Culture Secretary Chris Smith's latest literary foray, Creative Britain - which expounds the brilliance of the country’s art scene and New Labour's arts policies - has been ridiculed as semi-literate. According to many critics, Smith has got a little confused over the Cool Britannia hype. The term should be binned now, we hear - it has become ’politician parlance‘.
ALL VERY NEW LABOUR - given the Government's penchant for Habitat- style - is news that Habitat is awarding five £1000 prizes at this year's MFA Degree show. Glasgow School of Art’s much-admired post- grad course (past graduates include Ross Sinclair, Louise Hopkins and Julie Roberts) is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a graduates' show at Tramway from 24 Jun-4 Jul.
IN OUR REVIEW last issue of the show by Norman Gilbert at Glasgow's Lloyd Jerome Gallery (which forms part of The Dental Practice) we gave the impression that patients could be heard undergoing treatment. This was not a truthful statement, but intended as a humorous aside. We would like to apologise to the Lloyd Jerome Gallery for this remark and commend its efforts to expand the range of exhibition sites.
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All high: Richard Demarco
has set his sights on Calton Hill