A slow but fertile blooming
By Françoise Jaunin
Since the 1990s, Switzerland has enjoyed international visibility and interest like never before thanks to its plastic artists, architects and designers. As the country’s fifth largest city, Lausanne punches well above its weight.
Often graduates of the ECAL (Ecole Cantonale d’Art, among the best in the world), its young artists and designers, disinhibited by the provincial complex, keep up with even the most cutting edge of studies and trends. They gladly show their indifference, humour, “cold” aesthetics and concise formal language. They revisit the history of art through offbeat methods and games, twist the objects and images of the present to make them their own, create collages and virtual changes, wonder about ecology and genetics and draw their mixed inspirations into art (especially modern art), video games, advertising imagery and special effects in film.
In Lausanne, two catalysts set contemporary art in motion: the first was the Impact group, with its gallery (1968-1975) and its actions in the city. In a quest for utopia and great projects, the group wanted to connect Lausanne to the international scene with its more modern and experimental aspects and bring art to the streets in the name of “art for everyone” or “Art Power”. The second catalyst was René Berger, director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts from 1962 to 1981, who had the courage to present art in the making, notably through its three Salons des Galeries-Pilotes (1963, 1966 and 1970). Although it was unquestionably a non-commercial forebear of the art festivals in Cologne, Basel, Paris and elsewhere, the example set by Lausanne has, quite unfairly, never been recognized or identified as such.
The “musketeers of the invisible”
The posterity of René Berger’s other passion was no less significant: video art, of which he was one of the original theorists and promoters, although rarely mentioned anymore. The pioneers of video art in Switzerland – and protagonists of the first generation of video makers in Europe – were all Romands. He affectionately called them “the musketeers of the invisible”. Their names were Muriel Olesen, Gérald Minkoff, René Bauermeister, Janos Urban and Jean Otth. Two of them were from Lausanne: Janos Urban who, like an experimental philosopher, worked to evade the stereotypes of thoughts and viewpoints, and Jean Otth, a true “head researcher” of Vaud art who, like a painter but through a cathode tool and then through a computer, questioned how to look at images and their new technology-induced relationships with the real and the imaginary. Since 1979, his teaching at the art school has greatly influenced his students through his eternal curiosity and experimental questioning.
More allusive than peremptory
At the end of the 20th century, Lausanne was brimming with young talented artists. In this climate of globalization, immediate information, instant connection and many high artistic masses, it would be pointless to try to touch upon each of them in a portrait of Vaud art. Apart from being for and against everything, it remains more allusive than peremptory, more introspective than demonstrative, more restrained than thundering. Like everywhere else, its protagonists are defined less as painters or sculptors than as plastic or visual artists who are not necessarily “tied” to a specific medium, but turn to the techniques and materials each time that allow them to come as close as possible to what they want to express.
Both experimental and autobiographical, the work of Alain Huck ranges between painting, design, video, writing and screening of digital works to explore physical and conceptual limitations.
For a long time, Anne Peverelli has “drawn” using a sewing machine, basting stitch or adhesive tape before working with paint to trace her adventures of lines and her poetry of almost nothing, both tactile and mental at the same time.
Ariane Epars sees her work simply as a dialogue between places where she stays for various amounts of time. A dialogue full of poetic and laconic finesse and sensibility that borrows its gestures and materials from construction and daily life: plaster, putty, savon noir, adhesive tape, and a clothes line.
Emmanuelle Antille prefers video, with which she can create sensitive and dreamlike works that touch on questions concerning the relationships between human beings and the troubles they have, concentrating particularly on adolescence.
Based in Zurich, Elodie Pong handles video, photos and performance with modest empathy to lift the corners of the veil on the hidden face of humanity, feminine desire and fragments of intimacy.
Philippe Decrauzat is reinventing optical and kinetic art through pictorial creations that physically involve the spectator and turn their concept of space upside down.
As for Didier Rittener, he draws using transfers with trichloroethylene and by “sampling” dubbed music with remixed images drawn from the popular and specific universal memory, placing them within a framework, with clashes and constant self-referencing.
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