Artificial Landscapes

Noémie Goudal takes us on a labyrinthine journey devoid of time and place to question natural phenomena around us. It’s an invitation to interpretation and even imagination. Whilst the images themselves are seemingly generic, recalling Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typologies of industrial structures, the originality lies in how Goudal manipulates them. It’s a land art of sorts where the sculptural qualities of the work are expressed in two dimensions.

In her more recent series Démantèlements (2018), Soulèvements (2018) and Telluris (2017-2018), the London-based French visual artist turns once again to science, here examining the changing ways man has looked at the Earth since Ancient Greece. Various mathematical approaches and geological theories seeking to explain the existence of mountains and other phenomena in nature are at the heart of Goudal’s quest. The spliced up rocky formations of Soulèvements evoke the constant evolution of something as seemingly static as rock. The photographer placed mirrors reflecting parts of rocks at a site in Brittany, creating new formations that “bring movement to the landscape.” Subtle changes in the mirrors’ orientation or the viewer’s position also provide different perspectives. For Telluris, Goudal arranged wooden cubes – symbols of order and stability – in the desert to represent rock formations. The same cubes were also brought into the gallery space, forcing visitors to weave around them.

In another clever manipulation, Goudal “dissolves” mountain ranges by printing images on water-soluble paper laminated onto transparent tarpaulin before being placed in front of a landscape and the whole thing photographed once more to create imaginary vistas. In this way, the mountains appear to melt much like vanishing glaciers. These works, from Démantèlements, only exist in small format due to the necessary focal length adjustment for the image to stay sharp. The lines between reality and artifice become blurred, redefining that irrepressible human urge to destroy, control and improve the increasingly fragile natural world. Goudal leads us to the gates of the landscape of the mind, but keeps the key, eschewing any explicit definition of what we are seeing so that we may keep guessing.

Olivia Hampton

Noémie Goudal: Telluris. Musée des beaux-arts Le Locle. Until 13 October. Find out more here.

1. Noémie Goudal, Telluris I, série Telluris, 2017 © Courtesy de l’artiste et galerie Les Filles du Calvaire.