A photographer for more than 40 years, Luc Vaiser for a long time held to the almost ascetic subtleties of black-and-white. His recent and jubilant transition to colour and to digital – including retouching – was therefore somewhat disconcerting. Above all, the transition is an invitation to seek, through this unconventional artist’s long and impressive output, a coherence that is more subtle than that which is manifested by technique: that which makes an oeuvre.
Only scarlet flat tints appended to various image series had recurrently manifested his will to do battle with colour (like a counterpoint to the silence of the works), if not with painting. That was incidentally where he had begun at the start of the 70s, by reworking photos with ecoline watercolour.
Moreover, it was not only these coloured surfaces that were added to commentate the image. Work in diptych or triptych is also inherent to his mode of presenting photographs – compositions that are temporary or designed to remain associated. As if the photograph itself had never been fully complete, requiring juxtapositions of images very rightly described as arranged for contemplation. Contemplation is, after all, what his photos need. No theatricality is on show. The photographs of Luc Vaiser are not talkative: silence is inherent to them. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes even wrote: “The photograph must be silent (there are blustering photographs, and I don’t like them): this is not a question of discretion, but of music.” There is nothing less blustering than the parsimonious landscapes of the surrounding countryside where Luc Vaiser long drew inspiration for his images – and continues to do so. Even when he is fond of mountain landscapes, the heroic trap par excellence, the pinch point. The space that sublimates the place; the physical experience of the vacuity between the mountains rather than the soaring ecstasy of the peaks. And above all, in the photographer’s words, “the fractures, the cracks of white”.
The oeuvre, while silent, is not however mute. The only outlet that the artist can allow himself without having recourse to pathos consists in having recourse to the very language of photography. In this regard, one understands that the discovery of digital photography and computer-aided retouching represents, in his eyes, a winning-back of freedom, for it enables additional mastery over photographic language – and there is no contradiction intended at all between an appetite for freedom and a concern of mastery. In his most recent series, Luc Vaiser thus uses, for the first time, images found on the net, portraits from family archives, words and texts. Retouching tools enable him to work on the punctum there – the crack.
In the grip of Weltschmerz, this dull pain of empathy for the world under the banner of which he placed one of his recent exhibitions – and which echoes the vanities constituted by his photos of bodies and plants from the ‘90s –, faced with the sombre chaos of the world and with the abysses of memory, Luc Vaiser believes only in art’s own resources. His career, fed by a vast visual culture and an insatiable intellectual curiosity, then assumes its full meaning. Though, in so many years of photography, he has seemed only to make modest headway, on the other hand he has sought steadfastly to push the language of his art to its limits. His style, totally stripped of romanticism, ensues directly from this.
For the essential, for him, is to provoke this “explosion (that) makes a little star on the pane of the photograph” of which Barthes speaks. And in order to do this, he continues to follow image’s fracture lines, to dig the crack through which, perhaps, light will pass. Which makes the photograph.