Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pain of Intimacy

all images: Guillaume Simoneau

I've got endless admiration for artists, photographers and filmmakers that place themselves with profound vulnerability into the centre of their work. It's a strange and delicate dance, especially in an age of confessional living. The meeting of fiction and lived reality is a fragile balance. Intensely difficult, also, to experience on the other side of the artwork unless there is true emotion and complexity concealed within the confessions being shared by the artist. If it works, you feel the pain of intimacy. If it fails, you feel the pain of humiliation.

We live in this strange era when, at once, so many artists, writers, photographers are making confessional work that purports to reveal so much of who they are and how they live through a kind of endless stream of their curated daily experience. Strangely, this very candour seems to linger only on the surface and not reveal an inner life. It's like getting naked and spreading your legs but keeping your face hardened and your eyes downcast. 

Sometimes, though, artists manage to render themselves truly vulnerable with the emotional complexity that we all nurse inside of us, exposing all the layered madness of experience and sensation that is impossible to distil into party snaps or photos of flares at night, friends making out or empty parking lots. This, when it works successfully, is usually achieved with the artistic equivalent of the evasion, secrecy, bluffing, subterfuge and accidental poetic connectedness with which we express emotion in our day to day lives. People like Wolfgang Tillmans, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin... These people open their world up with intimacy and lyricism and there is a direct connection with heartlines despite their divergent approaches. One younger artist whose work I recently discovered, and who I think has revealed this confessional intimacy from deep within in his work, is Quebecois artist Guillaume Simoneau and his project 'Love and War'.

(Go to Guillaume's site and click through to 'Love and War'. There are other slide shows of this work at other sites but it's worth considering the project as he arranges it.)

This specific work is strange and beautiful and achingly raw. It, as I understand it, an emotional and visual narrative of the period in which Guillame's girlfriend at the time, Caroline Annandale, enlisted in the US Army after the events of "9/11" and went to war. We learn, without ever understanding the details or events or chronology, that their relationship subsequently broke down and she married another man. We don't get a 'story'. What we get is yearning and desire and love and absence and mystery. Although the photographs reveal little of raw experience, it somehow feels far more intimate and exposing... You might think otherwise, but I'm pretty crazy for it. 

No comments: