Ener­gy Flows for Sen­si­tive Sur­faces - Gilgian Gelzer

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Gilgian Gelzer com­bines dra­wing, pain­ting and pho­to­gra­py, but wi­thout ever mixing his me­dia. In­crea­sin­gly, dra­wing is cen­tral to his prac­tice, ac­com­pa­nied by ra­ther spare groups of pho­tos in which line pre­do­mi­nates over form. Here we sur­vey Gelzer’s in­tri­guin­gly beau­ti­ful work on pa­per.

Over the last few years the art pu­blic has ta­ken an in­te­rest in dra­wing that is still on the rise, even if there is so­me­thing that could seem ana­chro­nis­tic about the prac­tice in this era of spec­ta­cu­lar art­works. Still, the act of dra­wing re­mains a way of kno­wing and ex­plo­ring the world. If it does not illus­trate nar­ra­tives—and we know how ma­ny of to­day’s ar­tists strive to reinvent nar­ra­tive forms ra­ther than fit them­selves in­to exis­ting ca­te­go­ries, whe­ther ma­cro- or mi­cro—it of­fers its own nar­ra­tive in the way that lines and forms are ins­cri­bed in a spe­ci­fic space. Per­haps this is exact­ly what makes dra­wing ne­ces­sa­ry: it can ren­der vi­sible the condi­tions for the ap­pea­rance of forms and thus present the pos­si­bi­li­ties of a nar­ra­tive. Gilgian Gelzer’s dra­wings are exem­pla­ry in this sense. Gelzer uses an ex­tre­me­ly res­tric­ted vo­ca­bu­la­ry, li­mi­ted to no­thing but lines and points in recent years. But this is not a mat­ter of on­to­lo­gi­cal re­duc­tio­nism, as it was for the his­to­ric avant-gardes. On the contra­ry, his dra­wings are pro­du­ced by ac­cu­mu­la­tion and spa­tial pro­li­fe­ra­tion. The pro­li­fe­ra­ting lines, of­ten in dif­ferent co­lors, twist and coil to­ge­ther un­til the whole sur­face is co­ve­red with in­ter­tan­gled lines. As the lines ex­pand, the points contract un­til their sprea­ding fills the whole space with its den­si­ty. Yet it should be no­ted that these are not so much points as scribbles, lines ma­shed in­to them­selves so that the white that sur­rounds them seems to in­di­cate their po­ten­tial spread. These pieces, like the dra­wings where a single line runs th­rough a sheet of pa­per, are tes­tament to the ac­tive role of blank spaces. For Gelzer, pa­per is not a re­cep­tacle for forms; ra­ther, it bears the im­print of the hand that in­ter­ac­ted with it just as pho­to­gra­phic pa­per is im­prin­ted by light. Both me­dia are ba­sed on sen­si­tive sur­faces on which forms and forces are im­prin­ted.

AC­TIVE SPACE

These dra­wings do not convey mo­tifs or Sur­rea­list pro­jec­tions of the un­cons­cious, nor do they have a cal­li­gra­phic di­men­sion. Gelzer says what they ex­press is an “ener­gy,” i.e. an act. A dra­wing is the ma­te­ria­li­za­tion of an act in a gi­ven time and space. Dra­wing has its own tem­po­ra­li­ty, the ins­tant when the line un­folds. That tem­po­ra­li­ty can be ga­the­red to­ge­ther in small for­mats or dra­wings that use a repetition of points. Lon­ger tem­po­ra­li­ties and the ad­di­tion of ins­tants oc­cur in lar­ger dra­wings, mar­ked by the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of lines, of­ten of dif­ferent co­lors. Even in his large wall dra­wings , the ti­me­frame is li­mi­ted by “the ne­ces­si­ty to react to an im­me­diate si­tua­tion.”(1) The “si­tua­tion” is the space to which a dra­wing has to re­spond. This gives im­mense im­por­tance to the ques­tion of for­mat and es­pe­cial­ly scale, be­cause what mat­ters is not the space in it­self but its re­la­tion­ship to the bo­dy. The re­la­tion­ship bet­ween the hand and the sur­face it draws on must be felt phy­si­cal­ly. In Gelzer’s work, two ex­treme and op­po­site kinds of dra­wings ma­ni­fest this re­la­tion­ship with space. The wall dra­wings are dis­tin­gui­shed by the criss­cros­sing of planes in which the bo­dy is sup­po­sed to move, so that the phy­si­cal mo­ve­ment of the vie­wer cor­res­ponds to the mo­ve­ment of the line. Conver­se­ly, in his series of dra­wings on playing-card for­mat pa­per, pieces that can be held in one hand just as others are made to fit in­to ar­chi­tec­tu­ral struc­tures, there is a confron­ta­tion with a scale that calls for an im­me­diate, spon­ta­neous res­ponse, thus de­ter­mi­ning the way that the ar­tist’s bo­dy en­gages with the for­mat, whe­ther in a broad mo­ve­ment or ins­tead a high­ly concen­tra­ted

one. Re­spon­ding means ac­ting in the gi­ven space, pro­du­cing a gra­phic trans­po­si­tion of a par­ti­cu­lar ener­gy, like a di­scharge (the sexual­ly freigh­ted word is de­li­be­rate).

DRA­WING AS PLEA­SURE

This de­ve­lop­ment of dra­wing in terms of its re­la­tion­ship to space means that it has be­come a way of mea­su­ring and in­ves­ti­ga­ting. Gelzer com­pares it to the ex­plo­ra­tion of a ter­ri­to­ry on a map in that the map constructs the ter­ri­to­ry ra­ther than re­pre­sen­ting it. It could al­so be com­pa­red to the ex­plo­ra­tion of a bo­dy that is brought in­to exis­tence and sha­ped by ca­resses. Ca­resses are dri­ven by a re­pea­ted and re­su­med de­sire to know the bo­dy of the other, ne­ver ac­com­pli­shed but end­less­ly re­kind­led. Si­mi­lar­ly, in Gelzer’s work, the ap­pea­rance of the form is de­fer­red, ar­ri­ving on­ly th­rough the mo­ve­ment of the line. He wants to avoid “the idea of some or­ga­ni­za­tion to the dra­wing, some com­po­si­tion, and even form.”(2) His use of co­lor ac­cen­tuates this sus­pen­sion of form, im­pedes its or­ga­ni­za­tion and ins­tead gives full play to the rhythm of dra­wing it­self. The whole point of these dra­wings is their rhythm, the rhythm of plea­sure dri­ven by the de­sire to leave the form de­fer­red, un­fi­ni­shed and thus re-en­ac­ted again and again.

OPENING THE REAL

Gelzer’s dra­wings are the pro­duct of this contra­dic­tion or ten­sion bet­ween the construction of a form and its space, on the one hand, and on the other the mo­ve­ment of the form to­ward dis­sol­ving and its ex­haus­tion in the line. In his ol­der work the image so­me­times seems to be­gin to ap­pear, evo­king a fi­gure whose com­ple­tion is ne­ver­the­less de­fer­red. Caught in this contra­dic­tion, or fa­cing it, as vie­wers we have to fol­low the line’s de­sire, its ac­ce­le­ra­tions and slow­downs, sa­tu­ra­tions and res­pi­ra­tion, like a tale whose tel­ling is de­li­be­ra­te­ly ex­ten­ded. The form’s state of in­de­ter­mi­na­tion leaves pos­si­bi­li­ties ac­ti­ve­ly open, so that each can be re­tur­ned to or rei­te­ra­ted wi­thout co­ming to a close with a spe­ci­fic image, no mat­ter how abs­tract. This sense of open­ness is al­so present in Gelzer’s pho­tos in which rea­li­ty seems to tremble and the mea­ning is in­de­ter­mi­nate. They seem to show frag­ments of land­scapes, buil­dings and ur­ban fix­tures, but it would be im­pos­sible to draw up a spe­ci­fic list of the contents of these images that seem to have been ta­ken for no other rea­son than to show wha­te­ver the ar­tist happened to stumble on while out­side his stu­dio. With their ra­ther neutral fra­ming, these pho­tos have in com­mon both a for­mal di­men­sion (the in­ter­play of the lines run­ning th­rough com­po­si­tion) and a stran­ge­ness that dis­turbs our re­la­tion­ship to the sub­jects and makes them dee­ply un­fa­mi­liar. Si­mi­lar­ly, his dra­wings al­so present a resistance to iden­ti­fi­ca­tion that ac­cen­tuates the constant mo­ve­ment, the state of di­sor­der and ebul­li­tion of the form­less forms be­fore they re­solve in­to va­rious dis­tinct en­ti­ties. Gelzer uses the word “or­ga­nism” to des­cribe the sub­ject of his dra­wings be­cause its vi­ta­list conno­ta­tion re­flects their constant state of mo­tion bet­ween co­ming in­to and going out of being, their per­pe­tual me­ta­mor­pho­sis. His “un­ba­lan­ced” pho­tos and gra­phic or­ga­nisms are re­ports on a mul­tiple, constant­ly chan­ging and in­de­fi­nable rea­li­ty where in­choate mat­ter is caught in an ener­gy flow in constant trans­for­ma­tion. These in­ter­la­ced lines and the pho­tos make ma­ni­fest an as­pi­ra­tion that un­der­lies all fic­tio­nal dy­na­mics, to open up rea­li­ty to the exis­tence of mul­tiple pos­si­bi­li­ties, blur any iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and pro­duce so­me­thing that is dif­ferent and di­vergent.

Trans­la­tion, L-S Tor­goff (1) Gilgian Gelzer, “D’un mé­dium l’autre, conver­sa­tion avec Ch­ris­tophe Do­mi­no,” Se­maine, no. 110, Oc­to­ber 2006. (2) Ibid. Ro­main Ma­thieu teaches art his­to­ry at the École Su­pé­rieure d'Art et de De­si­gn in Saint-Étienne and at the Uni­ver­si­té d'Aix-Mar­seille. He is the au­thor of a the­sis on Sup­ports/Sur­faces.

Wall­dra­wing. Dra­wing Now, 2012, Pa­ris (Ph. L. Ard­huin)

Sans titre. 2014. Gra­phite sur pa­pier. 190 x 140 cm. (Ph. L. Ard­huin). Un­tit­led. Gra­phite on pa­per

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