DRAWING WHILE MINDING THE GAP
“A drawing is the trajectory of ideas in transit,” says Bernard Moninot about the conceptual character of the lines and strokes he sketches either freehand or using powder or nylon thread. Drawing, here, is a question of time, the time of reflection and the movements of thought.
One of Bernard Moninot’s first works was an ensemble of paintings—on structures made of wood, Plexiglas and sometimes mirrors— of store windows left empty or with the displays still under construction. Clearly the choice of this idea marked this artist’s affinity with hyperrealism. But the spareness of the result and the way he constructed it as an optical apparatus points the viewer to the act of seeing itself, its self-evidence and limits. This is clearly the case with the almost palpable but discreet blue stripe traced with a mason’s plumb line on a background wall in
Construction no. 5 (1974), just below the readable (if slightly truncated) inscription “iceberg.” If considered in light of the work that followed it, this line could be understood as a declaration of principle, a plea for expanding the concept of drawing to include all sorts of mediums, supports and materials so as to keep ajar the barely cracked door that intuition seems to open. What we have fleetingly glimpsed through it is precipitated into a space and time of the artist’s choosing, which extend the visible part. LINES AND TRAJECTORIES Many of the lines in Moninot’s drawings were not sketched by hand. In the case of the drawings he calls “décochés” (fired, liked an arrow), such as Ondes claires and Ricochets (1989) and Résonances (1992), the lines were produced by powder projected when a hammer hit prepared sheets of glass. In other cases they are nylon or silver strings, or piano wire. Often they are produced within a structural space by the shadows and reflections of objects made of materials that are transparent to varying degrees (glass, Plexiglas, mirrors, sheets of fiberglass, etc.), i.e., obstacles. Even when the artist generates these lines himself, they are still the result of complex operations that involve trajectories, whether of particles or waves, dust or light passing through the air, rays of sunlight passing through glass, wind or sound passing through space or even clouds crossing the sky ( À la poursuite des nuages ). The ensemble Mémoire du vent (1999-2012) was made by a glass needle attached to the ends of various plants, which engraved the motions of the wind shaking them onto a thin layer of black smoke deposited on the bot- tom of a Petri dish. The shapes that make up
Silent Listen (2010) correspond to the curves of a sonogram of the word “silence,” which they make resonate in the surrounding space. These lines are not made by the movements of a hand but by other movements that are far less perceptible and yet very profound. For these “ideas in the air,” each drawing is a trap as well as an echo chamber. “A drawing is the trajectory of ideas in transit,” he argues, “transcribing the critical states of thought.”(1) BRINGING CLOSER, DELAYING In his drawing practice Moninot privileges what he conceives as “sites with the smallest gap, in space and time, between thought and its recollection.”(2) He uses small devices to find a form of immediacy and coincidence, imprinting the traces of diverse procedures. The simplest of these, the shadow of an objet imprinted on a plane ( Studiolo, 199198), can generate more complex machinations. For example, the three-dimensional shapes in Table et Instruments (1991-2002) are the result of successive projections through which the original objects were elongated by integrating the shadow they cast. In this way they inscribe themselves with light and establish a “proximity of things,”(3) comparable to giving form to thought. One cannot fail to note the parallel with modern developments in physics, from “thought experiments” to the effects of measuring apparatus on the observed phenomenon. The time it takes the sun’s light to reach us, that infinitesimal delay on which all perception is founded, may be precisely the spatio-temporal framework for all the experiments Moninot has carried out over the last few decades. That would explain his work involving two superimposed planes, at least one of them made of silk. Between them there exists “an air gap”(4) minimized by the transparency that makes the two planes melt into one another and even the wall behind them, extended by the use of perspective and suspended by the fact that shadows are actually drawn on them. In the inch-plus depth of Des
Coupe-vent (2006), transparent shelters file by endlessly and slide together, while in the
Terminal series (2013-) views of runways and reflections of departure lounges are condensed on the bay windows that separate them from the outside. The only thing absent from these spaces is what the artist, following El Lissitzky’s Prouns, calls intermediaries: the person who saw them. Such realism is not the point here. The observer is much more like a door-closer, the mechanical arm that pushes doors as they are opened and closed, while delaying that closing for a few instants, just long enough time to push observation and thought a little further.
Translation, L-S Torgoff (1) Bernard Moninot, “Le jour parfois… ,” Dessin(s), Beaux-Arts de Paris Éditions, 2014, p. 22. (2) and (4) Interview, Biennale du dessin, Beaux-Arts de Paris éditions, 2014, p. 11. (3) Interview with Olivier Kaeppelin, Bernard Moninot, Royan, Centre d’Arts Plastiques, 1996, p. 27. Art critic and art historian Guitemie Maldonado teaches at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beauxarts in Paris and the École du Louvre. « Silent-listen ». 2010. 300 x 500 x 400 cm. Dessin dans l’espace. Acier, corde à piano, drisse, câble, verre, plexiglas, bande magnétique, cymbale, diapason
Drawing in space. Steel, piano wire, cable, glass, tape...