“The enemy of photography is convention, the rigid rules of “how to do it”. It is in experimentation that photography will find its salvation”

László Moholy-Nagy.

“eXhibition” presented from November 19 to December 24, is part of the ten-year collaboration between Vincent Sator and Alexeï Vassiliev. Conceived as a retrospective, the artist signs here his third solo exhibition, a true panorama of his work.

The confrontation with Alexeï Vassiliev’s photographs is singular. In the Gravilliers Passage, where the Sator Gallery is located, our eyes are directly drawn to the work on display in the window, an immense human shadow that seems to both follow us and flee us, as part of its series Instants Troublés, dating from 2014. The plastic boundaries of Vassiliev’s works are blurred. The ambiguity being maintained by the artist, who wishes to undertake a “dialogue between painting and photography”. Self-taught, Alexeï Vassiliev uses silver photography to translate the triviality of our daily lives and to sublimate each moment. The materiality of his photographs, close to a pictorial aspect, suggests that the artist reworks each print; that he accentuates its colours, blurs its contours and erases its forms in a frenetic movement to tend towards a total erasure of the figures. However, this is not the case. It is through the balance of shooting and reframing that the artist defines himself as “precise blurred”, that his works bring out the emotion of the moment.

On the occasion of this new exhibition, nine of his photographic series are presented in the gallery and form a kind of mapping of our society. All of Alexeï Vassiliev’s artistic work is therefore dictated by this technique of “precise blurring”. The hanging of the gallery is reminiscent of those of the 19th century, when the works covered the entire wall. It makes us lose our bearings. The viewer’s eye strayed and tried to recognize and gather in series the artist’s work. Recognition facilitated and guided by the formal characteristics of each of them. The suggested universe intertwines the incessant flows of the city with the immobility of the individual in the same moment of stray. Portraiture is an intrinsic variable of Alexeï Vassiliev’s photographic work. In his series (Des)apparitions dating from 2013, the pose of each individual suggests a controlled montage. But it was in a furtive impulse that Alexeï Vassiliev photographed them. Each person is sucked in by a neutral background, his gaze lost in the emptiness of a melancholic atmosphere. To the immobility of the moment is opposed the ephemeral passage of the other individuals of his series Troubled Moments dating from 2014, where the bright color (blue or yellow for example) makes them appear and signals their physical presence. Each person is suggested by a shadow losing its identity in the silence of its ephemeral or immobile presence.

The format of each print accentuates the emotional character of his works, which takes precedence over their formal aspect. Intimacy is suggested by the small formats, where the framing refocused on the faces sacralizes individuals as a kind of medallion or icon. On the contrary, large formats, on our scale, involve us in the work in a constrained face-to-face relationship. The photographer’s eye is attached to both the individual and the collective, as evidenced by his photographs devoted to the city. The scale is different but the work remains the same. The loss of identity is reinforced in its 2015 series Quo Vaditis and Hieronymus, dedicated to the city’s tumults. Here again, the format is essential. In the first, the horizontality of the photographs reflects the movement of the city, a concretion of crowds of frieze, where the characters juxtapose and no glances are exchanged. The individual becomes a shooting shadow that unites inseparably with the other. A strong feeling of indifference emanates from these photographs and we are confronted with the scrolling of a society in loss of communication. In Hieronymus, on the contrary, it is the effervescence of a public demonstration that is the subject of the work, whose counter-impact views of some photographs reinforce this character. The bodies mix, static or mobile, in a common excitement, exacerbated by the bright red that punctuates the different actors on the scene.

Alexeï Vassiliev sets our daily lives in a prosaic reality. He walks around the city in search of emotion, of the instantaneous, and lets us wander in the unease of our presence. This “precise blur” that seems to lead us astray, on the contrary leads us to finish the artist’s work, in an “inner journey”.

Diane Der Markarian


Featured image : Alexeï Vassiliev, Étude n° 16.12 – série Instants Troublés – 2005,  photographie argentique,125 x 187, Courtesy Galerie Sator, Paris. 

Diane Der Markarian
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