Éric Poitevin

Born in 1961 in Longuyon (FR)
Lives and works in Mangiennes (FR)

Sans titre

15 colour photographs
41 x 41 cm chacune
Year of Purchase: 1995

Éric Poitevin’s photographic series are experiments in which the delicate compatibility between medium and subject summons a reified memory. His portraits of nuns and cardinals in the Roman Curia, Arbois wine-growers, veterans of the 1914–1918 war, his landscapes with ponds and undergrowth, his slain deer and his pinned butterflies, all display their stigmata before the camera’s objective eye. His subjects always have something to do with disappearance, and, in quite a few cases, his photographs can be looked at in their sanctified form like a commemoration. Poitevin thus reflects what Roland Barthes observed: ‘As something contemporary with the diminution of rites, the photograph may possibly be compared to the intrusion, in our modern society, of an asymbolic death, beyond religion and ritual, a sort of abrupt plunge into literal death.’1

For Éric Poitevin photography is a special and preferred medium for observing the world, a field of investigation of the real capable of making the truth of things visible. Collection, repetition and series help him to incorporate the asymptotic time of history in the image, and introduce difference into what is similar. So the fifteen stones, skulls or stars, buried and isolated in half light, surrounded by silence and the abstract perfection of the proportions of a square, only give a glimpse, in the light, of their mineral matter in repeated numbers. Like ‘a literal death’ of the object at the heart of nothingness, the form plunges into the abstract nature of the elements, and proposes an experience of proximity kept at a distance by the fixed nature of the image. With various associations, it can be at once symbol and allegory, suited to the philosophical meditation from which the ideal presence of images brings forth.

Taken out of context, the subjects photographed by Poitevin refer, from afar, to the artist’s place of residence: the Meuse, an area marked by the ravages of war, the quiet sadness of landscapes, and the silence dictated by the earth …
But because they are above all photographs, they come up against the formal value of the image, against what qualifies them as signs and icons of memory, frozen in the icy eternity of the photograph.

Maïté Vissault

1 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard, Hill and Wang, New York, 1981, p. 144.