“I have been nourished by images
since before I can remember”
THE TAJ MAHAL shimmers in the shifting North-Indian sunlight; the Eiffel Tower vibrates in resonance with the City of Light; Saint Basil’s Cathedral flickers like flame rising from Red Square. Corinne Vionnet’s images animate their subjects in a subtle and beguiling way. The eye dances across the visual plain, hither and thither, to the gentle urging of the myriad lines and tones that draw us to recognition of the subject, but modestly decline to be stripped back to the bare essentials of information.
THESE IMAGES, if you have not already guessed, are constructed from many pictures of the same location taken by different people at different times. (With places so famous, so iconic, a simple search on Google harvests in a bumper pictorial crop.) They are then aligned and overlaid to render something new; a compound of travel souvenirs.
The energy in these images is akin to that created by the sketcher’s hand busily darting about the page making many small, light lines that build to a defining set of curves and forms. A coming into being in which the image resolves slowly from many flashes of perception and arcs of the pencil. It is an approach distinct from that of the merely representational. The aim of the artist is to find within the form of a thing, some hint as to its essence. An essence that is not harder and clearer than the subject, but, paradoxically, more open and impressionistic. For it is in response to suggestion that the imagination of the viewer becomes active, building meaning rather than simply receiving information. The engaged viewer is a participant with their own creative role; each viewer’s perception of the image will be subtly different and, importantly, personally invested. It is not just form that the artist seeks to replicate, but the experience of viewing: the marriage of light, movement and atmosphere that breathe life into human apprehension, and accrete emotional value to comprehension. Essence lies not within the subject, but within our perception of it.
IN THE WORK of Corinne Vionnet, the quiet commotion of lines and hues is not the result of one industrious hand, but a collective enterprise of unwitting contributors whose individual perspectives have been gathered and integrated by the artist. Her images are the visualisation of collective experience. The photographers have chosen such similar points of view because their perception of these famous landmarks was already partly shaped by images that came before; just as, in conversation, what is said grows out of the preceding dialogue. Yet, each image is different, just as each side of a conversation evolves beyond the control of the other. It is in this fusion that these images generate their kinetic energy.
It is sometimes argued that today we have too many images: they saturate the world so that we are unable to understand what we see with any clarity. It is a strange and dangerous argument to suggest such a surfeit; to imply that what is required is a single defining visual ideal for each subject. Few outside a totalitarian or fundamentalist regime, would argue that reducing the number of books in a library will improve literacy or facilitate greater understanding. Nor does anyone suggest that a library is useless unless one reads every book on the shelves. We select. We follow the connections between one story and the next; one idea and the next. We create our own paths through the literary, just as we do through the visual. What is important is that we do not simple absorb what we see and read like sponges, but that we use it as the material from which to make something new and personal. Synthesis is the basis of physiological life and it is fundamental to intellectual growth.
Corinne Vionnet’s images are created from layers, each of which was made for a purpose. However apparently banal, each image came into being because of a powerful, if unresolved, engagement with place. Her practice is to synthesis from these images something new: to seek the spirit of a place, not as a record of a physical structure, but as the trace of collective experience; a butterfly net for a rabble of fleeting perceptions.
We live in an age of image-as-conversation. Images are made and dispersed in an instant. Few are stored and fewer still are printed. The 20th-century paradigm of the photograph as memory is dissolving into a world of digital interconnectedness. Images today are increasingly instruments of conversation, rather than personal archive. The images that Corinne Vionnet gathers are the echoes of such conversations. In making them, she creates not a chronicle of memoire, but a susurrant symphony of collective experience reverberating through the virtual halls of an expanding connectivity.
Corinne Vionnet is an artist living in Switzerland.
Images (from the top):
© Corinne Vionnet Taj Mahal (detail) from “Photo Opportunities” 2006-2013
© Corinne Vionnet The Eiffel Tower (detail) from “Photo Opportunities” 2006-2013
© Corinne Vionnet Saint Basil’s Cathedral from “Photo Opportunities” 2006-2013