Trois Paysages pour Analogues
Karen Tanguy

November 2013

On the occasion of the exhibition Trois Paysages pour Analogues, the evocative power of the work of Hans Segers, in which like a worktable, ideas and inspirations jostle together, intersect and overlap, stimulates our mind. No desire to channel, synthesize or take an inventory of them, these spaces are, above all, “a surface for fleeting encounters and dispositions.”(1) Since, like the artist’s installations, to imagine is to juxtapose, combine, and connect images and in this way give rise to shifts in meaning.

Favoring a polysemy of the image, Hans Segers concentrates the heart of his practice on research on the painted image. After archiving and cataloguing his past projects, the artist then becomes aware of the importance of the object, or more precisely, the representation of the object, in his work. Already present within the series Études de peinture (1999-2002) or then again Volume, espace, illusion, réalité (1990-2000), the object seems isolated or taken out of its context, presented on a uniform background sometimes punctuated by a shadow; it is arranged in a central and frontal manner, set into the frame of a canvas. Hans Segers doesn’t use the word “Painting” to qualify his work; he prefers the term “painted image.” For an artist who names several of his pieces, Phrases, one doubts that words have very much importance. His productions are based on recurrent forms (vase, stone, casket, letter A…), which are “images found in painted representations.”

Translation of the image and atlas

Preferring appearance and illusion to reality, Segers thus favors multiple readings of a same image. Starting as a found image, the work becomes a painted image and then sometimes migrates to become a painted object. This translation leads to the constitution of a dense, rhizome-like body of work. The repetition and projection of a same form implies a new narration through association, dissociation, redistribution and division. Therefore, the Phrases, a suite of elements assembled like constellations on the wall or floor, offer themselves up as open charts or atlases (notion already presented by Hans Segers, by the way, starting in 1982 with the piece Atlas de possibilités). At once “a visual form of knowledge” and “a knowing form of seeing,” the atlas is the very symbol of meanderings and movement. We look to it for information in order to better lose ourselves in our wanderings” (2). In the atlas, nothing is fixed; it is the “operating field of the disparate and the mobile, of heterogeneity and openness”. (3) The strength of the atlas is this “intrinsic power of montage which consists of discovering (…) connections that direct observation is unable to discern.” (4) The interstices (spatial among the works) or the intervals (temporal, in the three sections of the exhibition Trois Paysages pour Analogues) in the work of Hans Segers are as important as the exhibited elements. They provoke the materialization of correspondences and relations by way of the imagination of the viewer, enabling him/her to weave connections in this way between forms that are a priori disparate. Thus, amongst his subjects of predilection, Hans Segers takes inspiration from the representation of an amputated tree trunk, often used in ancient and classical sculpture to support the figure. It is difficult not to see the link with Atlas supporting the weight of the canopy of heaven on his shoulders. This element, entirely unrelated to the context, can be found in the exhibition through an object in painted plaster or an image drawn or painted, and further reinforces this blurry area between object and image. Segers’ work makes reference to other forms and opens the way to multiple ramifications and interpretations.

The formal layout of the Phrases by Segers is reminiscent of L’Atlas Mnémosyne by Aby Warburg, the project that was put into place in 1924 and interrupted in 1929, the year of his death. The historian of images conceives a history of Occidental culture and its diverse influences through the one thousand images pinned on big black sheets stretched on a frame. Setting up this network revealed the appearance of similar signs in different temporal and spatial contexts. As Georges Didi-Huberman makes clear, Warburg “understood very well that thought is not about found forms but rather about forms in transformation.” (5) Their perpetual migration and changing configuration are also at the heart of Hans Segers’ process. Each of his painted images could be assimilated with the faces of Aleph, the prism containing the whole of the universe in Borges’ new work. The viewer will not grasp the entire world here, but will have access to numerous openings toward the work of the artist and what inspires him. At once matrix and hypertext link, his productions are forms of infinite interpretations. The artist moreover gathers his founding icons, to which he regularly has recourse, within a book, the form of which, a “leporello” or foldout, accentuates the feeling that this collection, assembling the multiple sources of inspiration for the artist, is likely to potentially gain supplementary pages. Far from remaining petrified in form and content, this book is presented in three different ways in the three different sections of the exhibition (video, leporello, codex).

Sketch, painted image, product

During the three occurrences of the exhibition Trois Paysages pour Analogues, Hans Segers favours “connections within which sequences of narratives appear and just as quickly disappear.” (6) His pieces are “combinative narrative machines,” like the game of tarot in Calvino’s work, in which the meaning of each blade depends at once on the cards that are juxtaposed, but also on the reading, always personal and unique, of their interpreter. The artist constitutes three landscapes of different configurations in the three sections of the exhibition. One could also think about one and the same landscape that is gradually being constructed with these gradations of volume to plane, back-and-white to color and sketch to product. First, a grisaille on the wall brings together some of the recurrent forms that make up the fertile terrain of the artist. A vase, a stone, an overturned shelf punctuate the open canvas. These objects are “reflected” in volume on the ground. Like the ancient asaroton mosaic, simulating the remains of a meal and literally meaning “unswept floor,” the orientations of the shadows are incoherent, adding in this way to the confusion of these object-images. The shades of color match this floor, which is so particular to the exhibition venue. This landscape seems to be barely drawn; the impression of something staged is heavy. Everything seems to be waiting.
The second moment of the exhibition witnesses a Phrase which develops on the wall, made up of about a dozen elements. Numerous forms are similar to those in the first section. Color shows up. Each piece is nevertheless unique, having its own space at its disposal. We find here what Segers calls “the casket,” a sort of elevated little house, reminiscent of raised sarcophaguses found in certain Italian/Spanish churches. The artist privileges both images of “empty” objects (picture box, vase without flowers, a shelf holding only itself, sarcophagus or casket) in which the visitor can project his/her thoughts, but also more organic forms or forms more connected to a certain mimesis (the fake wood of certain paintings and painted objects, for example).
The third and last section holds a painting. On a background representing the concrete floor ornamented with Analogues the same objects that are in the first section are arranged. In a more classical sense, the artist uses the “rules of painting to make a ‘painting.’” The elements are assembled on one and the same surface. Unlike the painted images, which get closer and closer to the plane as the exhibition progresses, as for the book, it takes on more body and volume over the course of the three moments.

The constellations of Hans Segers use a play of fertile correspondences into which the visitor is plunged and onto which he projects himself. A sole element becomes the pretext for a constantly shifting mental voyage. The resurgence of forms so present in the artist’s process encourages the stimuli, sources of images, this time mental, on the part of the viewer. The perpetual migrations in Segers’ work establish oscillations between the “almost nothing” and the “almost everything” and thus enhance the survival of the forms that were so dear to Warburg. (7)

Karen Tanguy

(1) Georges Didi-Huberman, Atlas ou le gai savoir inquiet. L’œil de l’histoire, 3, Paris : Les Editions de Minuit, 2011, p 18.
(2) Ibid, p 12.
(3) Ibid, p 61.
(4) Ibid, p 13.
(5) Ibid, p 22.
(6) Italo Calvino, Le château des destins croisés, Paris : éditions du Seuil, 1976, p 107.
(7) Op. Cit, p 154.

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