• Aperture Priority 1 #LAX

    His body of work explores the limits of the photographic medium. Following his pictorial reflection, FX Combes uses his reflexes as a painter to create compositions through a process based on photographic references. The experience produced by his works is invariably a mixture of the infinitely seductive and the intriguing. Through a misappropriation of light, he reconstructs an image trying to make visible the invisible: between real and virtual, between painting and photography, between shadow and light. His work have been exhibited at numerous galleries and institutions (Museum of Art Yamaguchi, Japan ; The Centre Pompidou Paris, France ; the Fondation d’entreprise Ricard for contemporary art ; The National Library of France, Paris ; FNAC, Paris). FX Combes was born in France (Dinan) in 1969. He has been represented by NextLevel Galerie since 2010. He currently lives and works in Paris.
  • Aperture Priority 2 #BKK

    FXC explores the traditional limits of the photographic medium by engaging crossover experiments, often with painting. Going beyond visual content, he delves into the very materiality of photography, intermingling paper and canvas and exploring the extremities of light and colour. With his new body of work, FX Combes undertakes the experimentation, with digital photographic technology: in attempting to render visible the most minute digital elements of a composition, he works with both highly exacting and very primitive software, with high tech and faulty printers, with irregular scanners and unreliable paper. In mastering the combination of these disparate elements, FX Combes seeks to create a new photographic form.

  • Unsaturated Diptychs

    For his third personal exhibition at NextLevel Galerie, FX Combes presents Unsaturated Diptychs , seven new major works in large-format in which photography and painting contaminate each other. “I have made photographs that form the basis material in this series during helicopter flights over Paris and its suburbs, one day when the light crushed the city.” Using digital software voluntarily “inappropriate” to destroy and reconstruct his original pictures, FX Combes carries our eyes toward uncharted territories. The artist also likes to say he always had thought “it had to divert, even destroy, a recorded image (both silver and digital process) to better reconstruct it: to create a new one.” FX Combes has developed a hybrid technic, starting from a digital recorded aerial shot to reach to an image, which borrows from painting, newsprint, feature weft, ancient photographic technics (example close of Calotype) or advanced technics (satellite imagery or drones). Rather than opposing painting and photography, the work of FX Combes voluntarily plays a laid-back complementarity between these two medias. And as he outlines, his “artworks speak about idea. Idea of photography rather than Photography; Idea of painting instead of Painting.” Beyond the subject itself, the artist questions the image: what it gives to see. The printed photographs on canvas, covered of a fine white layer, venture to the limits of the abstract, in keeping immediately a readable link with our contemporary world, whose its question the uninterrupted images production. Our daily environment is adorned of strangeness, moves to pure plastic composition status, while retaining a sense of realism or with familiarity persistence. The artist shows us the city from a fresh perspective, sometimes disturbing. He gives us access to another dimension, with futuristic accents but with a rigorous structural balance, inherited from the pictorial tradition. The diptych form register as a major part of history of art, finding its roots in devotion paintings on wood of late Middle Ages and Renaissance but have kept its appeal to modern and contemporary artists, as it is evidenced by many examples in North-American painting. Between destruction and reconstruction, FX Combes’s works seem to emerge news possibilities,
    through the confrontation of foreign processes to each other. The mild differences between the
    double pictures accentuate the mystery. The artist breaks up the photographic medium limits as painting. He hustles our landmark, fights evidences and well-defined frontiers. At the edge of several aesthetic universes, FX Combes’s works are remarkable depth. The different layered stratums, juxtapositions and subtle lags, are enough tools by which the artist disturbs our vision and analytic straightjackets. “When the machine momentarily has taken back the upper hand to impose its own vision, when tools escape from creator’s control, the “Ghost in the machine”, as well as Arthur Koetler named it, makes the work tip down and highlights a close and unexpected world.”, in which FX Combes invites us to fully enter. Valérie Douniaux, Art historian
  • Entre-Monde(s)

    « Solid and imperturbable, the City seems fixed in its permanence. However, in its very immutability, all mass is subject to the transformations operated by light variations and by the inquisitive eye, seeking its quintessence. taken at nighttime, the City’ s looming light and volumes displace its photographic frame of reference; the line and grid of the realist narrative documentary form, fade and merge to reveal rippling colors that capture the inexpressible, the invisible. In becoming image rather than photo, the city escapes temporal reference and urban identification. It enters a realm of fiction and imagination whereby pictorial abstraction can evoke its essential meaning, its intermingled voids, interstices and pulsations. In this zone, where shadow meets light on a hard surface, matter seems to acquire a new density, softer, more fluid, and bearing the trace of urban vibrations. A different representational model of the City is thus proposed, capturing its fleeting moods and movements, elusive and unique. In the stillness of the architectural mass, the image taken to its ultimate abstract form provokes this necessary representational shift, to an almost extreme extent, becoming a composition of color blocks that pulsate and overlap. Lines, shapes and colors blur and transform the architectural grid, creating a floating interplay of subtle tones that reveal the deep interiority of the city in a timeless, almost mythical, dimension.» Christine Coste t ranslation Miranda Salt
  • Buildings

    The portrayal of urban space is at the heart of FX Combes’ work. “Buildings”, his new series of images, continues along these lines. How do you portray the City? The City in its ultimate truth – bare, naked. According to the artist, by starting with the ordinariness of the basic building in mind. With the most traditional vision, the least cluttered possible, of a building garnered in a few strokes of basic lines. Then this ordinariness is reorganized, structured, given shape and colour, assigned order, rhythm and meaning, and restored in the layers of a fixed time – past, present, and future piled together. In such a way that finally the urban concept in itself emerges from the raw material – the purest, most refined City from the concrete building.

    In practice, FX Combes begins by taking photos of buildings that he then photographs again through the screen of his computer in order to attain the desired distance between what is real and what is suggested without using any photo editing software. In this way he obtains a series of nearly identical pictures of the same pattern – nearly being the key word. Because these successive screen captures create each time micro differences in shape, the tiniest shifts in light. And, as a result, there are so many occurrences of the unpredictable that the artist then takes great care to systematize either through a process of multiplication/juxtaposition of the images (the horizontal series) or through a process of reconstruction using a fragment, an imaginary building or an ideal City (the vertical series).

    Actually, what is the building really behind its indecipherable façade, its impenetrable walls and blind windows? What is the City in its intimate nature and beyond its immediate materialisation? Originally it was the foremost human meeting place. Man built the city to live there, to thrive and prosper there. But in its arrogant proliferation the city ended up rejecting man into an anonymity that is a form of denial. The realisation of this presence/absence of man in the city that he himself made is one of the issues that is at stake in these images. The City according to FX Combes is most certainly an inhabited place but by a being who, after having left a sign of his time spent there, finds himself from then on in the process of fading out completely. This bluish trembling, this nearly vibrating halo that enshrouds the buildings rising into their metaphysical sky – each of these effects is evidence of this gradual disappearance, this evanescence in progress. The succession of layers of the present and of past generations who lived there is still visible, virtually through chance circumstances that are less and less discernible, but the City has already transformed into another condition of its own location. Beyond the man who made it, the City remains and endures, and pulls itself up to the pinnacle of its definitive self. The City approaches more and more surely the ideal of Platonism. Underneath the deceptive ordinariness of buildings, the fundamental archetype is revealed.

    La représentation de l’espace urbain est au cœur du travail de FX Combes. La série Buildings s’inscrit dans cette continuité. Comment donner à voir la Ville? La Ville dans sa vérité dernière, dépouillée, nue. En partant de la banalité du bâtiment basique, répond l’artiste. De la vision la plus classique, la plus épurée possible d’un immeuble rassemblé en quelques repères de lignes élémentaires. Pour ensuite réorganiser cette banalité, la structurer, lui donner forme et couleur, lui assigner ordre, rythme et sens, la restituer dans les strates d’un temps suspendu, passé, présent, futur amoncelés. Du matériau brut surgit la notion urbaine en soi, du Building de béton, la Ville quintessenciée.

    En pratique, F.X. Combes commence par prendre des photographies d’immeubles qu’il va rephotographier à travers l’écran de son ordinateur pour atteindre la distance souhaitée entre le réel et le suggérer, sans utiliser de logiciel de retouches. Il obtient ainsi une série d’images presque identiques du même motif – mais tout est dans ce presque. Ces captures d’écran successives crééent chaque fois des micro-différences de formes, des décalages infimes de lumière. Autant d’occurrences de l’aléatoire que l’artiste va alors s’appliquer à systématiser en procédant soit par multiplication - juxtaposition des images (séries horizontales), soit par reconstruction, à partir d’un fragment, d’un immeuble imaginaire, d’une Ville rêvée (séries verticales).

    Qu’est-il en vérité, le Building, derrière sa façade indéchiffrable, murs opaques et fenêtres aveugles ? Qu’est-elle, la Ville, dans son essence intime et au-delà de sa matérialisation immédiate ? A l’origine, le lieu de l’humain par excellence. L’homme construit la ville pour y vivre, y jouir, y prospérer. Mais la ville, dans sa prolifération arrogante, finit par rejeter l’homme dans un anonymat qui est une forme de négation. Rendre compte de cette présence - absence de l’homme au milieu urbain qu’il a façonné, tel est l’un des enjeux de ces images.

    La Ville, selon F.X. Combes, est certes un lieu habité mais par un être qui, ayant déposé la trace de son passage, se trouve désormais en voie d’évanouisse- ment. De cette progressive disparition – de cette évanescence en cours – témoigne ce tremblement bleuté, ce halo vibratile qui nimbe les Buildings en ascension dans leur ciel métaphysique. La succession des couches de présents et des générations qui ont vécu là est encore visible, prégnante par contingences de moins en moins perceptibles, mais la Ville est déjà passée à un autre état de ses propres lieux. Par-delà l’homme qui l’a fabriquée, la Ville persiste et dure, se hisse à hauteur de son soi définitif. La Ville tend de plus en plus sûrement à son idéal platonicien. Sous la banalité trompeuse des Buildings perce l’archétype fondamental.

    Vincent Gracy

  • Emulsion

    Si vertigineuse soit sa perspective, si complexes soient les détours de ces formes, une image photographique se réferre toujours, fondamentalement, à un plan principal.

    Ce plan est à la fois, au gré de nos manières de l’envisager, celui de la surface matérielle de l’épreuve et celui de la vitre imaginaire qui nous sépare de la réalité dans la fenêtre photographique.

    Et c’est par excès d’évidence qu’il se fait le plus souvent oublier.

    Dans les œuvres de FX Combes il se rappelle à nous. L’image se dédouble en profondeur, elle se décolle et vient au devant, ou au derrière d’elle-même. Il y a en cela quelque chose de troublant qui conduit notre œil à la recherche de lointains, pourtant si proches, et à naviguer au travers de l’épaisseur de l’image.

    L’espace est le problème commun à tous les arts du visible. Un trait, un point sur une feuille blanche et l’espace est engagé. Jamais le travail du peintre moderne n’a été de se débarrasser de la profondeur. Il serait enfantin de n’avoir qu’a supprimer la profondeur classique.

    Ce qu’il fallut apprendre, c’est à maîtriser ces déchaînements d’espace que peut susciter une seule tache sur une surface unie. Il ne s’est jamais agi de supprimer la troisième dimension-c’est d’ailleurs strictement impossible- mais de dominer la violence des formes qui déclenchent la moindre impulsion visuelle. Ici, en photographie, ce dédoublement, ce redoublement du plan métamorphose la lumière au travers des verres qui la diffusent. Tantôt elle s’efface et tantôt elle s’embrase.

    Deux plans de réalité échangent leur image et déjouent les certitudes de l’œil. Mais ils sont reliés par une même lumière sur toute leur profondeur. Elle irradie à travers.

    Quant à l’ombre, envahissante ou discrète, elle donne densité à cette vitrerie en suspens.

    Notre regard vacille et s’enfonce en rêvant.

    Jean-Claude Lemagny Conservateur Honoraire, Bibliothèque Nationale de France A propos du travail de FX Combes