Monday, March 11, 2019

Cordier & Falk: the 'L'en-allée' pictures from 2012

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 13/5/12 V, 15,5 x 10,5 cm, 2012

In the year 2011, having completed his treatise on chemigrams, Pierre Cordier emerged from semi-retirement in the south of France with renewed vigor and found a colleague, Gundi Falk, a Brussels-based painter, to help him advance the chemigram initiative further.  Together they embarked on a significant series of pictures entitled Pair-Impair, or Even-Odd, which they completed in phases between 2011 and 2013.  In many ways these pictures embody the best of the Cordier style: calipered grids overrun by a shower of classic chemigramic embroidery, an improvised balance of lights and darks in the key squares, and the many remaining squares processed out to a mackie line of absolute zero.  There are descriptions throughout this blog on how to do this but be advised, it's far from easy.  Here's an early version:

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 17/9/11 Pair-Impair, 2011

And a later one:

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 23.5.13, Pair-Impair, 2013

Meanwhile, the Brussels editor and gallerist Jean Marchetti approached Pierre and asked him if he could illustrate a delicate, bristly, highly charged, nearly unfathomable text entitled L'en-allée by the French poet Yaël Cange.  It was understood now that they were a team, Pierre and Gundi, and they accepted - yet without having the vaguest idea how challenging the poems of this writer, whom neither had heard of, were to be.  In the early months of 2012 they settled on a strategy of thinking about key words in both the poems and in the poet's life as a way to steer their work.  Gundi took the lead in coming up with sketches and mock-ups, which together they would criticize, modify, redo, and develop further around the table in Pierre's studio.  They put the Pair-Impair project for the while on quasi-hold.

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 14/3/12 (detail), 10,5 x 17 cm, 2012

The title, L'en-allée, a seldom-used expression, is nowadays shrouded in high-poetic fog from the 19th century, perhaps from Valéry, and conveys the sense of 'setting out' or 'leaving for', of seeking what was once there but no longer is, yet it also contains the idea of just 'going away' or decamping, wandering, perhaps to unknown or undisclosed destinations, with many stages and hesitations.  It speaks of memory and loss, and the possibility of redemption at the end of a trajectory that may be as long as a lifetime, or of the despair of not attaining it at all.  In more recent literature it has been associated with the curt, aphoristic writing of the novelist Marguerite Duras. 

So when Cordier & Falk began producing material for the book, it was apparent their images would resemble 'normal' chemigram images such as seen in work across many artistic practices today, only slightly.  Nor would they be expected to, given their radical assignment.  We are in an oneiric world here.  In grappling with the tortured verses of Yaël Cange, the artists had to invent their own symbolic language of response and stake out their own territory, which may have represented also a sort of pushback, gently done, leavened at times with sly humor.  We find fragments of eyes, floating gamely, of ears and lips, of railway tracks leading blindly nowhere, of stars with the softness of a child's dream, diagrams of past and future, mandalas, blips suspended in space, erasures.

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 22/5/12 II, 15,5 x 10,5 cm, 2012

For all that, the making of the marks on paper obeys what we expect of the chemigram procedure, following the rules of the trade: a puncture is begun somewhere, a cut, an abrasion, and it grows in time and space as the paper gets alternately bathed in fixer and developer.  The artists watch, terminating the action when they deem the moment right.  Nothing could be more straightforward.  Still, it is remarkable that Cordier and Falk have found a way to strip away years of refinement in chemigrams to arrive at an almost infantile level of attack, especially in the midst of creating their sophisticated suite Pair-Impair.  In so doing, they have managed the unexpected feat of matching poetry with poetry.  

We hear that Madame Cange was well satisfied with the work.

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 13/5/12 VI, 15,5 x 10,5 cm, 2012

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 22/4/12 IV, 15,5 x 10,5 cm, 2012

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 14/3/12 (detail), 10,5 x 17cm, 2012

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 25/3/12 I (detail), 15,5 x 10,5 cm, 2012

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Chimigramme 13/5/12 IV, 10 x 10 cm, 2012

The book was printed at the end of May 2012, just days after the last chemigram left the water wash, in an edition of 600 copies on fine rag paper.  It is still available from the publisher, La Pierre d'Alun, Brussels, and elsewhere on the internet.  Definitely an item you may want to collect.