Two hundred and twenty nine

Chemigram 25/1/66

1966 by Pierre Cordier
V&A; in Shadow Catchers until 20th February

The V&A’s cameraless photography exhibition is an intriguing exploration into experiments of dark, light and exposure. The works are absorbing, fuelled by their artists’ creativity and determination to produce images in new and imaginative ways. Cordier’s ‘chemigrams’ are particularly interesting as he takes the methods of a painter and applies them using photographic tools. His canvas is photographic paper and his paint developer and fix. His images become a visual exploration into chemical reaction; in many ways unpredictable, and governed by the wonderfully precise and often organic lines of chemicals rather than the human hand. This is not to say that Cordier did not exercise control, also using varnish, wax, glue, oil, egg and syrup to alter the face of his compositions, but there is something very controlled in the way chemicals produce visuality. It is in the repetitive and echoed patterns that fill the page; effects that tie these images as much to science as to the imagination. Chemigram 25/1/66 appears as an incredible surge of translucent energy; small and deadly jagged lines that course to the broken and empty centre of the image. The image appears as shattered glass, as delicate devastation. The effect is a ruptured disturbance, a surface broken but with directional purpose –slightly haunting but calm in the hushed tones of grey, black and white. The lack of tonality here is intriguing; with no blur, melting or merging of colour. All are defined and separated by the incredibly fine lines that are almost digital in effect. There is a glassy beauty to Cordier’s image, captive of a fleeting effect that depends on a certain reaction that may never be found again.

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