This week, PHOTOFAIRS spoke with Exposure Award winner Noémie Goudal, whose multifaceted works presented by Galerie Les filles du Calvaire (Paris) won a stand at the Fair this September! Goudal is a French Artist living in Paris, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010 with an MA in Photography. Her works offer audiences an immersive experience, combining installations and photographs in a mise-en-scene fashion, and challenge individuals to distinguish between the man-made and the organic landscapes in her photography.
As part of the judging panel for the Exposure Award, Cao Dan (President of MODERN ART, Art Director of MODERN EYE), explains why Goudal’s work was selected above all other global entries… “In ‘Sculptural-Photography’ Noémie Goudal creates a space where reality and fiction, dream and illusions collide. Her works reignite our instinctive and innocent desires to gaze back into the skies, nature and universe. Within these allegorical man-made sceneries, we search for a place to settle our poetic souls and flowing thoughts.”
For Goudal’s first ever visit to Shanghai, she speaks of her feelings towards showcasing new works to a new audience…
“For me, it’s not just about having pictures on the wall, it’s about creating a path, so your whole body is part of the experience.”
Congratulations on being announced as the winner of the PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai 2019 Exposure Award with Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire (Paris)! The judges delve for innovation in technique and concept, and they recognised your work above all entries. How do you feel about winning?
It’s great, it’s really unexpected. I’m really happy that because it is a solo booth, I can combine a couple of works and mediums together, which I’ve never really done before! The booth will represent much larger bodies of work, which I think will be interesting for me to work on the layout.
What can we expect from your new works that you will be exhibiting at the fair?
There will be one series that is new at the fair, that is called Démantèlements. So what I have done is taken part of the same research from Telluris and Soulèvements as I’m very interested in the history of geology and how it has been considered throughout the past few centuries, particularly how humans used to think the earth was made up. So, Démantèlements is the last part of this big project. What I did - in a more technical way - is I photographed a mountain, printed it onto paper that dissolves with water, and then I mounted this paper onto a plastic canvas, which I then cut around. Following this, I hang it up in front of the landscape adjacent to another small mountain, which appears as though the mountains are continuing into the landscape. Some of the end products from this series have up to 120 images on them from the same shoot. On these, you can see the water disintegrating the mountain.
Your first series Haven Her Body Was evolved during your travels straight after you graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010 with an MA in Photography. By staging some of the photographs to depict organic landscapes in secluded man-made environments, you are connecting the real and the constructed. What was your process of creating these imaginary scenes?
What I aimed to do here was to work on the marriage between the man-made and the organic, and see how they merge and coincide with one another. What I wanted to do is after I printed the photographs is see how I can extend and prolong one space into another. I enjoy working with the strata, the layers of an image, and recognise that one image has many of these layers that you can discover and play with.
How do you hope audiences respond and interact with these fictional, layered landscapes in your photography? And how do you think they come to understand the relationship between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional spaces displayed in your works?
What I really like about my audience is everybody comes with their own background, their own culture, and their own fantasies. I try to really reach out to these different people in each image so they can figure out something that is very personal and only appeals to them. I took a picture called Combat (Haven Her Body Was, 2012) which is a boulder in the sea, the tide was very high when I took the picture so it looks like it is almost floating. During the exhibition, people thought that this was made out of paper, similar to my other works, which was really interesting because I took this picture thinking the scene looked more unbelievable than the final picture itself.
By creating installations around your imagery in your exhibitions, such as the wooden structures in your 2018 solo show ‘Telluris’ at Edel Assanti, what experience are you aiming to create for your viewers?
Personally, what is really important is having a journey for the viewer. For me it’s not just about having pictures on the wall, it’s about creating a path, so your whole body is part of the experience. I aim to create a full, complete experience. As the artist, you can curate where they walk, but at the same time, you are creating more options on how to look at the work. If you look through the wooden installations, for example, you can sometimes see up to three images at the same time, but if you change position slightly, you’ll see different works together. It is great to be able to have control over the perspectives of the audience.
"I’ve been in the darkroom since I was 15 years old, it really is my passion."
How you have just explained creating a whole experience for your viewers demonstrates how far your work spans from just the medium of photography. Would you describe yourself as a sculptor, artist or photographer?
I don’t see myself as a photographer, even if it is very much my background. I’ve been in the darkroom since I was 15 years old, it really is my passion. But at the same time, the more work I produce throughout my career, the more I withdraw myself from that world in a way. A lot of photographers don’t actually understand what I’m doing, they say “it’s sculpture, not photography!”.
At the moment I’m working on a project with a large institution in France who experiment with ceramics, I’m dying to have them finish so I can photograph them, in large-scale prints in the darkroom, which is very much going back to my roots. So, I definitely alternate between being a sculptor and a photographer.
Speaking of using various mediums such as ceramics for your installations, your Instagram feed reveals new works using ice. What is the concept behind this upcoming project? Did you face any technical challenges when photographing these works?
This is quite a raw project at the moment because I am not yet at the stage where I have decided how to present these photographs I took of the ice. I shot it in February and gave birth to my child straight after, so haven’t had time to look through the final images yet. What I can reveal so far is that they’re quite large ice sculptures with inclusions, which is a shape inside.
There were definitely challenges photographing ice. I worked with an ice sculptor, and for that, I had to provide him with 3D designs. This was difficult and new to me because usually, I sculpt while I photograph. I had no idea how the ice would react at all! Additionally, obviously the fact that it was melting was a great challenge, but luckily we were in a room that was quite cold in February. It would, however, start off very angular and beautiful in its shape, and morphe after 10 minutes to be very curved towards the end.
In previous texts, your work has been associated with having theatrical, mise-en-scene elements to it. Do you see your work as a production or a play that evokes reactions and triggers imagination from audiences?
Yes, a little bit, as in a way it’s very similar to creating a set that people can immerse in, especially if I can determine the size of the photographs. I think it is really important to me that it plays this role as a set or a production, which you can project so many designs and so many questions on.
Speaking of performance, can you explain to our audiences about your commission work for various creative groups, whether it be festivals or musicians?
I have recently worked on a festival called ‘Rush Festival’ in Normandy, which I was commissioned to do by the FRAC NORMANDY. It was a sculpture for an electronic music festival, commissioned by Chloe, who is an electronic music pioneer, and also a DJ - her sets are amazing! We have already collaborated together as I have done the cover for her latest album ‘Endless Revisions’. I definitely love collaborating with various groups and institutions. I worked recently with a choreographer, where I created a set/sculpture that disintegrated throughout the whole performance, similar to the mountains I spoke about earlier. A lot of musicians actually ask me to use my work for album covers.
We are thrilled to have you on site at the fair this September. What are you most looking forward to in Shanghai? How do you feel about showcasing your work to a new market (Asia-Pacific)?
It believe it may be similar to a show I did in Guangong, China, 2017, I really really loved it. It is a completely fascinating country, with two extremes of pollution and noise, and the energy and vibrance which I loved, so since then I’ve been really looking forward to going back to China. I’m so excited because Shanghai is a city I have never been to before, and I have much to discover about it. I am also very interested in seeing the wider Chinese audience’s reaction to my work.
Buy Tickets to see Goudal's work at PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai 2019 (20-22 September) here.