Crêtes & Arbres(Mountain Crests and Trees)

I have stayed regularly at the Val d’Hérens for about 20 years. First at Evolène, La Sage and Villaz, but very soon on the side of Gouille, and in recent years at Ouartsé. In my exhibition at the Historical Museum of Lausanne in 2006, there were already a few images of this little piece of land, but it was in the middle of many others in the rest of Switzerland: Appenzell, Urnäsch, Klönthal, four Cantons, Emmenthal, Lake Thun.

It was after a solitary short stay in Ouartsé in November 2014, that a kind of dam jumped in my heart. I planned to do a whole work on this biotope that goes from the altitude forest (last alpine pastures, barns, shelters, last trees) to the glaciers and ridges that we see from this territory between 2000 and 3000 meters .

What attracted me to this territory was its state of socio-economic and climatic change. We are in the midst of a process in progress, hence the subtitle Work in progress, which is often used in contemporary art, but here it could be applied both to glaciers, to the monumental trunks of fallen trees. I see them as giant sculptures in perpetual elaboration.

Very quickly, it is imposed on me the idea of ​​a chronicle, but also to me to a territory that can be reached on foot, with a maximum of three hours of walking Arolla. On the other hand, the technique had to be sufficiently precise (close to hyper-realism) for the idea of ​​testimony to be valid. The method of work has always been to start with walking (approaching the physical point of view) and then, once there, make sketches on the ground and photographs. Then back to my workshop in Lausanne, make a synthesis between the drawings, photos (often corrected with Photoshop) and lived on the spot, to translate the whole on paper or on canvas. One of the first surprises was the role played by light, which, probably because of the snow, became an important character in this work. Then the trees, which in this forest very exposed to the snow and the wind, are continually rebuilding, taking very plastic forms that summarize very well their resilient side, that artists we know so well. Finally, little by little, appeared a few enigmatic characters, silhouettes almost arising from the depths of the mountain, which express, on the one hand, our own smallness and, on the other hand, the precarious balance of this territory at the edge of the civilization.

The working method is as follows: 50 minutes walk from the mayen, sketch from nature, accompanied by photographs (often retouched with Photoshop because the optical system of a device “flattens” the image very much), then work on canvases, acrylics or on papers (usually tinted) with various pencils and also sometimes with acrylics. It is a work in the slow, often very technical. Every day of work is noted in the left margin of the paper or canvas, under the word Egunkaria (meaning, what is done every day, every day) so that each drawing has its own agenda of appointments with the ‘artist. The value of the work is always judged at a distance of 5 to 7 meters first with hard artificial light (neon) then with oblique natural light.