Paper Cutouts Have Brutal Power in Noémie Goudal’s Paris Solo Show
For her first solo exhibition in France, Noémie Goudal offers a new show at Le Bal, a nonprofit exhibition space in Paris dedicated to photography and film. The exhibition, “Cinquième Corps,” presents a selection of work from three photographic series—“In Search of the First Line” (2014), “Observatoires” (2014), and “Southern Light Stations” (2015)—as well as new work created for Le Bal. Each image explores perception and the curious power of paper.
Goudal is a photographer, but her practice is as much about the process as it is the final photographic result. At first glance, photographs in “Southern Light Stations” appear to depict weather balloons, solar eclipses, or dramatic full moons; upon closer inspection, however, the photographs reveal more. Subtle creases and uneven surfaces resemble paper folds or the texture of cardboard, while pieces of string and wire hold up the hanging orbs. They are not moons or suns, but small-scale paper cutouts. In fact, Goudal begins her work in the studio, cutting out architectural models, images, and forms, then inserting those shapes into landscapes to create layered, magical imagery that toys with our perception of reality.
In “Study on Perspective II” (2016), a new installation made for Le Bal, two large photographs hang on opposing walls and depict craggy cliffs that descend into the sea. Hanging between these photographs is a triangle of mirrors. When the viewer approaches these mirrors, the two photographs merge into one, and a complete collapse of perspective occurs.
Dark and cave-like, the downstairs space at Le Bal has perfect ambiance for the “In Search of the First Line” series and its surreal blending of architectural forms. Images of ghostlike neoclassical structures are set upon several floor-to-ceiling supports within an empty concrete garage—the ugly underbelly of modern architecture. The images are all in muted tones of whites, beiges, and grays, suggesting the elegance of Renaissance studies in perspective or the emptiness of early paintings by Giorgio de Chirico. The contrasting interiors seem to fuse together to produce an entirely new environment, albeit one with the flattened sense of artifice usually reserved for the theater. Chairs placed around the space invite viewers to sit and immerse themselves in the environment.
Also in the downstairs space are monochromatic photographs from Goudal’s “Observatoires” series in which cutouts of Brutalist architecture—fragments of stairways, door frames, and domes—are placed in the middle of vast, empty seas. Like snapshots of post-apocalyptic ruin, the images offer an unsettling juxtaposition of humanity against overwhelming nature.
In these photos and others, Goudal displays an uncanny ability to suspend disbelief while at the same time showing her hand. We engage in the fantasy even as we mentally calculate the technical process responsible for it.
“Noémie Goudal: Cinquième Corps” is on view at Le Bal, Paris, Feb. 12–May 8, 2016.