Thursday, 9 April 2015

Black Mirror

Romain Crelier’s arresting and mind-blowing installation creates a harmonious juxtaposition of two unlikely elements, thereby breaking the boundaries of art.

Consider the Chinese philosophy concepts of yin and yang, according to which “apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and (…) they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another”. Now, bearing that in mind, think of dualities such as light and dark, fire and water, male and female which, if thought of as complementary, form dynamic systems of great harmony fuelled by the fact that everything has both yin and yang aspects.

In my view, this is very much what Romain Crelier, a Swiss artist, has achieved with his stunning installation “La Mise en Abîme” – roughly meaning something like “put into an abyss” –, an amazing artwork set on the floor of the Bellelay Abbey, in Switzerland, in 2013. This creation is made of two shallow pools of used motor oil working as a black mirror (yang) and reflecting the architecture of the pure white interior of the church (yin).

The very choice of a quite unexpected medium – black, used, soiled motor oil – inside a whitewashed 12th century abbey immediately evokes the complementary nature of the Chinese yang containing, by means of reflection, the yin purity of its involving environment. Just as shadow cannot exist without light, this installation would not fully work within a different context. “The shapes of the reflective shallow pools take on an organic, puddle-like shape to provide a contrast with the symmetrical architecture”.

Romain Crelier’s mesmerizing creation invites – or should we say attract – viewers to interact with both the installation and the walls of the church reflected on it. The feeling of being pulled into the abyss makes sense in this case, since the white abbey walls shelter the installation which, in turn, “contains” and traps those same walls in its blackness by means of the reflection emitted. It further captures visitors, who also become part of the artwork through their reflection, and offers them multiple readings of the building and the whole space in which they move.

Crelier’s interest in architecture has made him explore the boundaries of space, engaging and experimenting with apparently opposing, yet complementary, concepts of light and dark, form and void, inside and outside, surface and depth, abstraction and figuration, reflection and absorption. This takes us back to the Chinese concepts of yin and yang and makes it clear why we have resorted to this illustration to discuss Romain Crelier’s mesmerizing artwork. The final result is pure harmony achieved through a ground-breaking piece of art of unexpected, tantalizing nature, which captures everyone’s attention and questions ready-made concepts about Art.

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