Sylvie Bonnot

Sylvie Bonnot, from the combustion of landscape

Eros is a rock…
On looking closely at the genesis of Sylvie Bonnot’s work, we begin to realize that the photography is at first, if not a pretext, at least an auxiliary to walk through a landscape, to pace up and down a territory, to submerge there physically, to merge into it, to embody it.
And so, she crosses alone the Irish landscape in all weathers, for several years. When she photographs houses and natives there, it seems, in spite of a perceptible empathy, that we do not leave even for a second, the theme of the landscape.When she returns from these periods of immersion, she develops and hoards hundreds of photos, that she sometimes enlarges, even if, for most of the time she amasses them in boxes that she makes for that purpose. Would it be a way to appropriate, to contain and to own the territory she has just walked through.
Then she goes to the other side of the world to work in in a totally different country, Western Australia, with the same passion.. There, the landscape is in another latitude altogether; the wild nature, but of another kind, the heat, the dead trees, the bush, the dried out shrubs instead of the greenery, the red earth instead of the green grass, the air which vibrates instead of the drizzle and the Irish mist.
But still the sea! Its movement, the crashing, gushing and splashing of the waves.
This major gap in the nature causes a remote stake which brings her to estimate graphically the structures of the images she captures.
Naturally, taking photographic pictures has always been based on the centring and the choice of a composition in the format.
But in this case, after the wandering and the immersion in the landscape, comes the time for the analysis of what the walker took from there.
From there are born the linear structures, sometimes coloured, which are superimposed on the black and white image, and then, soon become emancipated to become autonomous.
The linear scheme, released from the image which had aroused it, is suggestive of a route, at first by replaying the transcription of a sensation of movement comparable to the one that we feel in a landscape. But also, more simply and more directly, the drawing itself is a route, that of the line which runs, forks in a more or less random way, and, obeying an internal logic, returns to itself – without stopping moving – to occupy a surface.
Before Australia, there had been a previous period of drawings. Large-scale drawings, the format of which was adapted to the size of her body, to the scale of her arms. Gestural drawings which, if they always referred to the landscape, were above all physical drawings, showing an energetical projection – even there, a sensorial implication, a way of being joined to the image.
When Sylvie Bonnot works directly with paint on her photographic prints, their format finds quite naturally the one from her gestural drawings.And when the strong lines become paint independently of the photography, it is still this physical tension that we perceive there – all the more so when it is a walldrawing. The artist, facing the wall, draws in this linear vigour, the strong sensations she felt in her confrontation with elements near a fragile body with the deafening violence of the sea beating against the rocks. So she tries hard to convey the strong sensations she felt during a whole night when, lying on the bare ground, at the very edge of the cliff, she let the vibrations of sound waves released from the roaring surge wrap around her.
Then, how could we be surprised by this anthropomorphic projection which, in a symptomatic reversal made the landscape, not a metaphor but a real mirror image of the body ?
« EROS IS A ROCK » Brigitte Fontaine sang in one of her poems of the 70s.
In this reversal, the landscape is going to incarnate the body which had merged into it.
We can take pleasure there in recapturing echoes of the eroticism of the body / nature of the Renaissance poets, evoking intonations of the romantic pantheism, reminding us of Courbet’s caves and waves, and – in the immediate history of photography – referring to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s sublime visions of the sea, or even to the striking physicality of Balthasar Burkhard’s photography.
But Sylvie Bonnot makes more than a revision of the classics : her works move forward with a new sensuality. Because she experienced it by her own physical investment in her relationship to nature, and because she draws from the very depths of the earth energy, a completely communicative jubilant dimension emanates from what she shows us.

Hubert Besacier, 2008