"La nature agit, l'homme fait" Kant
Views on nature
Plants, flowers, trees — the subject of this series of colour photographs taken between 2002/3 and 2005/6 by Franck Christen is as essential as it is unpretentious: nature. It is the basis of our life but at the same time it is something man needs to transform, cultivate and adept to his needs. We cannot help being engineers of our natural environment, and have to be aware of its specific qualities.
There may be no other subject as precoded in the collective mind as landscape. In it, every climate zone has its own characteristic flora, every piece of land is associated with its individual imagery, conveyed by photography, film and television. A completely fresh view on nature, unspoilt by any preconception, is not possible.
Looking at the photographs of Franck Christen you wonʼ t see one of those aspects dealt with. They are neither reflexions of existing clichés nor responding to traditional pictorial compositions nor political statements. Nature is not explored or analysed systematically. The images show branches, leaves and blossoms forming an ornament against a neutral background. Mostly it is a light grey sky, not giving any hint where the photograph may have been taken. The absence of sunlight and shadows, sometimes of any surrounding and the ground takes the setting out of its specific place in time and space. Some photographs could as well be taken in a studio like those made by Karl Blossfeldt in the 1920s. But they are not. Franck Christen is just concentrating his focus on one phenomenon. He is showing us the beauty of a species, centering the attention on the diversity of form and colour. This may well be the most characteristic quality of an artist who is able to keep his vison clear from all temptations of an overloaded environment focus on one aesthetic discovery. It is his way of observing the world, which re-opens a path to simple phenomena obscured by the plentitude of everyday life. Coping with the complexity of subjects makes it necessary to keep an overview: the more information you can present the better. In contrast to this, Franck Christen seems to be a "privatier". He reduces the environment to simple elements, to decontextualize clippings of plants and landscapes. Focussing on the combination of nature and structure, these pictures are inviting us to recognize our surrounding with a new attention. We are asked to (re-)develop a consciousness for the beauty of the world we live in.