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Luc Delahaye

Le Village
September 4 - November 14, 2020
Cloître Saint-Merri, Paris

Galerie Nathalie Obadia is very pleased to present The Village, Luc Delahaye’s fourth solo exhibition in Paris. The photographer shows us here a group of large-scale photographic tableaux and black and white series. All the works were realized during a long stay in a village in northern Senegal, near the river after which the country was named.

Le Champ (The Field) represents a young man preparing a rice paddy before it is sown. In a wide-open landscape, halved by the horizon, the man whose profile is sharply defined by the hard light is captured in motion. The energy he emits, the size of his body within the frame and the wealth of details make him look like an archaic vision of hard work.

As with the other large-scale formats included in the exhibition, the photograph is a reconstruction of a situation witnessed at another time by the photographer. With his model, during several posing sessions and with the untiring repetition of gestures, he tries to give a tangible existence and a structured form to something that is but a fragile impression.

In Sacrifice d’un bélier (Sacrifice of a Ram), two men tackle a ram to the ground, in the very moment before it is killed. The whiteness of its body contrasts with the dark ochre of the beaten earth in the semi-darkness. The men’s somber eyes are cast down to the animal whose open eye appears fixed on the viewer. To the left, a feminine silhouette that prepares to exit the frame is barely discernable in the shadow. She carries a dish in which, a short while later, they will place the animal parts.

The prosaic reality of the situation described in this photograph unleashes the imaginary, as is also the case in Le Filet (The Net), which puts us face to face with a fisherman preparing for his next nighttime foray. On a background of dense foliage that echoes the tangle of knots, the net suggests fantastical creatures, and the apparent disorder becomes the metaphor of an unconscious that is prey to genies, the allegory of a world peopled by spirits.

The response to this work, Le Filet (234 vues) (The Net (234 Views)) is a large square that comprises some of the takes that were necessary to its realization, akin to a magnified contact sheet, where the decomposed action and the declination of the fisherman’s gestures evoke chronophotography.

Épouvantails (Scarecrows), a group of 8 small-scale prints, reveals, in the light emitted by the flash, a succession of strange forms, ghostly totems recalling, once again, the world of spirits and supernatural visions.

The last large-scale work in the exhibition, Évocation de Penda Saar (Evocation of Penda Saar), tells us the story about a female character who lived in the 19th century and who, with her magical powers and rebellious spirit, freed from the norms of her time, became a legendary figure in the region of Fouta-Toro. The photographer brings her to life in a scene marked by domestic tranquility, but tinged with humor, where we can see a young Penda surrounded by her sisters in a dark room of the house.

The last work realized for the exhibition, Le Village, le champ, is a series of 71 black and white photographs, taken in several locations in the region and made of isolated views, sequences and variations on a motif. Here, with a descriptive approach to reality, the photographer tries to find human presence and emphasizes the traces of this presence; he focuses on details and carries out a landscape survey.

The use of the documentary format joins the other methods deployed by the artist in a set where are put to work the distinct possibilities given by the tableau, the series, the inscription of reality and the use of imaginary resources and which offers to our glance a side of the reality of this small territory.