Gauthier Fabri is working on two collections: Metamorphoses and Flower Mosaics, the latter being the fruit and continuation of his initial project In search of Monet's colors in Giverny, thanks to which he was selected to participate in the Normandie Impressionniste 2020 festival in Rouen.
By mixing light, shapes and colors in the manner of an alchemist, Gauthier Fabri seeks to create works of art that are beautiful, luminous, balanced and inspiring, with great evocative power. Whether vividly colored or virtually monochrome, minimalist or highly detailed, his works can hardly be entirely understood at first glance, as they all contain some sort of mystery. Two books will enlighten those who wish to lift a corner of the veil and understand the artist's approach.
In the book Metamorphoses, one discovers that each work of art (even the most abstract in appearance) has its very own story and that it is always the result of a real quest or a path that owes nothing to chance.
The book In search of Monet's colors in Giverny invites the reader on a year-long trip to Monet's gardens. One can see the artist's palette growing from month to month in the gardens which, as the seasons go by, turn into true masterpieces.
NB: For an optimal display of the double-page book on mobile devices, you must activate the option "view the computer (or desktop) version".
Under the surface of things
In his Metamorphoses, Gauthier Fabri blurs the object to keep only its quintessence. Leaving the framework of objective and descriptive photography, the image becomes an invitation to access a deeper and more mysterious world, that of emotions, thoughts and dreams.
Painting with light
Gauthier Fabri would have dreamed of being a painter to be able to express himself with the total freedom that painting allows, without any other limitation than the size of the canvas and the talent of the artist. Among the painters who impressed him the most: Arcimboldo, Jérôme Bosch, Dali, Klimt, Magritte, Monet, Picasso and van Gogh. It is therefore not by chance that his works are often more akin to painting than photography. The work of Gauthier Fabri also evokes the art of stained glass, thanks to a light that seems to come from within the works of art themselves through a play of transparency and the presence of deep blacks that contrast with the highlights and structure the image like the lead in stained glass.
In his visual universe on the borders of abstraction, things are transformed to the point of being reversed in a kind of alchemy: the blurred becomes sharp, the black and white becomes color, the top becomes like the bottom. Through his Metamorphoses, Gauthier Fabri questions the notion of representation and beyond, of reality itself through what constitutes the very essence of visual perception: shapes and colors.
Natural alchemies: Nature upside down
In the Emerald Table (one of the most famous texts in alchemical and hermetic literature), it is written: "What is below is like what is above, and what is above is like what is below", a maxim that Nature sometimes seems to want to take up when the elements fuse and merge in its melting pot to compose extraordinary paintings.
View, look and vision
For As above so below (an extremely rare undulatus asperatus cloud traversed by a providential airplane, Gauthier Fabri is just a witness who reports what he saw. In Fall in Love, he goes for a walk and puts his artist's eyes on a surprisingly pictorial autumn landscape. With the calm during the storm of As above so below II, he goes to meet a storm forecast to be one of the biggest of the last fifty years to offer us a totally unusual vision, turning things upside down and suspending time using a very long exposure when the elements are at their most raging.
Painting or photography?
When Nature becomes an artist, it is surely more of a painter than a photographer. In these natural alchemies, with skies painted with great brush strokes, touches of color juxtaposed in the manner of the Impressionists and shapes that fade into subtle sfumato effects, it reveals herself as a landscape artist with a virtuoso technique.
Prospects: from chemistry to alchemy
Alchemy and photography are closely related. Not only is light at the center of these disciplines, but the alchemist (also called artist) and the photographer both work in a laboratory, one to accomplish the Great Work (i.e. the Philosopher's Stone) and the other to create his works of art. This relationship is even more evident in Gauthier Fabri's Metamorphoses, where various alchemical concepts such as inversion, transmutation, solve and coagula and quintessence are illustrated.
The Philosopher's Stone
Every Man, it is said, must find his philosopher's stone. The latter would not only enable lead to be transmuted into gold, but above all would allow access to immortality. Through their works, great artists such as Mozart, Michelangelo and Claude Monet have become immortal. And what if the sesame to obtain eternal life were hidden in Art?
In search of Monet's colors in Giverny
At the beginning of 2018, Gauthier Fabri started a project that would take him 350 km from home every month for one a year to take more than 150,000 photos in Claude Monet's gardens. In a creative process that involves technical prowess, he then uses these photos to compose flower mosaics made up of thousands of small pictures (often more than twenty thousand).
In October 2012, Gauthier Fabri unsuccessfully submitted a request to the Monet Foundation to photograph the flowers and plants in Monet's gardens in Giverny during all seasons in order to then use these photos as color touches to create "paintings".
With hindsight, this refusal will prove to be a chance for Gauthier Fabri, because a few years later, he will have gained additional experience through the creation of several large mosaics. He will also have learned the lessons of a project that remained unfinished for technical reasons after having taken more than 12,000 photos in Dubai. Finally, he will have more efficient photographic equipment at his disposal and a much more powerful computer, which will prove very useful in carrying out an undertaking whose complexity and scale will far exceed what he had imagined.
Incredibly picturesque gardens
The choice of Monet's gardens owes nothing to chance. Indeed, in addition to being a painter, Monet was also an outstanding landscape gardener who composed the settings for his future paintings when he planted his flowers. By going to Giverny, it is thus the very essence of Monet's painting that Gauthier Fabri wishes to capture through the light and colors of the vegetal universe with which the painter had surrounded himself.
Originating from this prestigious terroir, these flowers are somehow the true colors of Monet. They carry within them a little bit of his history and no doubt also some "stem cells" of Impressionism.
Target: 100,000 photos
In February 2018, Gauthier Fabri has finished exhibiting his Metamorphoses at Lille Art Up and the time has come for him to rethink about Monet's gardens.
Fearing a new refusal, he decides to start his project without asking anyone for anything. His goal: to go to Giverny every month for one year to take at least 100,000 photos of "Flowers" without missing a single bloom and to photograph them from every angle and under every light, in order to capture as many shapes and colors as possible.
By "Flowers" is meant not only flowers growing on the ground, on trees or on water (such as the famous water lilies), but also all other plants (shrubs and trees, plants, bushes, bamboos, etc.) taking root in the property where the painter lived for more than forty years.
To this list can be added the effects of light (backlighting, transparencies, sparkles, etc.), the reflections in the water and the sky everywhere present in Monet's paintings. There will also be all sorts of small details such as insects, fruits, typical signs of the place and of course the famous Japanese bridge.
When the gardens open on March 23rd, Gauthier Fabri is the very first visitor to pass through the gates. Blending in with the anonymous crowd of tourists, he will live for nine months to the rhythm of the seasons, completing his palette of colors with each visit and being a privileged witness of the gradual transformation of the gardens into true masterpieces.
A first milestone
In September, Gauthier Fabri spent three days in a row in Giverny and took more than 23,000 photos, including his 100,000th shot, thus reaching his initial goal two months ahead of schedule.
End of season
On November 1st, the annual closing day of the gardens, Gauthier Fabri is the last of the 700,000 visitors of the season to leave the site, not without taking one last picture of the water garden when it is almost dark. After having taken more than 130,000 photos in 9 months, he is now thinking about the next step: to obtain at all costs the authorization to come back and take photos during the next three months in order to achieve a complete cycle of seasons without interruption.
On the basis of his first works exhibited at Paris Fotofever, Gauthier Fabri obtained authorization from the Monet Foundation to continue his work in gardens closed to the public.
From December to February, in the deserted paths of the Clos-Normand and around the water lily pond where Monet so often placed his easel, Gauthier Fabri lives an almost mystical experience, with only the triggering of his camera disturbing a silence close to meditation. Monet's spirit is everywhere, incredibly present.
There are hardly any flowers or leaves left, but another world is revealed: that of mosses, bark, lichens and bare branches, completing the color palette with beautiful tawny shades, bronzed browns, reds, greens and gold.
By the time he completes his twelfth and final harvest of pictures on February 28, 2019, Gauthier Fabri has taken more than 156,000 photos. After five successive stages of sorting and optimizing his photos over a period of eighteen months, he will finally retain 129,745 images which will constitute the palette he will use to "paint" his future works.
Unlike man-made colors, the palette that Gauthier Fabri gathered with his camera in Monet's gardens is bright, lively and full of energy, because it is made up solely of flowers and plants, themselves the fruit of the interaction of the four basic elements of nature: earth, water, air and fire (sun).
Painting with Flowers
Taking place on a computer, Gauthier Fabri's creative process combines photomontage, photo retouching, graphics, digital painting and the use of photomosaic software.
Gauthier Fabri has decided to use the flowers of his palette without modifying them in any way in order to respect their deep nature. Considering that the work of art should accommodate the requirements of the palette and not the other way around, the artist works therefore on the central subject of his creation by retouching it in terms of both color and form until its transformation into flowers gives him complete satisfaction.
While the use of a computer to work with 130,000 images at a time is absolutely essential, there is no question of automation and even less of ready-made recipes. In the creative process, the software is only a tool for the photographer, like the furnace used by the master glassmaker in the manufacture of stained glass. In either case, the experience and know-how of man are decisive in preparing the "materials" and carrying out their transformation, here into flowers in a computer, there into colored glass in the flame.
In an artistic work of such precision, the computer quickly shows its limits and manual adjustments are countless. Gauthier Fabri had to develop a new technique to create photomosaics that resemble paintings while offering a level of detail never seen before. Finishing the works consists of fine-tuning the mosaics vignette by vignette in order to obtain a result that is as beautiful seen from afar as from close up.
The metamorphosis of a subject into flowers is an alchemy whose result is never a foregone conclusion. Indeed, each work requires a specific approach and the artist's work can extend over days or even entire weeks. Sometimes he also has to give up because, despite all his efforts, the "magic" doesn't work.
A touch without compromise
No artifice is used to compensate for a possible lack of nuances in the palette, so the photos do not undergo any alteration in color or density during the creation of the works of art. There is also no cropping, symmetry or rotation of any kind. What one sees in the works of art is therefore exactly what Gauthier Fabri photographed.
To create mosaics with a great fluidity of line, Gauthier Fabri combines horizontal and vertical photos in order to avoid the appearance of a geometric pattern. This results in works of art in which the photos literally seem to blend into each other in a more impressionistic than pointillist way.
Although the photomosaic process is nothing new in itself, it must be noted its "implementation" here goes far beyond the mere technical effect. With his unique palette, the artist questions not only the concept of color but also the very nature of the image through works of art that offer two levels of reading depending on the distance at which they are observed. Thus "pixelated" into thousands of colored touches that are like so many small paintings, Gauthier Fabri's works are so rich and detailed that it is practically impossible to look twice in the same place.
The true color of the atmosphere
In his quest for color, Gauthier Fabri has given special importance to the purple and violet tones that are very present in Monet's works. In 1881, the painter declared: "I have finally discovered the true color of the atmosphere. It's violet. Fresh air is violet. Three years from now everyone will work in violet." His self-portrait, painted in 1886, is a perfect illustration of this.
With his Metamorphoses, Gauthier Fabri questioned the notion of representation by transforming reality. With his flower mosaics, he pushed this questioning further by playing on our perception and questioning our relationship to the image by redefining the very idea of representation with colors and shapes of a new kind.
By its very nature, Gauthier Fabri's photographic palette, imbued with Monet's spirit, occupies a special place alongside tints and colors whose names are forever linked to illustrious artists, such as Klein blue or Veronese green. It should be noted that while this palette lends itself wonderfully to the creation of very diverse colored works, it also has some limitations due to "holes" in its chromatic spectrum, particularly in certain pale shades such as flesh tones, which are practically absent.
A universal language
From 1892 to 1894, Monet painted the cathedral of Rouen about thirty times in different light. In this work where nature is totally absent, only the rosette window overhanging the portal symbolically links the series to the floral world of Giverny. And what if, with these almost monochrome paintings, Monet had been trying to draw our attention to the importance of form?
After devoting a whole year to "picking" his palette of colors by taking photos in the gardens of the master of Impressionism, the photographer, having now become a "painter" in his own way, has in his kit a palette of colors with a single and unique DNA that allows him to revisit existing works by breathing new life into them as well as to create original works of art.
But beyond the pictorial universe, this extraordinary palette necessarily invites the artist to explore new territories: sacred geometry, symbolism, graphics, etc. With colors possessing such energy and potential, the possibilities seem practically infinite.