The Shadow Line
CHARLIE SMITH london is delighted to present Eric Manigaud with his first one person exhibition in London.
Eric Manigaud, French born and based in St Etienne, is recognised for his impeccably rendered large scale drawings in pencil and graphite dust. Often reaching 180cm in height or width, every piece represents an obsessive accomplishment of technical expertise and takes two to four months to complete. As the French art critic Philippe Piguet states:
Everything in his work is of a degree of minutiae taken to an extreme, which propels the model he uses into a kind of meta-reality exceeding the details…He is an accomplished artist gifted with an astonishing virtuosity which competes with a rare expressiveness.
In parallel with such a commanding deployment of technique is a brutal choice of subject matter, where the power of the image combines with its realisation to create an overwhelming and emotive presence. Manigaud searches relentlessly in order to source second hand imagery, where an instinctive discovery will trigger a new series of work. Selecting only historical images that refer unintentionally to the evolution of the modern age, Manigaud reveals empathy for mankind and simultaneously critiques its progress. Bombed cities, murder sites, asylums and the African interior are all theatres where modern man has faltered.
Manigaud’s depictions of 19th century asylum inmates express unparalleled pathos whilst recalling the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, where a young Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) studied under Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1839), the accepted founder of modern neurology. Latterly Michel Foucault (1926-1984) would discuss the Salpêtrière Hospital when tracing the history of the treatment of the insane in Madness and Civilization. Manigaud’s drawings of murder victims are based on photographs by the criminologist Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914), who introduced photographic anthropometry into the judicial system by devising classification techniques that enabled the cataloguing of criminals and crime scenes. Similarly, photographs taken on expedition to the Ivory Coast by Marcel Monnier (1853-1918), grandfather of Roland Barthes (1915-1980), are used in Manigaud’s jungle series. Taken during Mission Binger, the expedition was designed to help delineate the frontier, being redolent therefore of 19th century European imperial ambitions that would be realized in the catastrophic World Wars of the 20th century, from where Manigaud derives his series of war victims and bombed cities.
Taken together, these series draw on the archival to represent an intertwined history of culture, science and politics. Specifically, they are touchstones to significant events and developments in the modern French period, but which resonate universally.