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September 20, 2011

Scale and Detail: the twin peaks of Jean Francois Rauzier’s “Hyperphotos”

by Mark Meynell
Rauzier - Escalier de la Reine

Thanks to a brief profile in Wired last month, I’ve been mesmerised by the ‘hyperphotos’ of French photographic artist Jean-Francois Rauzier. It is definitely worth spending some time exploring his worlds. And they are worlds – each image is deceptively simple but like all great art, draws you in with a summons to contemplate and wonder.

We’re used to images with great cinematic scale – in fact, a recent article in Tate Etc about the upcoming exhibition of John Martin’s work shows how his huge paintings of (often biblical) apocalyptic scenes have been profoundly influential on Hollywood, especially in science fiction. And looking at John Martin’s paintings, it’s not hard to see why. They dazzled in their day (although were scorned by the art cognoscenti) as scenes from Independence Day, Star Wars or Avatar might today. Here is his Belshazzar’s Feast:

And yet how quickly we become blasé about what has been achieved. It takes a lot to impress these days, after the advent of digital cameras, photoshop and special FX. And yet I couldn’t help be impressed by Rauzier. The range of his portfolio is spectacular. But most of all, one has the chance to explore great scale and great detail. On movies, you know that something that looks infinitely big is only a scale model with scaffolding behind and a rough edge just off camera (e.g. the Death Star tractor beam control-room entered by Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars). The camera captures the illusion of space and depth. We can only explore where the camera points. And the details cannot stand up to scrutiny.

But in these images, while static, confined and equally illusory, we are presented with incredible depth and a beckoning to explore. They all tell different stories. Particularly interesting is the sequence called Babels (how interesting that ancient Tower still provokes – see previous post) or the sinister scenes entitled Sleeping Beauties (disturbing because of the other figures who observe and perhaps imprison the beauties in these usually sumptuous settings).

But I particularly loved the architectural fantasies and ‘ideal libraries‘. It’s a bit like a dreamlike (or traumatic) Where’s Wally with cameras. But better. Far better! And all kinds of funny people seem to pop up in them. Including Damien Hirst and Rauzier himself…

Here’s a selection, interspersed with some of Martin’s paintings

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