The World is an island
Thinking the world through its infinitesimal dimension


With this exposition, the first in Paris since his return from a 6-month artist residency in New York, Thomas Tronel-Gauthier continues to question the world and our place in it by capturing its multiple and tiny physical incidences. Henthen patiently extrapolates them within the artistic language he favors to us to see and think about. (1)

Thinking the infinitesimal
Similarly to Richard Long who lays down the trace of a step, a gesture around the world or to Andy Goldsworthy whon"works with a leaf under the tree from which it has fallen", Thomas Tronel-Gauthier chooses to summon the world and our relation to it by treating the infinitely small processes in order so as to make us aware conscience, and/or give us a sense of the infinitely large. Each work, with its complex implementation and the subtlety of its final state, is a reminder of the link we maintain with the habitat that has shaped us. Similarly to his renowned Land Art or Arte Povera predecessors, he takes into consideration that every natural element in motion – object, shape, trace – is the random result of a combination of forces governed by the unchangeable rules of the physical universe. He also shares with them a specific concern with the sense of impermanence that compels one to try to capture and rationalize it, through an organised language of shapes or words. As opposed to them though, who tend to recreate these transitory, natural phenomena by recreating them with an in situ process, Tronel-Gauthier does not interfere with the natural course of things. He "extracts" a moment whose dynamics he will then he recreate in the studio, in order to achieve a plastic metamorphosis on the scale of his idea. He only controls the lability of his patient and careful creation process up to a certain point: that when nature and culture meet. He hence preserves the principle of uncertainty as well as the meaning which he intends to confer to it. He explores "the meaning that material can give to shape" by using one of the most time-honoured techniques man has used to mark its habitat or extract from it identical excipients: imprinting and moulding. The first dialogue registered with the reality of the world. The artist thus shows a familiar instance in an alternative way, revisiting the interaction of the two elements that rule the planet : the soil and the sea, the solid and the liquid. His interventions are nevertheless logically subjected to the laws of physics. Hence he will not hesitate to manipulate time parameters. In the case of the "arborescence" paintings for example, that he has been developing for several years, the process of deployment of ribs caused in a layer of paint by its slow compression between two surfaces can be interrupted or altered. The 2014 series Corail de terre presents clumps of dry earth that the artist has collected and then "fossilised" using injections of polyester plaster and whose formal resemblance to sea sponges can refer to the 2010 Récif d'éponges, a hybridisation of natural and synthetic elements which he has agglomerated then homogenised by a transmutation of material by firing, in the case, porcelain. These hybridisations carried out by the artist are replicas, or reconstructions, of natural hybridisations, which he will "freeze" in accelerated time using heat. The temporal dimension, the essential element of impermanence, is thus eliminated through a high heating process and the collateral extinction of every mutable element. The element of minute variation in any morphogenesis remains key to the artist's practice. The Récif d'éponges aux lampes à huile, inspired by the discovery in a Greek museum of an agglomerate of ancient oil lamps, united, welded, distorted, eroded, infested by their long immersion at sea, unites all the different artist's methods: duplication, moulding, hybridisation – the mixing of animal, plant and mineral matter, what would be the equivalent to a process of "cryogenics" in reverse, i.e firing at a high temperature. Moreover, the manufactured element, the lamp, makes the original relic a witness of the history of men and their civilisation, in other words, of what they have achieved in their natural conditions.

Thinking the world
Thinking the world is also speaking it. Speaking it is also about using words, the words in the works' titles and in the announcements, and especially the words within the work, the words as key elements of the artist's approach. These therefore hold a special place in Thomas Tronel-Gauthier's practice. In the central series of inks, entitled Water and Words, which he continues to develop in this exposition, Thomas Tronel-Gauthier reproduces the natural process of dissolution by inscribing words messages which he wants to transmit to the viewer onto sheets of paper and then submits to successive washes which gradually dilute them until the limit of their lisibility is reached. The ink sinks and spreads, seeping into the porous paper… a form is born… an island of ink in the blank space… These delicate, almost unresolved works, which catch an eye that sometimes drowns in trying to decrypt the words, subtly refer to their inability to express the live reality of things. (2) Richard Long works in a similar vein when he uses words to title photos that he has taken of the stone figures he constructs in the course of his passages to the confines of the planet and systematically dispersed once the shot has been taken. Appearance, disappearance, dissolution express what underlines our existence in the world, its fragility.

The paradigm of the island
Tronel-Gauthier's two recent exhibitions, the present one and the one in Annecy, refer directly to the idea of the island: the island as a small and closed world, small because it is isolated from other worlds, the island as the paradigm of progressive dispersal, of alienation from one culture to another. (3) During his residence on Manhattan Island, the artist was able to observe the countless cracks in the ground that are scattered across the city, even in the most triumphantly constructed areas of grand skyscapers. He saw there a parable about the faults, fragility and vanity of the world. The impressive work that he drew from this is very expressive: after having lifted diagrams of the cracks by imprinting and molding, he melted them in bronze, erected them vertically, and then stuck them in concrete blocks, sombre reminiscences of the material of New York buildings. Those vertical imprints express that behind the perfect world aiming at the sky rather than the earth, there exists a real fragility for these faults will, naturally, spread and weaken some more.(4)

The universe of the laws of nature which governs our only planet is ONE, says the artist. For a long time it will keep submitting to our interventions but it will survive our dispersion.

Ann Hindry
Paris, August 2017


1) The first exhibition after New York, entitled "Surrounded by Water", took place in Annecy from the 29th of April to the 18th of July 2017.
2) In this respect the artiist refers to Sartre rather than Foucault.
3) The artist was very affected by Brexit.
4) The artist has brought the scientific principle of "crack propagation" to the attention of the author.