Fotograf Magazine

Maxime Guyon

A Laid-Back Perfectionist

One of the youngest, though chronically busy and hectically working representatives of the Swiss-French photo scene is Maxime Guyon. He, just like many other artists featured in this issue of the Fotograf magazine, creates his own “artificial” worlds based on a fresh reflection of what our times offer us in terms of visual culture. In his work our ongoing, or very recent, day-to-day reality is re-defined in the form of carefully constructed contrasts, by means of techniques popular with the inter-war avant-garde (among others). The subjects of his photographs are in many cases sculpted by the artist himself: he collects the necessary items and materials and then builds things in the studio – by moulding, cutting, sawing, gluing, painting or wallpapering – until he is happy with the look of the still-life he has created. After the shoot he manipulates the images on a computer through postproduction.

Out of the various aspects that invite further discussion in regards of his approach, I would like to address the multilevel application of juxtaposition, which gives his pictures a strangely palpitating, disquieting and truly ambiguous charge. So within the environment defined by the dichotomy between two prevailing trends – the traditionalistic, skilfully executed photography and the self-confident balancing act toying with trashy, visually catchy imagery – we witness the emergence of a clearly defined, indisputably ambitious career of a promising artist. And the sincere effort to grow beyond the rooted and mundane stereotypes of today produces interesting moments of collision between “the high” and “the low,” or if you wish “the free” and “the applied” (or even “the independent” and “the commercial”) or “the charming and visually attractive” versus “the banal and cheap” but also “the realistic” and “the artificial.”

The series Low Tech (2012) combines all the above with childhood memories and flashbacks – these are achieved by mixing in colours or materials typical for the 1990s era together with contemporary visual design tools. The novel treatment of still-life gets complemented by various attributes that represent the previous decades and are completely disregarded by the generation now in their twenties or thirties. Retro feelings, nostalgic peeks into one’s own past, a pathos-free tribute to antiquated technology that used to be the hot, cutting-edge equipment at the time reappear as subjects also in the next series called Living 90´s Graphism (2012). Marble-imitating PVC wallpaper, wood imitations together with holographic patterns printed on adhesive paper used as backgrounds in Living 90’s Graphism contribute to the overall atmosphere characterising the life style of an era for which having and using all of the following was rather typical: remotely controlled TV sets, VHS players as well as light-grey PCs with bulky monitors, diskettes, mysterious integrated circuits, primitive graphic cards but still even such things as rulers, set squares or protractors.

A somewhat different, though still related, degree of uncertainty and balance between the real and the artificial (or perhaps surreal) is achieved in the landscape series titled Landscaping Studies (2013) shot in Switzerland. The monumentality of mountain slopes and summits is debased by human interference with the natural scenery, details of crystalline structures as well as their kitschy imitations. In a civil gesture thus Guyon raises the question regarding the possibility of symbiotic cohabitation of man and nature.

His favourite photographic role models are Thomas Demand and Matthieu Lavanchy. The first one inspires him with composition precision, minimalism and elegance, as well as the absence of a subject – which might exist in the picture only in the form of residua of its activities. The latter artist, on the other hand, influenced Guyon by the way he combines incongruous and disparate subject matters and creates bizarre chains of association as well as variations of their consequent aesthetisation.

Maxime Guyon, a solitary artist trying to define the identity of a human being living at the turn of the 20–21 century has by his work proven without doubt that he has much to say and that he has developed a persuasive means for doing so.

Zdena Kolečková