CNA’s exhibition of the Luxembourg photographer Michel Medinger’s work aims to illustrate how as a talented young artist in search of his own individual style, Medinger (*1941) evolved artistically and technically: eventually creating his surprising and unexpected photographic ‘tableaux’, and becoming an established, recognized artist, both nationally and internationally.
Over the past four decades, Michel Medinger has conceived and composed a whole array of different universes which make up his artistic photography. The first universe was a series of drawers filled with his father’s work tools, dating from the late 1970s. Even if as a novice artist the photographer still harboured doubts about this series, it marked the beginning of his enthusiasm for photographic still life. In the 1980s followed his series of building workers huts. His work on series reached its high point in the 1990s when he created an inventory of old fuel pumps in Luxembourg which he reproduced as monoliths on shimmering Cibachrome surfaces.
His still lifes – which he has continued to produce since the 1990s on a wide range of disparate subjects in black, white and bright colours, with great perfection and subtly staged artefacts which the artist has collected himself over time – have become characteristic of Medinger’s work.
All these real and imaginary universes owe their beauty and aesthetic appeal to the many different photographic processes with which the self-taught Medinger has experimented, studying them with great passion and patience. They include his use of now archaic Polaroid instant film with its whole range of techniques, Cibachrome which is dying out today or traditional printing processes such as cyanotype, salted paper, and not to mention his toning with selenium and uranium nitrate. They have all been applied with great skill and authority and testify to a strong urge to explore photography, its techniques and means of expression.
As for the subjects Medinger selects and represents, they emerge in part from a passion which the photographer had discovered in his youth: painting. Although this form of artistic expression may not have inspired him with subjects to paint on canvas, – later on – it exerted a great influence on Medinger’s genre and to some extent on his photographic language too. Indeed it is his admiration for Dutch Golden Age painters which lies behind the still lifes which he creates in his photographs. Laden with an occasionally dark and macabre sense of humour, and often depicting mischievous, inoffensive scenes, his still lifes speak of death, nostalgia, eroticism and the human condition. So it is that in these images their creator’s thoughts can be found, reflecting his vision of the world with criticism, soul searching or simple observations about society and mankind.
Michel Medinger does not fit easily into any of contemporary artistic photography’s current categories, he remains constantly and resolutely true to his own individual style and photographic language and… to still life. Time and again, the Luxembourg photographer Michel Medinger draws his inspiration from the theatre of human life and throughout his career as an artist he continually takes us by surprise with his new variations on shape, photographic process or composition, subjects and their messages.
CNA Centre national de l’audiovisuel
9 June – 16 December, 2018
1b, rue du Centenaire