Long-standing partner of Art Dubai, Maison Ruinart, has been expressing its commitment to supporting artists since 1896 when Alphonse Mucha created the Maison’s first commissioned artwork. Each year selected artists receive carte blanche to reflect on their vision of the Maison’s heritage and excellence and comment on the contemporary concerns of the society. The annual Prix Maison Ruinart, established in 2018 with the support of the Picto Foundation recognises the talent of up-and-coming photographers chosen from the “Curiosa” section of Paris Photo.
In 2022 the Prix Maison Ruinart was awarded to Matthieu Gafsou, a Lausanne-based photographer. Following an artistic residence in the Champagne region, Gafsou created a series entitled “Cette constante brûlure de l’air” (This Constant Burning of the Air), which was premiered at the 2022 edition of Paris Photo. Inspired by nature and the people working at Maison Ruinart, Matthieu Gafsou created a series of mysterious, contrasting images. With heightened sensitivity, he subtly evokes contemporary concerns about the environment and biodiversity.
Gafsou captured glimmering water fronts, spills of tangy horizons and spectrums of green hues. Absurdity emerges from the images that the artist has stained with crude oil to make the constantly burning air palpable. By using a hydrocarbon as pigment, the artist reveals what is invisible and expresses the paradox of our times: everything seems so normal, yet our environment is brutally changing.
“What I really like about applying petrol is that, in some ways, it’s like traditional photographic print toning that uses chemicals to stain the image – in the past, gold, copper or selenium were chosen. For me, the visual effect produced by these unlikely images reflects the consequences of petrol on our environment: a pollutant that is everywhere, not just in one place. Visually, we can see that there is something “dirty”, but at the same time this dirt also creates an effect that is spectacular and beautiful, almost sublime. The concern or fear that these seemingly trivial scenes can exude the destructive power that people looked for in the mountains and oceans in the 19th century,” he explains.
Matthieu Gafsou completed a master’s degree at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, studying philosophy, literature, cinema and aesthetics. Being fluent in the arts and having saved enough money to buy a camera, he decided to start taking photographs, and since then he has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions. In 2009 he won the prestigious “Prix de la fondation HSBC pour la photographie”, and his works were presented at the biggest photography festivals such as Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles, Foto/Industria Bologna and Belfast Photo Festival.
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