Gallery FIFTY ONE
Opening on Thursday, May 18th 2023 from 2 – 9 pm
In the presence of the artist!
In his third solo exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE, French artist Éric Manigaud (°1971) presents the final piece of his intensive research of European colonial history. This show will run simultaneously with the exhibition ‘Ceux qui creusent’ (14/05-22/07/2023) at Galerie Sator in Paris, Belgian Congo being the subject in Paris and French Congo in Antwerp.
Manigaud is celebrated for his monumental, photorealistic graphite drawings, that are based on historic photographic archive material that often bears witness to violent episodes in Europe’s evolution towards modernity. His drawings of e.g. wounded soldiers of the Great War, inhabitants of 19th-century mental institutions and early 20th-century crime scenes remain burned on the retina. By means of the often graphic nature of his drawings and their monumental scale, his works are a physical and disruptive experience that urges to remember painful parts of history that some would rather forget.
The title of this exhibition is taken from the ‘Congo-Océan’ railway line, which runs from Brazzaville (the capital of the Republic of the Congo, former colony of France) to the port city of Pointe-Noire. The construction started in 1921 and took more than ten years to complete, a period in which thousands of people died due to the poor (forced) working conditions. On the other side of the Congo River, in Belgian Congo, a parallel route was constructed departing from Léopoldville (present-day Kinshasa). However, the similarities between these two colonial empires went beyond infrastructure. As the American writer Adam Hochschild writes in his book ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’, forced labour, chained slaves, burnt-down villages and the ‘chicotte’ (whip) were omnipresent. “Thousands of refugees who had crossed the Congo River to flee the Leopold regime ended up crossing it again to escape the French. The population loss in the rubber-rich equatorial forest controlled by France is estimated, exactly as in Leopold’s Congo, at around fifty percent.” This exhibition focuses on how the crimes of this period can thus be considered European, rather than just Belgian or French. A shared history, cleverly emphasised by the artist through a simultaneous exhibition in both countries.
Press release coming soon.
The French artist Éric Manigaud is celebrated for his monumental, photorealistic graphite drawings, that are based on historic photographic archive material. Working in series, he dedicates his work to historical subjects including the facially disfigured soldiers of the First World War, the bombed-out cities of the Second World War, early 20th century crime scenes, and spirit photography from the 1920s and 30s. In his 2018 series he focusses on the Paris massacre of October 17th 1961, during which the French police attacked a peaceful demonstration of the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) in a shockingly violent way. Using photographs by Georges Azenstarck, Louis Dalmas, Elie Kagan and Georges Ménager, and a film by Jacques Panijel, Éric Manigaud has worked to show one of the darkest chapters of recent French history.
Manigaud is interested in archival sources that often bear witness to violent episodes in Europe’s evolution towards modernity. He regularly uses photographic sources from the era between 1850 and 1920, when the medium was still considered strictly objective and scientific. His drawings of badly wounded soldiers of the Great War, inhabitants of 19th-century mental institutions and early 20th-century crime scenes remain burned on the retina. By means of the often graphic nature of his drawings, Manigaud urges his audience to remember painful parts of history that some would rather forget.
Born in France in 1971
Lives and works in Saint-Etienne, France
Manigaud’s method is simple but effective: he projects the found images on paper, on a much bigger scale than the original. He traces the projected contours, shades and lights with pencil and graphite powder. It is a slow and labour-intensive process that lends weight to the volatile snapshots Manigaud started from.
The enlargement of these often graphic and shocking images to a monumental scale turns them into a physical and disruptive experience for the viewer. Seen from a distance, Manigaud’s drawings seem photo-realistic, but coming closer, the countless dots and strokes start to blur and deconstruct the spectator’s vision. This ghost-like and elusive quality offers the viewer a way of distancing himself from the hard reality of what is depicted.