Spotlight: ‘Artist-alchemist’ Gilles Lorin’s experiments in the darkroom shed light on ancient photographic processes

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About the artist: Munich photographer Gilles Lorin (b. 1973) creates intensely atmospheric images that have a distinct aesthetic quality that might confuse them with drawings or paintings. Lorin has earned a reputation for his use of traditional and historical photographic processes, experimenting with various types of negatives, chemicals, papers and techniques – an artistic practice which has led him to be referred to as an “artist-alchemist “. Currently, a selection of iconic works from Lorin’s oeuvre are on display both online and in person at Kunkel Fine Art, Munich. The juxtaposition of different stylistic periods of the artist’s recent career highlights the extent of his visual and technical explorations.

Why we love it: The influence of art history is palpable in Lorin’s work. Archivist’s Vanity (2018) vividly recalls the tradition of vanity painting from the Dutch Golden Age, featuring characteristic memento mori symbols, including a skull, an hourglass, and a recently extinguished candle still emitting a faint trail of smoke. The photograph is a platinum-palladium monochromatic print on Japanese Gampi paper, allowing for an extended range of mid-greys – not possible with more modern photographic processes like gelatin silver prints – which makes the photograph at first view almost looks like a lithographer. Other works show Lorin’s exploration of color, such as the two cyanotypes on display, Tree Portrait, Prussian Blue Study n°1 (2016) and reach for the sky (2019). Created years apart, these works show how the artist learned to exploit the technical and graphic qualities of cyanotype, resulting in increasingly exceptional examples of otherworldly watercolor-like imagery for which the medium is known.

According to the Gallery: “Lorin’s studies in art history and classical archeology had a decisive influence on his keen interest in the history of civilizations and religions. As such, he worked for many years as an expert in Asian art. With his training and experience, it is hardly surprising that the most diverse philosophical approaches can be found in Lorin’s work and help him to understand uniqueness, impeccability and perfection. Sometimes motifs or stylistic influences from Asia predominate; other times Christian or Western symbolism prevails. Lorin finds a very personal vision of the fragile beauty of our land, which he reveals to us with his peaceful and aesthetic photographic art.

See the works presented by Gilles Lorin below.

Gilles Lorin, Still Life with Nautilus, Study No. 2 (2018). Courtesy of Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

Gilles Lorin, Between Heaven and Earth (2016).  Courtesy of Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

Gilles Lorin, Between heaven and earth (2016). Courtesy of Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

Gilles Lorin, Tree Portrait, Prussian Blue Study n°1 (2016).  Courtesy of Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

Gilles Lorin, Tree Portrait, Prussian Blue Study n°1 (2016). Courtesy of Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

Gilles Lorin, Reaching the Sky, study of Prussian blue (2018).  Courtesy of Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

Gilles Lorin, Reaching for the Sky, Study of Prussian Blue (2018). Courtesy of Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

Gilles Lorin’s work is currently exhibited at Kunkel Fine Art, Munich.

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Michael E. Marquez