Not on display
SummaryLight 01.03 is an image of a group of young people at a party standing with their backs to the viewer, looking towards an illuminated area, presumably a dance floor, in the distance. The figures are teenage girls in casual dress. They stand in a close-knit group, apparently transfixed by the scene beyond. The dramatic back lighting creates a halo effect around the heads of some of the more fair-haired girls. The image is rendered in think ink on Perspex in a loose painterly style, suggesting a hazy, half-remembered impression from a dream.
When installed in the gallery, the Perspex is set a few centimeters off the wall so that the scene is visible on the translucent surface and also casts a shadow onto the wall behind. Reflections of light off the wall illuminate the image from behind, giving the work a luminous appearance. The gallery wall thus serves as both a source of illumination for the image and as a screen on which the image is projected. The artist has described how the work’s interaction with the wall makes the whole gallery space part of the installation (conversation with the artist, 27 January 2005). The figures in the image stand with the backs to the viewer, blocking the object of their attention from the viewer’s gaze. To access the image, the viewer is invited to imagine what the teenagers can see.
Throughout his career Bustamante has worked in series. He first began screen-printing photographic images on Perspex in 1987. To date, the artist has used found images for these works. The early works in the series reproduced black and white images from architectural magazines. Images for the more recent series, including Light 01.03, are taken from web camera images of teenage parties in the United States. Bustamante was introduced to the phenomenon of American adolescents posting images of their parties on the internet by his own teenage daughter. He downloaded some of these images, enlarging and retouching them for a series of works first shown when Bustamante represented France at the 2003 Venice Biennale.
The subject matter of this work is a banal, transient scene from everyday life. In its original context, the picture of the party-goers was a low resolution, disposable image. By choosing, retouching and enlarging the scene Bustamante has frozen and preserved a moment of adolescent expectation. The artist has defined art as ‘a transformation of reality’ and he has described his intention to give this image ‘a passport to eternity’ (conversation with the artist, 27 January 2005), suggesting the elevation of the quotidian to the sublime.
This work and several other pieces first shown in Venice in 2003 marked the first time Bustamante depicted the human figure in his work. Until 2003 human presence was implied discreetly in his photographs and sculptural installations. Light 01.03 invites comparison with a range of works that depict adolescent girls by artists as diverse as Balthus (1908-2001; see Sleeping Girl, 1943, Tate T00297) and Rineke Dijkstra (born 1959; see Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26 1992, 1992, Tate P78330).
Jean-Pierre Criqui, Jean-Marc Bustamante: Œuvres photographiques 1978-1999, exhibition catalogue, Centre national de la photographie, Paris 1999.
Alfred Pacquement, Michel Gauthier, Jean-Pierre Criqui, Katy Siegel and Michel Poivert, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Paris 2003, reproduced on cover in colour.
Matthew Arnatt, Jean-Marc Bustamante: Nouvelles Scènes, exhibition catalogue, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London 2003, reproduced p.27 in colour.