Noémie Goudal in Télérama

'Noémie Goudal, a queen of illusion at the Centre Pompidou' by Sophie Rahal
06 March 2023 Her passion for the study of ancient climates climates informs her work. With a disturbing art of trompe-l’oeil, the visual artist Noémie Goudal recomposes landscapes. Which tell us tell us the history of the Earth. 


Blink, stare at the image, approach it. At first glance, it is impossible to guess where and when these intriguing photographs of of palm trees lit by artificial light in the light in the middle of a dark palm grove plunged into darkness. Are these flat images, or in 3D? Are they simply real? For a moment, you think you see a tree shivering. An hallucination? 


The art of trompe-l’oeil is the very essence of the work of Noémie Goudal, 38, who always seeks to create confusion and ambiguity in the spectator, while making him his accomplice. Because, if you look closely, you can see a corner of the photo that is peeling off. There, the trace of a cutter blow. And up there, wouldn’t it be little black clips, or a piece of tape, holding pieces of paper? 


Each of the artist’s compositions is a clever combination of reality and trickery. Sometimes videos accompany them and reveal the and reveal the secrets of their making. Thus, for this series of eight photos entitled Phoenix, Noémie Goudal set up a studio in a palm grove in Spain and photographed the trees at night. The pictures, printed directly on the spot, were then cut into horizontal and vertical strips, hung and reintegrated into the real landscape. Click! Click! She photographs the whole thing one last time, and that’s it. “What interests me is the construction of an image, in different layers, that I can deconstruct and reconstruct,” she explains in her studio in eastern Paris. 


From a family of artists - her grandparents were painters, her father was an architect, and her mother was for a long time the director of a cultural centre with an exhibition space in Brétigny-sur-Orge -, Noémie Goudal admits to a taste for Romeo Castellucci’s theatre - which flirts with contemporary art - or for the choreographies of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, which her mother took her to see in Avignon. Armed with a camera as a teenager, she spent her afternoons in a laboratory on rue de Rennes, in Paris, where she developed her holiday, travel and still-life shots. After her baccalaureate, she went to London, convinced that a less rigid education would allow her to get out of the box. After a degree in graphic design from Central Saint Martins, she obtained a master’s degree in photography from the prestigious Royal College of Art: “The teachers patiently and subtly deconstructed everything you could, or thought you could, know. I didn’t learn how to use a camera properly, but I do remember a lecture on boredom. Or a session observing  the image of a piece of knee from every angle before discussing it together, each one bringing his understanding and references. An hour like that, it forges a look!” After ten years, she returned to France. 


To tell her stories, she chooses poetic and universal landscapes, without human presence, where time seems to have stopped. “I want the viewer, if he wishes, to be the protagonist. Palm groves, seaside ponds, disused airports... These places allow me to address more philosophical and scientific questions.” In her Mountains series, she cut out, glued back together and placed large pieces of white cardboard in the Gavarnie cirque, in the middle of the Pyrenees. The installation echoes the link between architecture and landscape, drawing as much on the studies of the mountain carried out by the architect Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) as on the research of the geologist Camille Dusseaux, who recently discovered 300 million year old rainwater in the heart of the mountain. the heart of the Breton rock. 


 Noémie Goudal and Maelle Poesy, Anima, performance, Avignon Festival, Avignon, France, 2022. 


Noémie Goudal is passionate about the history of science and, more recently, paleoclimatology (the study of ancient climates). Having never been a scientist, she undertook lengthy research before launching into the creation of her works. Reads press articles. Interviews geologists, geo-archaeologists and other scientists. She devoured the works of climate specialist Gilles Ramstein and paleoclimatologist Valérie Masson-Delmotte, from whom she draws inspiration for her productions. Her interest in paleoclimatology has led to the vast Post Atlantica project, which questions the way in which the Earth was shaped, dislocated and recomposed to arrive at its current form. One of his most striking pieces is undoubtedly Anima, a performance imagined with the director Maelle Poesy, and presented at the Avignon Festival in 2022. On the stage, her images of disturbing palm trees appear at first motionless, under the cries of birds, then come to life, metamorphosing, to the sound of increasingly deafening music: the rock collapses and water flows until it tears the canvas, fire burns and devours the forest, revealing other scenery. For, once again, we are faced with a superimposition of images of which only the metallic structure will remain. Then the circus artist Chloé Moglia appears and seems to find refuge there and to let herself slide, forbidden, in front of the nothingness. Everyone is free to interpret this installation: does it refer to the current climatic upheavals? “We didn’t think of it that way. Anima questions the upheavals that have taken place on Earth over the last four billion years and our place in all of this.” 


Often monumental, her works are reminiscent of the large-scale sculptures of the Americans Michael Heizer (born 1944) or Walter De Maria (1935-2013), figures of Land Art, a movement that uses the earth as a support. At the crossroads of photography, video, installation and performance, they are also often the result of an expedition to unusual places. In the midst of trucks and computers, the “machinos” hang cables or manoeuvre equipment. Photographers specialised in optical calculations determine the distances to be respected between the real landscape, the installation and the camera, in order to obtain the remarkable trompe-l’oeil effect. If necessary, a fireworker lights the fire that makes one layer disappear so that other layers appear. Thanks to the builders, the magic works without a hitch: in the video installation Inhale, Exhale, a system of ropes and pulleys makes pieces of scenery rise and fall. The viewer sees palm and banana trees emerge from a greenish swamp. And the cinematographer ensures the quality of the shots. “He often tells me that he is not David Copperfield,” laughs Noémie Goudal. She, on the other hand, masters the fine art of illusion perfectly. 

6 March 2023
of 444