SHE WAS COVERED WITH AUTUMN LEAVES series of 6 c-prints 75 x 90 cm each, 2001
I have been observing Tatiana Lecomte’s photographic work for some years now. The thing that impressed me most first of all was her clear, open view of the situations she captured on film – although the subject of the photos does not immediately convey a specific content at first glance. The work had a totally unpretentious, almost casual feel, but, at the same time, implanted itself strangely in my mind. It seemed that Lecomte was posing riddles in her works, albeit without knowing the solutions herself or wishing to plumb the depths of the picture in order to get to the bottom of them, let alone expecting the viewer to perform this transfer. I remember talking about retreat to or seclusion in a private sphere, and about the (in)admissibility of leaving the viewer alone with these works. They seemed weighed down by a mystery, although no-one could even have guessed at what this might have been. None of this is true, particularly against the background of her continuous, intensive work on pictures. Rather, what evolves in her work – i.e. when viewing the various complexes of her works as a whole – is a narrative thread which, although seeming to run through the entire work, the viewer himself must pick up at any point and, in his mind, continue to lay down in the works.
In addition, she adopts a distinctly photographic position in her work, a fact worthy of note, I feel, when you consider that there are hardly any young artists in Austria today who work continuously with the camera, systematically exploring, playing through and consciously appropriating the possibilities of the medium. In Austria there is no school for specifically photographic work like, for example, the class instructed by Bernd and Hiller Becher in Dusseldorf, that has produced a whole generation of artists, thereby impacting profoundly on photography in the contemporary art discourse. The training situation in Austria is extremely poor, and in view of the fact that there are hardly any artists any more who do not use photography as a matter of course, seeing it as an integral component of their work, the question now is whether it makes any sense at all to ascribe importance to photography per se and to promote a critical, discursive, but also practical analysis of photography at the level of training and education. Particularly in the context of art production, the boundaries of genre are increasingly ceasing to apply, and today an analysis of contemporary art always implies a broad, media-independent conception of the terms with which we operate and the categorical allocations that we make as recipients. Less and less often artistic methods are being negotiated at the level of (formal) handling of the medium – the genre itself is really only of marginal importance – to be ousted by questions of the greater conceptional access, the methodology with which we approach a subject. And so this magazine, too, illustrates the fact that it is necessary to constantly renegotiate the borders of this genre and the connected allocations of meaning.
And yet it is still remarkable when you meet artists (especially in Austria) who have opted so clearly for a medium and who can claim a certain lasting quality in the field of art by means of doing. Tatiana Lecomte is one of these artists who want to get to the bottom of a medium and who work through their subject matter in their perfection of this medium – without assigning an increased status to the technique per se. Nevertheless, Tatiana Lecomte has also tried out several different formal solutions for her subjects. I remember a body of drawings that was of equal significance with her photographic work. And yet I would maintain that photography in Tatiana Lecomte’s work meanwhile boasts an autonomy that permits us to speak of appropriation in the best sense of the word. With the aid of her camera, Lecomte has developed her own language of pictures that runs through her entire oeuvre.
The specific quality about her, I feel, is on the one hand her reserved, detached, ostensibly unpretentious view of things with which she portrays sometimes everyday situations, knowing that there is ”more to it” than pure depiction. She aims to evoke an emotional involvement from the viewer without prescribing any lines of thought or triggering well-founded opinions or stored knowledge. At the same time, however, she has an increased interest in – or perhaps simply an intuitive, sure-footed sense of – formal consistence of a picture: she leaves no detail to chance in her composition and yet refrains from interfering in or provoking situations. It is as though she waits for the decisive moment before pushing the shutter release – without having any exact conception beforehand as to what this moment worth capturing in an image might be. Tireless work. Her photographs stand out due to a dense surface and a closed image space.
Lecomte groups her works in series consisting of three to a maximum of ten subjects. With extreme care (and economy of means) she has edited them to create limited-edition catalogues, among other things. Seen as a whole, what was at first a cursory impression begins to gel into a firm picture. [...]
The situations are intentionally ambiguous – the pictures do not accuse, they do not point, they simply hint guardedly and leave us alone, leaving our thoughts to take their own course. The fact that there is always something frightening about the idyll is clearly shown by the photos taken in Japan, for example. Similar to Huts (2000), a series of mostly locked huts in deserted areas, there are no people in these pictures. Her Nights (2000) are taken in the dark of night, and we can only make out the outlines of situational contexts, all highly banal and yet somehow uncanny, too: a deserted street in the light of street lights, the outline of a car, a hut in a night-black forest, a street – leading nowhere – in the light of headlamps, a wayside, an impressive, seemingly overwhelmingly large house with a forbidding facade and security fence. Then, in another series, once again there is a change to powerful colours, seemingly idyllic pictures. Were it not for the personalised title of her series, She Was Covered With Autumn Leaves (2000), that hints at something terrible, reminding us of walks through unspoilt nature, occasionally imagining the dramas that might have taken place in such untouched areas. And so we follow the path with our eyes – the camera always pointed at the wayside – scouring the photos for traces or clues that might bear out a suspicion, hardly daring to look at the last picture, although we know that Lecomte is not someone to spell it out.
Maren Lübbke-Tidow in: Camera Austria International N° 78/2002.