> Christian Noorbergen 

The universe keeps vigil

 

 

The initial response to the body of work is a rare frisson. The emotion of the depths touching the viewer deep down, giving no idea why. He simply intuits the rich complexity of an obscurity that is unknowable, its various strata of reading and impact intertwined and clashing, and at the same time paradoxical in its luminescent austerity and pared-down simplicity. The portentous frisson sparked by the greatness of the work triggers a state of amazement, a shock of feeling vs. the felt that cannot be processed by the human brain. Something is underway, and that something is called the art effect. It is quite useless trying to identify any one given element, an enigmatic resting place, a mysterious subterranean pattern that sets the viewer aflame as it sweeps him up. The true artist cannot claim full mastery over his own creation. True creativity is torn from creation.

The impact is twofold: a powerfully striking image framing a fragment of reality that is both splintered and unknowable, even unthinkable, reaching beyond reality in its plasticity, emotionality, and symbolic power. The two mingled elements of the image and its own farthest reaches combine to produce a work that is wholly dynamic on its surface, or rather surfaces, and in its innermost core, and its far-flung extents.

Michel Kirch's art offers a primal, nocturnal opacity. Perhaps the void of infinity... The entirety of the work seems to spring from this vast initial void, including the oeuvre's considerable mysticism. Vibrant clarity dazzles forth in shreds of light, creating a challenge, seeming to have arisen elsewhere than the origins. These glows throw bridges across the opacity, leading at long last to life. A being-as-spectator keeps watch as the world wakes... In nearly every work, the being is an apparently insignificant presence, waiting, isolated, moving or motionless. But its fascination for the measureless infinity that it contemplates from the teetering edge of terror makes it all-powerful.

Michel Kirch's timeless work holds up the symbol of a threshold to be stepped across,  offering a passage to another dimension, a further threshold. The world is never complete: the artist completes it. Timeless, and yet profoundly of our time, Michel Kirch, the watchman, is also a caster of spells. A creator of vastness.

His landscapes – always grandiose, often arid – are ruled by a powerfully staged, vital tumult and an initiatory turmoil, a chaos that pre-dates the fossilising hand of design. His richly productive chaos throws the world into upheaval from the outset and for ever. With trials to withstand, pathways, passages, and silent appeals. A naked being in a naked landscape.

The relationship between body and landscape is born of the divide between man and the universe, when art questions all that is lacking in humanity. The interplay of fore- and background in the relationship between body and landscape lays a trap for spatial norms and pre-defined mental references and structures. The dualisms that shape normality – near/far, presence/absence, vast/tiny, male/female – are obliterated as the artist roams freely through the fantastical no man's land he has created.

 

In those moments of crisis when culture finally loosens the knot, art from on high dries up the wellsprings of all-too-familiar concepts and undermines the bases of figurative art, demonstrating their limits without spurning their meaning, and opens up to the absence of meaning. What then becomes the creative source rich in art effects is that which is unthinkable, even impossible; the body becomes a locus of enigma. The body dissolves in the landscape, trapping and disturbing it. It threatens the inertia of the external and the figurative, and rejects the stultifying hand of stability. But it lies dead centre.

The landscape is a metaphor for skin, a metaphor for flesh projected into the immensity of a vastly distant exteriority. The landscape, like a smokescreen, is the ultimate medium for the body: the image created becomes the skin of a vast body, inhabitable at long last.

For Michel Kirch, Eros is a latent, subtle presence, entering into resonance with the secrets and veils of its own tremendous theatricality. The body itself – like a blind spot in an eye – becomes the crucible of all life forms, the heart of creative chaos, and the secret pattern underlying all creatures of Otherness. What is created arises prior to the bodily image, when it is completed in the finiteness of verbal synthesis, when words fall silent. What is created arises prior to the construction of the body.

Michel Kirch's immaculate world is flesh laid bare and shadows. The universe keeps vigil as birth and absence engage in one continual embrace. If there is a threshold to cross, it is that of the Egyptian tombs with their false doors, the sham openings that the soul can pass through from both sides, returning to the land of life or passing from the land of life into eternal life.

The universe is incomplete. Michel Kirch's entire oeuvre is born of this infiniteness. His world is one of mineral essence, devoid of all the blandishments of modernity. His relationship with the sacred is open and honest. Light lies in wait at the far reaches of a horizon to be crossed. Light condensed in a swathe of contemplation. Light darting into the sublime chasms of space.

Michel Kirch's open expressiveness, by turns ascetic and brutal, veiled and taut, is reminiscent of the great Expressionists. A work doubly inscribed in time: the dazzling impact of the glance in that first instant, creating an surge of instinctive impulse, followed by the slow accumulation of emotional alluvia in the full extent of time, making its mark: the impact of pre-aesthetic emotion rather than intellectual jouissance. In Michel Kirch's art, signs confront space and space swallows up signs. The harsh transmitter records life, but never illustrates it. There is no single centre: the work demands dilute, swirling attention that touches upon all levels of art and awareness.

Few bodies of work are as dense as this – or as implacable. No escape route, no pretence: just an extraordinary density that seizes the viewer in its grasp. His spirit is overwhelmed by the vision, when the work of art wholly fulfils its role as oxygen for the mind. The artist learns to look. Michel Kirch's penetrating, contemplative, fantastical images bring time to a standstill. 

 

Christian Noorbergen 

Août 2014