Jorge Luis Borges imagined the universe as a library, one “composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.” 1The bookshelves in Guillaume Lachapelle’s rigorously detailed, architectural miniatures are similar imaginings of knowledge, infinity, and the meaning of books.
When Lachapelle predominantly sculpted with wood, the library was already present in his work. Take for instance the delicate shelves in Maneges (2004-2006). In 2009, he began to employ 3D printing and since, he has drafted bookshelves as white, intricately printed sculptures. Fissure, 2009, a bookshelf whose centre collapses, like quicksand, into a void; Le piège, 2009, an isolated balcony that protrudes from a bookshelf; Évasion 2, 2011, a fragile staircase that leads to a corridor library. Despite their sculptural form, these pieces never feel static. They suggest something beyond the shelves. Books are often described as gateways to other worlds and the artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster exemplifies this literally. In her 2013 La Bibliothèque clandestine at Palais de Tokyo what at first appears to be a bookshelf is actually a rotating door that opens into a secret gallery.
For Lachapelle’s sixth solo exhibition at Art Mûr, Visions, we encounter again the library. This time, he employs single-sided mirrors to exaggerate a sense of the infinite, getting closer to Borges’ indefinite library, such as in Awaiting Knowledge (2013). We confront the same architecture in Metro (2013) and Last Night (2013). A library, a subway car and a hallway from the Titanic, respectively, all melt into an intriguing yet alarmingly dark void. Where does the darkness at the end of hall lead to? Lachapelle’s miniatures act as a threshold between what is seen and not seen.
It is my intention to present the landscape as beauty itself, without reference to man and industry. The adjective “catastrophic” is sometimes connected to my work because the question is asked, “what happened to the people?” Though any work I’ve made could be a place here on earth, I think of these panoramas as existing millions of years ago, today, or millions of years in the future. It has been suggested that the landscapes could be from another planet. The Hudson River School is most often associated with my work because of the idyllic quality and color of the vistas. A lot has been written about my work but my most favorite line was written by Kit White, “There were mountains, sunsets and ocean shores before there were eyes to see them.”
What makes these dioramas unusual is that they are created in a 200 gallon tank filled with water. Though I sometimes build a scene in front of and behind the tank, most of the “action” takes place in the tank with paint injected into the water for cloud formations. I use whatever materials I can find on the street, in stores and on the internet that might add to a perception of reality that is not quite what it seems.
The series Broken houses is based on photographs of abandoned structures neglected by man and destroyed by the weather. The photos are found in the web while pursuing an amateur photographer from North Dakota who obsessively documents the decaying process of these houses. His photographs are used to create small scale models. Afterward, in the studio, the models are photographed again, omitted from their background and placed in gray.