Friday, 10 February 2023, 09:56
Pierre Gonnord believes it is in childhood that animals and human beings are closest. "We humanise animals and animalise humans," he said, standing in front of an enormous diptych from which Armando and Héctor stare at us. The former is a miner, covered in black dust from the world below ground; the latter is an owl, a bird of the night and darkness. In Cuentos, his first major exhibition in Malaga, the French photographer goes back to the first phase of life, the moment of connection between the natural world and the wildness of a child, to that mysterious and uncertain universe for those taking their first steps.
Gonnord's way of contrasting the human face with a photo of a bird in a way is poetic yet disturbing. Something inexplicable connects little Sophie with the owl Casandra, young Leonardo with the vulture Arthur, miner Mihai with blackbird Bod... Gonnord doesn't like comparisons, but they are inevitable with the similarity in the gazes, the expressions, the beak-like nose of one or the wide-open owl-like eyes of another.
"What I'm looking for is that sense of our essence alongside the animal essence," said the photographer.
"Here, there is a psychological tension. It's about searching for something deep within us that connects us," said the curator of the exhibition, Sema D'Acosta, at the opening.
The human/bird dialogue arose spontaneously. Some years ago, Gonnard had the idea of photographing someone visiting Madrid's El Prado museum, a young man with an angular face and intense blue eyes. Then, at the Natural Science Museum, he photographed a stuffed bird. And he joined the two images. The connection worked in a way he still struggles to explain, and encouraged him to continue and produce the diptychs which form the exhibition on display at the Rectorado in Malaga until 17 March.
One image has a particular impact: a three-day-old owl suddenly started making gestures similar to those of a child. "A bird is a very mysterious animal, it is not of the world, it is a symbol of freedom," Gonnord said. Man's ignorance of an animal he coexists with daily made him look deeper. Each picture is a story that visitors write for themselves as they look at it.
In the final part of the display, visitors are immersed in natural and wild environments: a mangrove swamp, life growing again in a pond in an abandoned industrial area, the roots of a tree that has fallen during a storm, ancient rocks on the Galician coast and a Navarra mountain like the enchanted forests of our childhood days. Once again we think of childhood, stories, fables.
"The city is also hostile but it's a hostility we know and are prepared for. But with the hostility of nature and its beauty, I don't feel prepared. It's mysterious, fascinating, and it also makes me afraid," the photographer admitted. Like any small child, when they are reading a story.
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