With “Stay Out Of My Slippers, You Fool,” his recently opened exhibition, Etienne Courtois makes a move towards formalism as he pushes to explore the seams of contemporary photography with relation to the spectator. The Brussels native’s juxtapositions of object and their (miss)use, opens up the viewer’s possible readings, instigating a look into what constitutes the relationship of viewer/object/image. 

What were your original ideas and intentions at the start of working on this new series?

I wanted to create images allowing the viewer more freedom, something less figurative, veering towards formalism, while using the same process I use for the still lifes.

What would you say was its starting point?

I have always liked the idea of using surfaces like self-adhesive vinyls, flat objects, color backdrops, which I use in the still lifes, as subjects for composition.

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You Fool, 2015. Archival pigment print. 85×105 cm. Framed Edition of 5.

Is there something very specific you’re hoping the series will express/communicate?

It’s a series of images which are more detached, aiming to propose different levels of reading, paving the way for a close relation with the viewer. To highlight this, I included a figurative still life, that acts as a counterbalance as well as a link with the other series

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Ca ira, 2015. Archival pigment print. 85×105 cm. Framed. Edition of 5.

Can you talk to us about your approach in general?

Rather than going out into the world to take pictures like in traditional photography, I create my own from scratch. I use various objects and explore what they can reveal when used in an improper way. And to emphasize that, I tweak the photographic process, taking studio-based techniques outside the studio, using natural light and analog manipulation.

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Faux W, 2015. Archival pigment print, self adhesive contact paper. 50×61,8 cm. Framed. Unique. 

How would you say this series fits in with your wider body of work?

It’s a continuation in studying our relationship with the nature of the image, the fracture this relationship has been through, and the immateriality of contemporary picture-making.

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L’oiseau a midi, 2015. Archival pigment print. 84,8×105 cm. Framed. Edition of 5. 

Can you talk to us about how you see your own work? How would you describe it?

My work uses photography and is articulated around perception and representation. I am interested in stretching the medium beyond its function as a tool for depiction. My loose approach to the subject, my own interpretation of the object and its function, the use of misappropriation and diversion, all this helps me reveal the subjective and the unseen.

What is your preferred medium for exhibiting your work? Book? Solo show? Group exhibition?

I don’t have a preference, each form has its own dynamic and allows for a different way of sharing the work. Images are adaptive. I am actually currently working on a book

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Study for a Manicure, 2015. Archival pigment print. 28×34,6 cm. Framed (43,8×50,8 cm). Edition of 5.

Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your work?

Not just one person, but many artists.

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Tra-La-La, 2015. Archival pigment print. 100×123,6 cm. Framed. Edition of 5. 

“Stay Out Of My Slippers, You Fool”
New Works by Etienne Courtois
Runs until Saturday 6th June
Rue Théodore Verhaegen 152
1060 Brussels
 
etiennecourtois.com