Le Bord du jour | Edge of The Day
11/09 - 27/10/19

Français | NL


© Jacques Vilet, Rügen, Stubnitz, Wissover Klinken, 04/1996 , 35 x 44 cm

“Like the eye of God in some engravings, this human eye became a symbol. What was important was to gather up the little of the world that it filtered before night fell, to record what it witnessed and, if possible, to correct any errors in it. In a sense, the eye counterbalanced the abyss.”

Marguerite Yourcenar L'œuvre au noir

The sun we see here, from the very first image onwards, does not appear in a direct manner.
We merely glimpse a few rays of sunlight and their diffraction on the water’s surface. The sun itself is still but a promise. In fact, we imagine it more than we see it, and this gives the photographer an opportunity to present us with a series of in-betweens: in between two seasons, in between heaven and earth, in between past and present, in between nature and culture. And, above all, in between what we see and what we look at, on the edge of one and from above the other.

Jacques Vilet has always enjoyed letting us believe that he is showing us a direct view of the world.
His photos, taken with a large-format view camera, are very sharply defined and could pass as those of a documentary photographer. However, although we pay little attention to the set-up of each of his photos, we realise that the set-up is an artifice to make us think again about the image. When he points out trees, the sky, or sometimes even people, to us, it would, no doubt, be idiotic for us not to also look at his finger, that is, to not only look at what he his pointing out to us, but also at what he is using to point it out.

Among the portfolios he has created, Lucarnes-Mosaïques (“Skylights-Mosaics”) and Fenêtres luxuriantes (“Luxuriant Windows”) are perfect metaphors for this reflexive vision. In the same way that Italian and Flemish Renaissance painters used windows in their paintings to open worldly perspectives on religious spaces, the openings which appear flush with the edges of his images not only point at what is to be seen but also at how to see it. They signify another way of seeing things, or, in other words, another way of thinking. They represent the tipping point where perception becomes sight, or sensation becomes sensuality, or introspection changes to looking to the light. In fact, they uniquely prefigure the background and the framing of the images in Le Bord du jour.

The background to this latest portfolio by Jacques Vilet is mainly Pomerania: a spectacular region that opens up in a series of panoramic views that appear ready to be painted. The chalk cliffs of the island of Rügen, the Baltic Sea and the ruins of Eldena Abbey are thus inspirations for tortured images.
This background of Le Bord du jour is simply letting us know that these places are precisely the same as those sublimated in the lyrical, early nineteenth-century paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, the romantic who sought to reveal the spirituality of these landscapes charged with mystical symbolism.

Since then, in contrast to Friedrich’s theatrical figures drenched in tragic religiosity, the white cliffs,
the headless willow trees and the calm skies we see in these images seem to speak to us of the agnostic simplicity of the photographic process. The palette of greys, the precision, the abundant light, in short the technical and aesthetic characteristics of the photographs in which these landscapes appear, underline for us, in the same way as the openings do in Vilet’s earlier work, the paradigm change, the distancing from any sort of pictorial creed. They allow us, in passing, to become observers with no preconceptions, seeking, if not transcendence, then at least a way to follow. They also remind us of all that had been - which did not matter much to Friedrich - but also that the photographer, out of necessity, had been there.

Vilet’s presence as a subject does not render any of his landscapes more truthful than those of Friedrich, but it gives us certainty that the piece of the ice field in the photo is ice that Vitel had himself seen and the rock is one in front of which he placed his camera. This anchoring in the real world is part of the equation of the image to come, an equation he solves by his positioning on the ground, his physical viewpoint eventually determining his intellectual viewpoint.

As much as Friedrich looked inward to his own internal world, so photographers like Vilet have persuaded themselves that their confrontation with the real world can preserve them from clichés. Rather than create their images by adding to a blank canvas like painters, they do so by cutting and removing things from the self-effacing profusion of the real world, and, above all, by avoiding the similarly prolific imagery of picture-postcards.

Originally, the challenge was to confront these picture-postcard stereotypes, without, even involuntarily, succumbing to them. The railings running along some of the cliffs in various photos in this book could thus be seen as much as safety barriers, to prevent those considering the clichés of representing landscapes from falling. Why not? It could also be that the railings were put in such sublime surroundings because solitary meditation is an activity valued by the masses, as can be seen from the boat crowded with tourists in the final photograph.

The sun we can see in the preceding image has almost disappeared. It had accompanied us all through this book, very discreetly, like in winter or just before it appears at daybreak. It has distilled various intensities of light without ever becoming spectacular. Light which gives way to nuances and inspires us to many thoughts or even to introspection. It is this light that has made us realise that, to really appreciate the true value of Jacques Vilet’s highly penetrating photographs, we need from time to time to close our eyes.

Jean-Marc Bodson

Excerpt from «Le Bord du jour», Arp2 Publisher.

Courtesy Albert Dumont Gallery


Jacques Vilet, «Le Bord du jour»
ARP2 Publishing, Brussels, 2019. With support from Contretype.
Size: 23 x 27 cm, 96 pages, 54 photographs in bichromy.
Words from Jean-Marc Bodson.
Hardcover, clothed and printed dust jacket.
ISBN 978-2-930115-57-3. Price: 35 Euros.

Jacques Vilet was born in Tournai (Belgium) in 1940

Training: self-taught photographer - Sales Engineer, Brussels University (1961)

Teaching: at ERG-Islap, Brussels, from 1981 to 2003
Member of Royal Academy of Belgium

Main personal exhibitions:

2019 Bruxelles, Galerie Contretype - Le Bord du Jour
Bruxelles - Maison CFC (ex-Quartiers Latins) - Lucarnes-Mosaïques
2017, 2014, 2011 Bruxelles, galerie Albert Dumont
2015 Bruxelles, Galerie Contretype - Archéologie Subjective
2014 Zeebrugge, Galerie MGArt - Landscape II (avec Bob Verschuren)
2010 Jambes, Galerie Détour - Boîtes à couture ; Classements Cent Suites
2006 Douchy-les-Mines (F), Centre Régional de la Photographie Nord Pas-de-Calais – Fenêtres Luxuriantes
2005 Châteauroux (F) – La Médiathèque – Bocage, 2002-2004
2003 Ath – Maison Culturelle – L’Observatoire Photographique du Paysage et Les jardins du garde-barrière
Galerie Guy Ledune, Bruxelles - Le Bord du Jour
2001 Galerie Guy Ledune, Bruxelles - Paysages Domestiques
1998 Maison de la Culture, Namur - Le Bord du Jour
1994 Musée Nicéphore Niepce, Châlon sur Saône - Rétrospective
1991 Galerie Michèle Chomette, Paris – Escaut Source Océan
1990 Galerie Arena, Arles
1986 Galerie Michèle Chomette, Paris ; Galerie Contretype, Bruxelles
1978 Galerie Aspects, Bruxelles

Main group exhibitions:

2015 Musée d'Ixelles (Bruxelles) - Le paysage dans l'art en Belgique
2015 Château de Seneffe (B) - Moi, toi et le jardin
2016, 2008, 2009 Verviers, musée des Beaux-Arts ; Drogenbos, Musée Félix De Boeck ; La Louvière, Musée Ianchelevici – Le Cube au Carré
2007 Stavelot – Galerie Triangle Bleu – Rien n'est sans voix
2006 Bruxelles, Le Botanique – Dimensions Intérieures
2004 Bruxelles, Galerie Guy Ledune – Portraits/Autoportraits
Prague (CZ) ; Budapest (H), Maimano - Braga (P), Museu da Imagem - PaysSages (Contretype)
2003-2004 Namur - Maison de la Culture – Vies Silencieuses
2000 Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux Arts – Voici, Cent Ans d'Art Contemporain.
1998-1999 Budapest (H), Museum of Contemporary Art - Sheffield (GB), City Museum and Mappin Art Gallery - Admissions of Identity
Vienne (A), Fotogalerie Wien - Natur-Vegetation 1, Landschaft
1997 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale François-Mitterand - La Photographie au Présent
1994 Paris, Mois de la Photo, Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles : La Ville en Eclats
1993 Coimbra (P), Encontros de Fotografia Bruxelles 04°50° (Contretype)
New-York, Galerie ArtWall+B : Belgian Contemporary Photography
Charleroi, Musée de la Photographie : Pour une histoire de la photographie en Belgique
1992 Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou : Mission Photographique Transmanche
1988 Houston (USA) FotoFest, International Festival of Photography : Windows
1984 Rotterdam (NL): Het Stilleven in de Fotografie


"Le Bord du Jour" - éd.ARP2, 2019
"Un lent départ" - éd. Les déjeuners sur l'herbe, 2014 (avec Michèle Vilet, écrivain)
"L'orient des chemins" - éd. Esperluette, 2012 (avec Serge Meurant, poète)
"Bocage - Regards croisés" – Cahier 2, La Compagnie du Paysage, F 36170 La Châtre Langlin, 2004
"Conversation avec… Jacques Vilet" – Yvonne Resseler – Editions Tandem, Gerpinnes (B), 2002
"Forêt d'Orient", Observatoire Photographique du Paysage - ARP-Editions, Bruxelles, 2001
"Escaut Source Océan" Mission Photographique Transmanche, Cahier 8 - Ed.CRP/ Douchy (F), 1991
Collective book:
" 04°50° - La Mission Photographique à Bruxelles" - Ed. Contretype, Bruxelles, 1991
"L'orient des chemins" (avec Serge Meurant, poète) - éd. Esperluette, 2012

Commissions, missions:

2003-2004 Le paysage de bocage en Boischaut-Sud, La Compagnie du Paysage, Indre, France
1997-2006 L'Observatoire Photographique du Paysage sur le Parc Naturel Régional de la Forêt d'Orient - Ministère de l'Environnement, France
1990-1991 La Mission Photographique à Bruxelles - Galerie Contretype, Bruxelles
1988-1991 Mission Photographique Transmanche - Centre Régional de la Photographie Nord Pas-de-Calais, Douchy-les- Mines, France


Folkwangmuseum, Essen (D)
Centre Régional de la Photographie Nord Pas-de-Calais, Douchy (F)
Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi
Ministère de la Communauté Française, Bruxelles
Musée Nicéphore-Niepce, Châlon-sur-Saône
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
Provinciaal Museum voor Fotografie, Anvers
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
Paris-Audiovisuel, Paris
Agnès b, Paris
Groupe Lhoist, Limelette, Paris.