Le bout du monde (The back of beyond)
27/03 - 26/05/19

Fr | NL


© Lynn Vanwonterghem, series “Le bout du monde”, 2018, 70 x 105 cm

When night falls, some villages, rather more than big cities, seem to be able to transform themselves into something other than a simply darker version of their daytime selves… Of course, Magnée is not London, Lisbon or Chicago…nor even Twin Peaks, although that latter comparison is perhaps the most apt. For, in a remote (remote from where? far away from what?) village like Magnée, daily life can appear a little obscure, too mundane and hopelessly predictable - hardly spectacular and not at all photogenic. However, it’s precisely there that the question behind a glance or a feeling can be raised.

For those who know how to look, nothing is flat or predictable there; every detail, every nuance counts, the apparent weight of expectation that appears in the absence of chance or habit, but never a sense of emptiness.

What is unusual in Lynn Vanwonterghem’s story about her village - based, it could be said, on its “double life” by day and by night, heads and tails, Jekyll and Hyde - is not immediately obvious to our eyes. Everything is hidden in the infra-thin, the unsaid, the suggested. The impression that something has just happened, could happen, could only happen; or, on the contrary, has every reason to hide itself; or, even more, would be too enormous to express itself or to show itself. Sometimes, it’s the darkness that reassures and the daylight that asks questions.

There is the simple beauty of the countryside and the changing light; the familiarity or strangeness of faces, sometimes even of those closest to us; their obviousness or their silence. There are one or two rural activities, a few things to do, a little commerce. The images sometimes have a touch of the cinematic, the excessively rigid, the indeterminate. Some people are present, others absent, there are simple joys and silent anguish. Above all, there is the serenity of friendship, which rubs up against the timid, untamed growls of the darkness, the fire which warms, wounds or fascinates, and the shadows we share like secrets, in a simple glance; in the end human warmth that doesn’t know the names of towns or remote corners. It is these that make the images that leave traces and memories behind them.

Some phrases too, finely-wrought yet essential and modest. Like a conversation in the street, they seem to say nothing more than what we already know - but they remind us, precisely, of the things we do not know, and what such things really mean. The photos are beautiful, they adapt easily to being enlarged to cover the walls of a gallery; but they are not stupid, they don’t feel at home in the discreet folds of these two small, sober, notebooks, a girl’s diary like so many others, but one which has chosen to treat itself with a few images rather than lots of words.

Who knows what the future holds for Lynn; having just graduated from St Luke’s College of Art in Liège, she is still of an age when she cannot be reproached for her freshness and naivety. There is no doubt that each of us will enjoy finding in her work what we value most in the work of any photographer: a character, a disposition. Her work bears the signature of adolescence, that eternal and rather wonderful state of instability, half-way between clumsy mistakes and an intuitive sense of the sublime. The fragility of her work has, in any case, enchanted her teachers and her graduation panel, then Jean-Marie Wynants (who held an exhibition of her work in the “Le Soir” gallery at the Museum of Photography), and, now, the exhibitions committee here at Contretype… All of us - and perhaps you too - who, in a corner of our minds or our childhood memories, “come from Magnée”, and retain something from there, or perhaps have a need to return there, with a sense of wonder or with a huge question mark hanging over us.

Emmanuel d’Autreppe

Translation: Chris Bourne

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© Lynn Vanwonterghem, series “Le bout du monde”, 2018