For a quarter of a century, Paris Photo has established itself as an unmissable event in the photography market. Galleries, publishers and artists are exhibited there. The emerging photographic scene notably has a dedicated space: the Curiosa sector. Inaugurated in 2015, the sector offers young galleries the opportunity to participate in a leading art fair and introduces new talents to collectors. Commissioner Holly Roussel, curator at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, presents a selection of 16 galleries representing 17 artists from 12 different countries.
Curiosa invites visitors to discover new contemporary photographic trends by highlighting photographic and artistic explorations beyond traditional genres. The selection includes three themes, organized in “capsules.” The first capsule focuses on current practices in landscape photography, the second on new forms of self-portraits and the last on experimental and conceptual approaches in image construction.
Crossed Views On the World
Some artists will exhibit in France for the first time. That is particularly the case of Pao Houa Her, a visual artist from Laos whose work is mainly centered on the history of the Hmong people and their complex colonial past. In “The Imaginative Landscape,” she presents what she imagines as her grandmother’s ideal Laos. Inspired by her family history, she fusions landscape, photography and history to draw attention to the legacy of the Hmong diaspora.
Togolese Silvia Rosi is another artist who addresses her history and the complex subject of crossed identities. She portrays themes about family and heritage through colored self-portraits. She integrates symbols freely into her work: books that allude to her father’s education and tomatoes that symbolize his status as a migrant agricultural worker upon his arrival in Italy.
In their constant search for new forms to express their curiosity, each emerging artist pushes the limits of photography. Jaya Pelupessy explores hybrid processes to construct her images. In his latest series, “Manufactured Manual,” he uses screen printing as a canvas to directly expose multi-colored layers. The artist plays with images’ physical borders, using pictures from photography manuals and digital tools like Photoshop.
His approach to photography echoes the work of the photographer Jean-Vincent Simonet, described by Holly Roussel as an “experimental practitioner” who repeatedly declines the limits of digital printing and introduces new techniques, including film, special inks, resin and unique washing or drying processes. His work almost goes beyond photography to get closer to painting.
The works of Sabrina Ratté also reflect the blurring of genres. Through her experimental images, she invents landscapes set somewhere between the physical and virtual worlds. Her futuristic compositions present a utopian universe combining 3D animation, photography, video synthesis and digital manipulation. For Holly Roussel, “Ratté’s work forces us to contemplate our relationship with the virtual, the way we affect it and how it, in turn, modifies us.”
Matthieu Gafsou’s concern for the environment is also evident in his works. He raises awareness about the planet’s degradation by exploring the depth and expressive potential of landscape photography. In his “Living” series, Gafsou questions our relationship to the world and our place among the living. His approach, both formally conscious and emotionally sensible, combines intimate dimensions and global issues.
Presenting oneself bears a prominent place in this years selection. In the sensual and mysterious self-portraits of the British artist Juno Calypso, the female body is shown half-autobiographically, half-fantasy. Her almost artificial retro aesthetic is close to the world of Tommy Kha, the homosexual Asian American artist based in the Southern United States who questions gender through self-portraiture and family albums. By manipulating digital images, he alters his appearance, molding it into masks, cut-outs, tattoos, puzzles and 3D prints. The image seems entirely constructed and, according to Holly Roussell, “denies the viewer the comfort of an understandable and singular gaze, and prevents a one-sided reading of identity, race or gender.”
The 17 artists have a unique position as witnesses of our society in a world overflowing with images and information. The Curiosa sector invites you to see the world differently by reflecting on the diversity of human experiences, concealed or not, in an innovative and inspiring way.
Paris Photo: from November 11 to 13, 2022, Grand Palais Éphémère, Champ-de-Mars, Place Joffre, 75007 Paris.