In 2019, I began painting in acrylic on paper and canvas. First and foremost a photographer, I then decided to photograph my painted works - generating an innovative breakthrough in abstraction - in terms of composition, strength, and balance of colors. The paintings are not intended to be exhibited, rather they serve as subject matter for his future abstract photographs. My paintings in this way, become “Templates” designed to give birth to photographic works, in a collection called LikeAPainting. One template is used to make a body of 2 to 10 photographic works. Printing with archival pigmented ink on paper or canvas, a technique that comes very close to painting, I achieve an intentional visual confusion.
The photography that I call pictorial is a body of work I've developed with nuances of color close to the painter's palette. In function of rhythms, colors and forms, I explore abstraction through a variety of themes such as landscapes, seascapes, monochromes and other subjects always allied to a positive emotion. The abstraction of colors is associated with a light that is all-enveloping and bountiful. My pictorial photographs approximate the movement found in abstract expressionism, and more particularly in the Color Field paintings of Mark Rothko that invite contemplation and meditation.
The effects achieved by the movement and dance of my camera during shooting allows me to work on the motion of light. The energy of this motion is directly captured by the camera and then fixed on the photographic print without involving any other intervention. The sources of light and the play of reflections rendered by the subject provoke a visual experience closely akin to kinetic art and the experiments of Moholy-Nagy, which "use light as a formal primary factor, creating space and movement, and eliminating the central perspective of photography."
While my other abstract photographic works are all made 'during the shot', as it were, this new series starts from existing photographs that are then manipulated by computer with reference to the visual effects of Op Art (i.e. optical art), an artistic movement explored in the 1960s by Victor Vasarely, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Bridget Riley and Julio Le Parc among others. Unlike my previous photographs, the result here is controlled and mastered to obtain a graphic visual rendering based on optical illusion or the play of optical effects. This new artistic exploration allows me to accentuate the vibration of color and light, to structure forms that are more geometrical, there by reinforcing the sensation of movement and enhancing the viewer's visual experience.
Urban Traces Project is a continuation of an aesthetic reflection on abstraction, focusing in particular on the effects of structures, textures and colors taken from the urban environment. This series consists of a set of detailed images of pedestrian crossings or ground markings of megacities around the world. At first glance, these traces on the ground may seem very similar and yet, by taking a closer look at these city footprints, the artist reveals a great variety of colors and shapes linked to their wear, abrasion or gap, disappearing little by little in the movement of urban density. These successive layers in asphalt then appear as an archaeological mirror of our urban lives. A spiritual bond with the journey of the artist’s grandmother, Marie-Thérèse Ullens, who was a traveler, photographer, filmmaker and archaeologist. I have been working on the Urban Traces Project series since 2005 besides my abstract photographic work. In this series, abstraction is no longer obtained by the movement of the camera but by the subject itself.
By its nature, the forest is a place for meditation. It inspires painters, philosophers, as well as poets such as Victor Hugo in The Contemplations (Les Contemplations), or Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Reveries of a Solitary Walker (Rêverie d’un promeneur solitaire). I also loves to wander in nature, especially among the majestic trees of the Sonian forest nearby my home, in order to capture the rich colors changing over the seasons. Each peregrination has become a ritual. I go in search of a vibration, a light and a natural tone reminding my early abstract aesthetic photographic research that I have been exploring for over twenty years. All the photographs have been taken in the Sonian Forest. This forest is an urban forest located in South-East of Brussels in Belgium and it is one of the biggest urban forests in Europe. The Sonian Forest extends over nearly 5 000 hectares and his main characteristic is to be composed of 80% of beeches from plantation and natural regeneration.
All images, © Yves Ullens - Traqueur de Lumières