with Juliette Leperlier
Your work explores the intersection of alternative photography and glass through photo-
sculptures. Can you walk us through your creation process and the fusion of these two
mediums, how does the print practically happen?
Coming from the world of sculpture, I use photography as a raw material, infinitely
transformable. You can crop it, edit it, distort it, print it on different media, or simply make it
appear in the dark during a projection, on flat screens or even in volumes.
The « Naïades » series borrows the draping effect from art history as the evocation of a
body. I designed glass sculptures to receive photographs. I’ve always seen similarities
between the artistic process of those two techniques, mainly in the transformation from a
negative to a positive with the film in photography and the mould in sculpture. Also there is the importance of light that burns the photosensitive paper and activate glass transparency. A photosensitive emulsion is poured on the glass surface to reveal pictures.
A woman’s body appears through the depth of the glass, deformed by the optical effects.
The picture merges with the volume of the sculpture creating a whole new three- dimensional image
Printing on glass with liquid emulsion myself, I know there's a lot going on and to be aware of. In what moment of the creation process does the glass sculpture become a photo-
sculpture? Do you use a subbing/pre-coat method? What does the develop, stop and fix
process look like?
Like the pâte de verre process, the photosensitive emulsion is not an exact science! It is only
by trying, failing and starting over that one can master the technique, and casting emulsions on pieces that are 25kg and 45cm in diameter greatly complicates things!
I learned the basics from a professional photographer, Caroline Chik, who uses chrome alum
to adhere emulsion to glass. As for the developer, stopper and fixer baths, I refer to the manufacturer's advice (at the moment I use RBM3 from Rollei)
I call "photosculpture" all my experiments that combine photography and sculpture. I
classify them into 3 categories:
- Photography on glass, such as the “Naïades” series
- Photograms, which for me are the “inner lives” of my glass sculptures
- Photoprojections, which are projections of images on sculptures
Your sculptures give the impression of a suspended moment in time, yet there is a strong
sense of flow, fluidity and movement of glass, a sort of paradox between stillness and
movement. Do you think glass is a material with both stable and unstable qualities? what
Glass is an amorphous material that could be considered a solid as much as a liquid, and
despite an apparent stability is an « out of balance » material. From a scientific perspective, glass is an unstable atomic structure, disorderly like a liquid but steady like a solid.
My sculptures are designed to represent that flow of unstable material. They are forces in
movement frozen into time and space like waves caught in the cold. I like to give the illusion
of a fixed time, a moment between what was (a shape in formation) and what will be (the
imagination feeding from the blooming of the shape).
In photography we talk about snapshots, instants of life fixed on the film, glass is
just the same in its creative process. Inside the kiln, which rises to 900°C, glass melts and
flows into a plaster mould then stops running and freezes when it stops heating up.
I like to make an analogy between the latent image, which is awaiting development on the
film, and the glass shape which is developing inside the kiln.
Glass has a rich historical relationship with photography, dating back to early photographic processes. How do you see your work contributing to or building upon this
historical connection between glass and photography?
It was when I found old glass negatives in my grandmother's attic that the idea came to me
to create sculptures that displays photographs. Indeed the link between photography and
glass has existed since the beginning but it was for purely practical reasons.For my part, I do not want my sculptures to be simply a support for my photographs, instead I want a dialogue to be established between the two. In the Naïades series, the photograph is a woman's body that appears on a glass drape, and I play with the optical properties of the glass so that it dresses the naked body, or deforms it,
reflects it, magnifies it, in order to create a new 3-dimensional image.
Your family has a legacy in glass art, and you continue this tradition with your exploration
of the medium. How has your familiar background influenced your artistic journey and your
approach to working with glass in the context of photography? Has photography been a way
to remould and diversify your own personal work as opposed to your family legacy?
Indeed, I did not came to glass by chance, I am the 4th generation to perpetuate this
technique in the family and I tried to run away from it to find my own way, and maybe find
another material that corresponded more to my own artistic research. It was at the
Sorbonne that I discovered analog photography, and my research on the transparency of
materials by the photogram approach, finally brought me back to my father's studio!
This new approach to glass had eventually open up a new way of experimenting with the
material that sets me apart from the rest of my family.
The integration of glass and photography requires precision and attention to detail. How do you handle the margin of error inherent in these processes, and how do you navigate unexpected outcomes or mistakes in your artistic practice?
In glass as in photography, temporality plays an important role. It takes me about a month to make a glass casting sculpture, and there are so many stages in the creation that the work in progress is constantly changing. Each sculpture is the result of an intuitive work, empirical, sometime improvised. The process of creation is designed for longer term and during the creation I’m in doubt, the sculpture evolves with time.
What I show for a final result never is what I imagined at first. Threaten at each step, at each design, each material or gesture related contingency, the artwork evolves, change direction along its creation. Pâte de verre impose it’s constraints, I have to comply and accept its nature. I have the same philosophy with photography, my shots are not always perfect, and my emulsions are not always uniform, sometimes bubbles appear on the surface, but that's part of the experimentation. Sometimes (more often than not!) I find myself starting all over again, and from time to time there are lucky coincidences.