Untitled, 2014 – 2017

Valentin Carron

Foam glass, mineral plaster with glass fibre, quartz sand, acrylic resin varnish
Various sizes

© 2015, Valentin Carron

Image copyright Stefan Altenburger

I’m interested in a second-hand past: not in Picasso, but in a version of modernism you find in town halls, civic centres and small-town churches – taken off its pedestal and passed down into everyday life and the provinces.

The Swiss artist Valentin Carron likes to work with found materials: he takes other artworks, craft objects or architectural elements, imitating, translating and reworking them. His concern is often “Swissness” and the role played by objects loaded with meaning in generating a feeling of national belonging. Such works feature prototypical emblems or symbols of Switzerland: clocks, summit crosses, or handcrafts like a large bear carved out of wood. But Carron replicates these things in synthetic materials like polystyrene. In this way, while clearly marking them as “fakes” that have been deliberately imitated, his approach also reveals the tradition to which they belong as something made and imagined. Where rustic handcrafts and authentic rural life are at home, he finds deliberate fabrication of tradition for reasons of social cohesion. Carron once glimpsed at a modernist church façade during a train ride from Lausanne to Vevey, Switzerland. The results of that memory appears now as another “manipulation of tradition” high up on the wall in the foyer outside the auditorium at Swiss Re Next. At first glance, the 23 flat objects arranged distantly resemble abstract painting. In fact, however, they are replicas of the windows of the aforementioned church. The originals have been reconstructed using, amongst other materials, splinters of glass and acrylic paint, the concrete has been convincingly imitated with filling compound. He has already used such abstract windows composed of glass fragments in several other works. This technique, known as “dalle de verre” and developed as early as the 1930s, was especially popular in the immediate post-war period. For Carron, these windows bring together many themes: they stand for the promise of modernism and of abstraction, including some transcendental and religious undertones. But they also stand for the generalization, popularization and, finally, devaluation of this lofty vision.

More Commissioned Art projects by Valentin Carron: