#143 Sacred Site, Libye, 2006, 26°37’12″N 13°13’14″E

Sacred Site 3, 201 – 2017

Shadow to Light Inscribed in the Beauty of Things
(version en français)

For almost thirty years, Jacques Pugin has been searching for places in our world that express the complex relationship between man and nature. Places that harbour traces of the mystery of creation and yet already show the perturbing shadow of the future. Modelled by various cultures, sciences or religions, the eye that seeks out the secrets of life naturally turns towards the sea, the deserts or the mountains. On those sites, the violence, hostility and primitive beauty of nature reveal the soul and put the body to test. There, the photographer comforted by the aesthetic evidence, finds a reality within the play of light which is not simply material or merely emotional or pure form. From primordial chaos a form of intelligence does manifest itself. Photography reveals here an indiscernible thought and force that emanates from pure visual beauty.

These immense spaces where time is no longer on a human scale answer to an absolute desire within which contradictory sentiments marry: the apocalypse and enchantment of the world, spiritual emanation and absolute emptiness, life and death.

The three monotheistic religions were born in the desert and the romantic spirit of the sublime was incarnated in the mountains, fields of the ruins of the creation of the world. In the never ending horizontal regeneration of the desert sands as in the glacial verticality of the mountains, nature has always been too powerful for man. It provides him with a certain freedom but in return, it teaches him about the fragility of life and even more so, the consciousness of his inexistence.  Above and beyond beauty and poetry it is also the synchronization of cultures that characterizes these places that the photographer measures with a vision that reunites sky and earth, shadow and light, emotion and reason.

Certain landscapes are the raw material with which to build, others present the circumscribed sites that are the inheritors of stigmata that Jacques Pugin reveals while captivating a dimension that is uncommon in photography, that of the sacred.  His subtle but nonetheless spectacular interpretation is at the frontier of vision and thought. The coherence which emanates from this series of photographs invites visual meditation. Beyond naturalism and illusion, without which there can be no representation, he sketches indecipherable secrets that only the spirit can imagine. From image to image, the sentiment of one work woven into another becomes evident and thus reveals the essence if not the framework of the creation.

At the centre of these photographs, shadows, monoliths, stone circles and installations of ruins evoke the memory of either a prophet or elsewhere the passing of a saint or a god’s hand.  The sacred places, marked by forgotten miracles of unknown values or of lost civilizations feed us with a vision of time in images whose scale is proportional to their vastness. That which cannot be illustrated but only suggested is introduced through kinds of additional signs by the photographer who directly reworks his pictures through drawing, painting or typography. By modifying the appearances of places or landscapes, and by integrating in his photography links between the invisible streams of the present and those of the past and future, Jacques Pugin penetrates his images symbolically. He adds an existential element and reinvents by reflection the assembled myths of our culture.

Pilgrim of the eye, the photographer manufactures images that not only show what is but also what we are: little on the human scale, even less on the scale of civilization and nothing on the scale of time. From the void and desperation of our origins is also born man’s introspection that continually reinvents hope amidst sensuality and sacrifice. The lively colours and brilliant light are reflected in the symbolic mirror that Jacques Pugin offers us. He projects us in time and solitude. Sacred places are passing territories and experiences, made of beauty and mystery. It is fascinating to be caught up in this world.

Daniel Girardin
ex Curator of the Musee de l’Elysée, Lausanne

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