for the exhibition Paréidolias, 2008/2010

Nicolas Baier

(Translated by Jennifer Westlake)

Agnes Martin said that paintings are not about what is seen, but about what everyone has always known.

Isn’t that how it is with all paintings, whether they are abstract or not?

It seems to me that a piece of art almost always works as a mirror. People see and perceive themselves by exploring, by subconsciously rummaging through their knowledge and experiences.

Given that, is there any room left for new visual statements, abstract or not? If it’s mirrors people want, they will have them!

I decided to digitize many mirrors – dozens, hundreds of them. Each one is obviously very different.

You can tell them apart thanks to the traces and marks that years of use have left.

Time itself has also changed their appearance. Here, a stain darkens the whole thing; there, the silvering has broken down, taking with it the reflection it used to produce.

In these images of mirrors, the surface does not return its representation to the spectator.

It can only reflect in its heart of hearts.

The mirror has accompanied the history of painting since its invention. In my work, which has associated photography and painting since its very first stumbling steps, this is a fantastic object – an unexpected catalyst – that inspires reflection.

Hasn’t photography, in a way, replaced the mirror as a tool of transformation and conversion? These two tools result in the metamorphoses of tangible, palpable, three-dimensional reality into a plane, into images, into shifting reflections. In the end they turn the real into an idea; and existence, into an impression and a representation. The realer-than-real painterly image (surpassing even the works of Zeuxis and Parrhasius – their competition with their grapes and curtain) offers room for objectifying by facilitating the analytic gaze.

Mirrors are perception. Our eyes act as the sonar of our conscience. Objects, people, the slightest surface or plane that our eyes fall on; all this is no doubt just a reflection of oneself. This is how Rorschach tests work, as mirrors. We only see what we know. . . . Is doing the contrary of that the artist’s challenge? Mirrors, changing and multiplying our points of view as they do, allow for new observations – observations of the Other that are global (all-encompassing) while being almost always partial, fragmented and incomplete.