Gravity is an indispensable, absolute principle in our physical world. Yet, only a few recognise it in our lives. It is due to this invisible force that we are able to live in such a world with our feet on the ground. Until we see the way astronauts walk on low-gravity moon, we do not usually realise that the force exists in the world we live in.
Gravity is one of the oldest, proud traits of nature in its history as it came with the birth of the earth and it does not rely on any human power. However, we are so accustomed to this immense power that we forget the force exists at all. The same would go for, not only humans, but also our symbiotic animals—even with a massive elephants.
If someone asked to express this invisible power, how would you do it? French sculptor Daniel Firman presents an outstanding ability to visualise this invisible power as a visible force. He depicts the real circumstances around us through realistic and sophisticated expressions close to perfection—comparable to the traditional historical sculptures. However, on a close view, people may notice that there is a characteristic that seems unstable or impossible. After making the viewers to become aware of the gravitational force, the artist then neutralises it. This has been the way that Firman introduced his sculptural work.
One of the representative works of Daniel Firman is the elephant sculpture. An elephant, one of the heaviest mammals on earth, stands on its nose solely to hold its body upside down, sneering at gravity. As the artist favors life-size work, the figure reaches 7 meters 50 centimeters high. Looking at this elephant almost tricks people into thinking that they are in a space without gravity. A heavy body soaring up to the sky makes the gravity, the absolute power of one of the Earth’s fundamental principles, rather ridiculous, as the elephant’s pose is absolutely impossible even by the best from a circus.
This performance-based attribute extends to other series of work. Through the extension of his work in time and space, he presents the new work Concentrique with improvisation. He brings attention to the dance as it starts with the movement of the person. His interest is close to the level of deep research. This study reaches the point where the movement by choreographers and dancers have to stop from one motion to another in order to explore the balance of the body. The result of this study brings about the work Dance Gesture, which is one of his series of work. Here, the dancers implement contact improvisation, which leads to movement from the prior dancer who has taken the action first, and continues the choreography with the next dancer. In this process, he captures the dancer's movements and shapes them into new forms of action. The method of casting work that can be produced repetitively shows the artist's visual and metaphorical motions.
In addition, there is work which comes from the performance of the artist himself in extension of his prior work. Scattering Painting series is not a renown as his other works, but the work is very interesting as the performance becomes painted. His series of works can be found in the close relationship between art and dance that began in the 1960s in the United States. The work of this series takes the act of spraying a fire extinguisher injected with acrylic paint and is freely completed accordingly to the artist's movement.
Lastly, two essential elements in explaining Daniel Firman are wit and rhetoric. The work that shows the English word 'slowly' as a neon sign is done with a very fast handwriting contrary to its meaning. In another series Modelé avec la langue, his play on rhetoric stands out. This work, which seems to be a painting with a thick surface, makes it impossible for the viewer to understand whether the work is a painting or a relieved sculpture. This sculpture is made by stacking texture with the tongue rather than a brush. Expression of the texture that awakens the peripheral senses captures the movement of the tongue in an invisible state on a still surface. The movement of the tongue visible on the surface seems to be speaking as if the picture is pointing to the crowd.
Daniel Firman has introduced time and literacy into his works of art with his outstanding visual creations in an excellent manner. His research began with constant questionings of the relation in the reality, rather than a superficial world. It captures the passing moments in time and shows the 'present' of a stopped state. His talent of realising the delicate expression by approaching the form with the casting technique clearly reveals the details of the moment which cannot be pursued by the eyes. Through the works that reproduce moments of time, Firman constantly attempts to escape the fixed principles. In the end, his work is a challenge to an impossible perception or situation given to man and a manifestation of our freedom from our stereotypes and principles.
Text by Sahim Annette Shin, curator. Courtesy CHOI&LAGER Gallery.