Claudia Comte is a Swiss artist who grew up in a small village on the edge of the mountainous Jura Vaudois nature reserve – surrounded by meter-high trees that would appear in her work years later. In the mean time she lives in Berlin, and explores the many facets and patterns of nature through a multitude of media and materials. It is as if her work examens how nature arises as an artificial phenomenon, made by human actions.
Comte is interested in the memory of natural materials, and how they are shaped by different human technologies. In her sculptural work Comte often uses a chainsaw. She started doing this during her studies – cutting tree trunks into roughly curved volumes, zigzag shapes, or a rudimentary cactus. However, this process has become much more refined over the years, and now the wooden sculptures are sanded, polished and oiled. When you see her exceptionally delicate and refined wooden sculptures, it is almost unimaginable that they were made with a chainsaw.
Besides sculptural work, Claudia Comte also makes paintings. These are often colour gradients or monotonous lines on shaped canvases. These works are reminiscent of geometric abstraction and the colourful and illusionistic op-art from the sixties. But here, too, a play of natural patterns forms the basis of her work. Comte makes these in an almost Zen way of painting, if it were not for the fact that the result again feels almost cartoonesque.
Claudia Comte’s paintings and sculptures come together in exhibitions in large installations in which optical-illusionist murals often play an important role. Transformation is a central concept in many of Comte’s murals. With Curves and Zigzags, for example, she made a gigantic mural (on a specially constructed 30-metre long wall) in the Californian desert, in which a line slowly transforms, from an angular zigzag pattern to gently sloping, organic curves.
For the 15th Billboard Series, Claudia Comte makes a work that functions in the same way as her murals – although here the pattern was not literally made on the wall, but on a billboard. Her Lines Morphing into Waves (blue gradient) shows the languid transformation of a line into a wave, against a gradient background that just as slowly changes from dark blue to bright white. The work was made especially for Billboard Series, and finds its origin in the undulating lines of the water next to the billboard.
Although Lines Morphing into Waves (blue gradient) inevitably subscribes to a modernist tradition, and formally joins the illusionist op-art of the sixties, Comte wants to create a work that transforms the place around the billboard and makes it accessible to everyone. Or as she herself says: ‘There is no hierarchy between the public and the content of the murals. Whether you are old or young, whether or not you have experience in looking at art, this work is for everyone – depending on what he or she wants to see”.
Curated by Artlead / Thomas Caron
All images courtesy of the artist
Installation photography: Michiel De Cleene
Billboard Series is a long-term art project in public space, for which every three months an artist is invited to create a new, site-specific work for a 50 m2 billboard on Dok Noord, Ghent. Through changing presentations, Billboard Series wants to build a sustainable and productive dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape, reflect on the changes that this neighbourhood is currently undergoing, and introduce a broad audience to different visual languages and ways of looking at the world.
Billboard Series is a project of artlead, together with the non-profit organizations artlead offline and 019. Billboard Series takes place within a scenography by architect Olivier Goethals, and is being developed with the support of the City of Ghent and the Flemish Community.