Sunday, May 20, 2007

David Lynch at the Fondation Cartier

A brief word on the David Lynch exhibition 'The Air is on Fire' at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. The show is a collection of Lynch's extra-curricular production over the last forty years (he has been going that long), consisting of paintings, sketches, photographs, short films, animation and even some music. Though there are many people that see the show as an artistic endeavour in its own right, the work is held together only by reference to his films, and the show reciprocates this by casting some fascinating light on them. The tone is also too jokey to take the intent too seriously, particularly when Lynch avows a fierce taxonomy one moment (his sketches, many of which are self-consciously done on napkins, post-it notes and airline sick bags, are displayed in the order of the way they are collected in his personal binder) and does the opposite the next (his impressive photographs are displayed, undated, as he requests).

There is also the McGuffinesque series of animated films, Dumbland that is sharply at odds with the usual cerebral menace of a Lynch film. His tableaux, heavy on impasto and innocents abroad in a fearsome world, are reminiscent of Max Ernst and Leon Golub, and are the clearest points of reference for the films. As if a point of reference would ever be that clear in the Lynchian world. Even if the opacity of the installation - which has been remarked by many - is really only generated by Lynch's playfulness, the exhibition remains an enigma. You don't leave it thinking that Lynch should be considered either a painter or a photographer to rival his stature as a filmmaker but it is instructive nonetheless. Incidentally I also spotted Stephen Merchant of The Office and Extras there, not near as tall as the Og-monster and seeming to be half-weary, half-hopeful of being recognised in Paris.