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EXHIBITION

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REVIEW

Cyprien Gaillard: The Lake Arches At the Laura Bartlett Gallery, 22 Leathermarket Street, London SE1, until 16 December

This first show in Britain by the young French artist Cyprien Gaillard is a sophisticated reflection on contemporary and historical modes of landscape depiction. Through prints, film and photography, Gaillard develops a rich juxtaposition between European urban periphery landscapes of the 20th century, with their architecture of mass housing, and 17th and 18th-century European landscape paradigms.

In his concern for post-war tower-block architecture, Gaillard seemingly follows a path trodden by successful photo-documentary artists of the 1980s and '90s, such as Gabriele Basilico. But Gaillard is ultimately disdainful of a purely photographic response to such architecture, insisting that photography can be for him only a starting point.

His aim to transform and critique the photographic document is announced by a series of etchings, collectively entitled Belief in the Age of Disbelief. In each of these five prints, a photograph of a distinct tower-block form is transferred into a Dutch landscape etching from the 17th century; a Rembrandt and a Jan Hackaert are among the borrowed terrains.

Gaillard's own first-hand documentations of landscape involve the use of 35mm film, and the show includes a work entitled Real Remnants of Fictive Wars, Part 5. The film projector chugs noisily like a farm tractor, but the scene it reveals is one in which traces of labour have been completely erased, for it is an ordered landscape vista, the lawns and arboretum of a French château.

As the camera slowly pans across the scene from left to right, blasts of thick white smoke erupt from high up in a mature copper beech. The camera lingers until the smoke dissipates, before a second pan begins, narrowing attention onto the beech itself, its foliage now covered in a powdery white residue, and appearing every bit like an etching itself.

This exuberant event in Gaillard's landscape, like a cannonade discharge on a Napoleonic battlefield, is in fact caused by fire extinguishers let off by hidden assistants.

Gaillard and collaborators have conducted and filmed a series of such 'explosions'subversively.

Despite the elegant composition of the Real Remnants series, they are renegade acts - like a graffiti practice transferred to landscape.

In a further piece called Geographical Analogies, Gaillard's work reveals a kinship with Robert Smithson's notion of the entropic landscape. 'Snapshot' photos are clustered within a cabinet, suggesting an account of a voyage. Intriguing associations are drawn between fragments of European and American, modern and 'primeval' topographies.

Like Smithson, Gaillard is capable of developing a genuine philosophy of landscape. His work reveals how our understanding of landscape is bound to its production as image, while it also seeks to define a radical practice of landscape intervention, a land art for the 21st century.

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