Review: Noémie Goudal at the new London gallery of Edel Assanti

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Glued climates and decomposed images: Noémie Goudal at the new London gallery of Edel Assanti

French artist Noémie Goudal’s new exhibition “Post Atlantica” – which opens Edel Assanti’s new Fitzrovia Gallery – is an in-depth exploration of climate, philosophy and natural history

There is no certainty in the work of Noémie Goudal. The landscapes mix and the perspectives are constructed. Depth is illusory, time elastic; the images are corrupted, others executed.

Like the territories she travels, Goudal’s practice flows and bursts with knowledge, both ancient and modern. Theories emerge from the dusty sheets of natural history and exploration of remnant geology. Prehistoric territories are depicted in both primitive and technological ways – from paper craftsmanship to optical engineering. It is a realm of theater and conjuring; but also philosophy and discovery.

While for the past ten years Goudal’s work has skimmed the notions of time and geography, his current corpus, Atlantic Post, is specifically oriented towards paleoclimatology – the study of past climate; surveying the depths of the past, aiming to steal a glimpse of the future. It’s the precise melting point that “triggers the imagination,” she says.

Installation view of Noémie Goudal, ‘Post Atlantica’ at Edel Assanti, 2022 © Will Amlot, Courtesy Edel Assanti

The latest iteration of the work – produced over the past nine months – is the inaugural exhibition at Edel Asstanti’s new Fitzrovia Gallery, on the site of the former Ames House, the first YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) hostel ), from 1904. architects Sanchez Benton, the new space pays homage to its historic role in the emancipation of women at the end of the 19th century, while retaining the essence of its original Arts & Crafts style – flooded of natural light and with a generosity of proportion through its “connected family of rooms”, as the Sanchez Benton team describes it.

In the center of the stage, a hectic installation 4m high, Phoenix, climbs in the rafters. A scintillating matrix of tropical palm trees, it is in fact a photographic anamorphosis, formed from an already “decomposed” image. “Everyone says an image is flat. I don’t think so at all,” says Goudal. Phoenix talks about the exhaustion of images and the limits of trust. The rate at which our planet is changing is incomprehensible, and it is indeed within our own anthropocentric time frame that we thought the world was flat.

To the left: Phoenix IV, 2021; to the right: Phoenix Vby Noémie Goudal

Approaching the gallery through the double entrances on Little Titchfield Street and Mortimer Street, a triptych of spaces gives way to photographic triptychs (between sculptures and films). There are three snow-capped Pyrenean escarpments (Diving), inspired by the study of 300 million year old water droplets by the naturalist Camille Dusséaux. Only on closer inspection do they reveal Goudal’s signature staged interventions: cardboard and paper “literally cutting through mountains”, as the artist describes it, in conscious mimicry of the geological “splicing” of Dusséaux. A wall projection depicts three jagged banks of Collioure, on the south coast of France, Untitled (Waves) – black volcanic rocks are beaten by a storm. “These rocks are so expressive,” said Goudal to himself; it is a landscape cherished by the artist since childhood.

With both series, Goudal’s three-act process – research, expedition and chance encounters – lends layers of intensity. Lately, she’s been learning more about “going with the flow” to find inspiration. From the serendipity of the spring meltwaters in the Cirque de Gavarnie (it was as if “the mountain were crying” says Goudal) to confronting the full force of a coastal storm; she is ready to adapt.

“Post Atlantica” reveals the growing vitality of the performative in Goudal’s practice. While her constructions can otherwise be staged “in two seconds on Photoshop”, the physical journey and grafting are processes she needs, “the experience of living something with people”. The photograph, on the other hand, is far from being a simple document. It’s a canvas to talk about environmental issues, ‘the vestige of a beautiful moment’, she says.

Installation view of Noémie Goudal, ‘Post Atlantica’ at Edel Assanti, 2022 © Will Amlot, Courtesy Edel Assanti

The final work of Goudal’s exhibition in London, Inhale Exhale, is both a literal and figurative bridge spanning this showdown between idea and action. The subject of the film is the Bering Strait (which appears to have been frozen over during the last Ice Age allowing humans to cross the Arctic to reach the American continent), and it is steeped in the political and meteorological drama of this geography, but through a whole different story. , equatorial landscape. As the film inhales, then exhales, a 3m high backdrop rises and falls from a swamp, a tribute to the sails of ancient seas and a nod to ‘traveling earth’. We might temporarily alter our perspective, but there’s no escaping the planet’s epic moves. Inhale Exhale is to question “what belongs to the earth… and how we are changing our world”.

Kitsch, chimera and apparition are at the heart of Goudal’s penetrating gestures. “The illusion helps to question this image,” she says. Like each of us, works are conceived, produced, executed and extinguished. The past is slippery and the future even more hazy. But what Noémie Goudal manages to evoke with crystalline, mind-blowing clarity is the constant shifting of this ground. §

Installation view of Noémie Goudal, ‘Post Atlantica’ at Edel Assanti, 2022 © Will Amlot, Courtesy Edel Assanti

Installation view of Noémie Goudal, ‘Post Atlantica’ at Edel Assanti, 2022 © Will Amlot, Courtesy Edel Assanti

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