Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne, N° 320, Avril Mai 2005

 

Jean-Luc Mylayne (*1946) is acclaimed for a conceptual photographic practice that captures birds in their natural habitats and evokes philosophical questions about the perception of time. The French-born artist lives and works “in the world,” as he has repeatedly stressed. He and his wife and artistic collaborator Mylène (*1956)—also the inspiration for Mylayne’s adopted surname—lead a nomadic life centered on ornithological observation and encounters. The often months-long process needed to create the photographs makes them documents of a radical deceleration and a meditation on nature, life and transience.

 

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In 1978, Mylayne decided to devote his life to ornithological and photographic exploration. The decision came with a resolve to live a lifestyle guided by the rhythms of nature. His works are the result of a lengthy, contemplative study of often inconspicuous migratory and songbirds—Eurasian wrens, goldfinches or mountain bluebirds, for example—and their habitats in France, Texas and New Mexico. Equipped with a Hasselblad medium format and a Sinar view camera, he and his partner spend weeks and months exposing themselves to the natural environment of the animals and establishing a relationship that does not involve feeding or taming them. This process can sometimes take up to a year. The artists take great care in preparing for the moment décisif—the point at which the birds have become accustomed to the presence of human being, camera, tripod, flash and photographic equipment and, like actors, finally take their place in an envisaged motif. This scrupulous approach is also reflected in the titles of the photographs, which are numbered chronologically. Rather than naming the place where the image was taken or the species of bird shown, they only provide information about the year and time span of their creation.

The images are a stark departure from the conventions of documentary nature photography, and not just on account of their unusually long gestation period. The visual space of the works is emphatically non-hierarchical. The birds are rarely at the center of a composition; a viewer’s eye might first have to wander over the image to make them out. Virtuosic modulations of light and shadow reveal the flora of their habitat, seasons and times of day, the position of the sun and plays of clouds in the sky. The depicted landscapes sometimes show such ordinary traces of civilization as fences, power lines, farm equipment, various buildings, a boat or even a pair of red cowboy boots.

Mylayne deploys all the tools analogue imaging technology has to offer. Many of his complex tableaux use custom-made, hand-ground lenses in various combinations for a multifocal dynamic of sharpness and blurriness—a unique, specifically sculptural shaping of light with sometimes painterly effects. None of the images are digitally manipulated. The specific scale of the often large-format prints depends on the physical dimensions of the birds shown: The animals generally do not appear larger in the work than they do in the setting where they were photographed.

The subtle richness of detail, multilayered composition and almost mystically captured temporality of Mylaynes’s works defy traditional readings of the photographic. He consistently transforms the idyllic nature of conventional landscape depictions and reveals the beauty and sauvage element in nature beyond clichéd pictorial strategies. His idiosyncratic works challenge viewers to see in an associative way, offering a wide range of perceptive possibilities and endless new details to discover. The birds they capture become both symbol and symptom of a gaze that quietly puts man’s anthropocentric view of the world in its place.

 

Jean-Luc Mylayne: The Autumn of Paradise
Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, May 18–August 11, 2019
© Aargauer Kunsthaus
Video: Heta Multanen

Works
Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 520, Février Mars Avril 2007, 2007

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 520, Février Mars Avril 2007, 2007
C-print
185 × 230 cm (framed)
72 7/8 × 90 1/2 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 434, Décembre 2007 – Janvier 2008, 2007/2008

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 434, Décembre 2007 – Janvier 2008, 2007/2008
C-print
123 × 153 cm (framed)
48 3/8 × 60 1/4 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°476, Décembre 2006 - Mars 2007, 2006/2007

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°476, Décembre 2006 – Mars 2007, 2006/2007
C-print
190 × 153 cm (framed)
74 7/8 × 60 1/4 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°295, Mars - Avril 2005

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°295, Mars – Avril 2005
C-print
Diptych: 123 × 306 cm
(123 × 153 cm each) (framed)
Diptych: 48 3/8 × 120 1/2 cm
(48 3/8 × 60 1/4 inches each)
(framed)

More views
Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°194, Janvier Fevrier 2004, 2004

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°194, Janvier Fevrier 2004, 2004
C-Print
185 × 230 cm (framed)
72 7/8 × 90 1/2 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°60, Janvier Février 1987, 1987

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°60, Janvier Février 1987, 1987
C-print
50 × 50 cm
19 3/4 × 19 3/4 inches

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°61, Janvier Février 1987, 1987

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°61, Janvier Février 1987, 1987
C-print
50 × 50 cm
19 3/4 × 19 3/4 inches

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°450, Janvier Février Mars 2007, 2007

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°450, Janvier Février Mars 2007, 2007
C-print
183 × 183 cm (framed)
72 × 72 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°341, Avril Mai 2005, 2005

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°341, Avril Mai 2005, 2005
C-print
153 × 153 cm (framed)
60 1/4 × 60 1/4 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 160, Séptembre Octobre 2003, 2003

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 160, Séptembre Octobre 2003, 2003
C-print
123 × 123 cm (framed)
48 3/8 × 48 3/8 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°407, Avril Mai 2006

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°407, Avril Mai 2006
C-print
153 × 300 cm (framed)
60 1/4 × 118 inches (framed)

Details
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 520, Février Mars Avril 2007, 2007
C-print
185 × 230 cm (framed)
72 7/8 × 90 1/2 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 520, Février Mars Avril 2007, 2007
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 434, Décembre 2007 – Janvier 2008, 2007/2008
C-print
123 × 153 cm (framed)
48 3/8 × 60 1/4 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 434, Décembre 2007 – Janvier 2008, 2007/2008
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°476, Décembre 2006 – Mars 2007, 2006/2007
C-print
190 × 153 cm (framed)
74 7/8 × 60 1/4 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°476, Décembre 2006 - Mars 2007, 2006/2007
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°295, Mars – Avril 2005
C-print
Diptych: 123 × 306 cm
(123 × 153 cm each) (framed)
Diptych: 48 3/8 × 120 1/2 cm
(48 3/8 × 60 1/4 inches each)
(framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°295, Mars - Avril 2005
Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 295, Mars – Avril 2005 (detail)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 295, Mars - Avril 2005
Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 295, Mars – Avril 2005 (detail)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 295, Mars - Avril 2005
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°194, Janvier Fevrier 2004, 2004
C-Print
185 × 230 cm (framed)
72 7/8 × 90 1/2 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°194, Janvier Fevrier 2004, 2004
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°60, Janvier Février 1987, 1987
C-print
50 × 50 cm
19 3/4 × 19 3/4 inches

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°60, Janvier Février 1987, 1987
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°61, Janvier Février 1987, 1987
C-print
50 × 50 cm
19 3/4 × 19 3/4 inches

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°61, Janvier Février 1987, 1987
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°450, Janvier Février Mars 2007, 2007
C-print
183 × 183 cm (framed)
72 × 72 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°450, Janvier Février Mars 2007, 2007
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°341, Avril Mai 2005, 2005
C-print
153 × 153 cm (framed)
60 1/4 × 60 1/4 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°341, Avril Mai 2005, 2005
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 160, Séptembre Octobre 2003, 2003
C-print
123 × 123 cm (framed)
48 3/8 × 48 3/8 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N° 160, Séptembre Octobre 2003, 2003
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°407, Avril Mai 2006
C-print
153 × 300 cm (framed)
60 1/4 × 118 inches (framed)

Jean-Luc Mylayne
N°407, Avril Mai 2006
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Jean-Luc Mylayne
Jean-Luc Mylayne, N°524 Février Mars Avril 2007, 2007

Jean-Luc Mylayne
The Autumn of Paradise
Huis Marseille, Amsterdam
September 10–November 22, 2020

For more than forty years, the work of Jean-Luc Mylayne has focused on the encounter with birds, their fleeting presence captured by the camera. The bird in its natural habitat is Mylayne’s distinctive subject, serving not only as actor but also as conceptual partner on equal terms. The exhibition presents an ensemble of about forty works created between 1979 and 2008 and is a joint project with the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles, the Aargauer Kunsthaus, the Long Museum in Shanghai and the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hanover.

Link

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Van Gogh inspires: Jean-Luc Mylayne
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
September 11, 2020–February 14, 2021

Van Gogh and his love of nature is a special source of inspiration for Jean-Luc Mylayne (1946). Like Van Gogh, in his work he wants to express the connection he feels with nature. The artist chose three works specially for this presentation in the Van Gogh Museum. Each photograph is a unique impression.

Link
Jean-Luc Mylayne
Installation view Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, September 11, 2020–February 14, 2021
Photo: Luuk Kramer
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Jean-Luc Mylayne

Jean-Luc Mylayne
June 29–August 25, 2012
Berlin

Jean-Luc Mylayne has remained unremittingly interested in philosophical issues which examine the concept of existence and the experience of time. Proceeding from his activities as a philosopher and poet, he pursues investigations in his artistic work, through the medium of photography, in which he focuses on the motif of birds living in the wild as a metaphor for his philosophical research. In a time-consuming procedure, for the last more than thirty-five years, on journeys through the entire European continent as well as in America, the artist has observed songbirds such as sparrows, thrushes, and wrens.

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Jean-Luc Mylayne
April 16–May 29, 2010
London

In 1976, Jean-Luc Mylayne made the decision to sell his house, car and possessions in the pursuit of his craft, accompanied only by his wife and collaborator, Mylène. From the environs of Mylayne’s native Amiens, he was drawn to the skies and parched earth of Santa Fe, New Mexico and, more recently, to Fort Davis in Texas, the ‘stages’ for the works shown in this latest exhibition. A self-taught photographer and keen scholar of philosophy, Mylayne’s artistic endeavour would initially appear to hinge upon surreptitiously capturing images of birds. Upon closer inspection, however, Mylayne is engaging in an exploration of temporality and the relationship of humankind to both nature and the environments in which we live and how we perceive them.

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Jean-Luc Mylayne
Press

In inniger Vertrautheit
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, article by Gerhard Mack, June 7, 2019

Jean-Luc Mylayne Exchanging Views
Parkett, article by Matthew S. Witkovsky, December 2017

Understanding Life
Parkett, article by Josef Helfenstein, 2009

Angel of Repose
Parkett, article by Fionn Meade, 2009

Jean-Luc Mylayne
Camera Austria, article by Anne Bertrand, 2006

 

Biography

Jean-Luc Mylayne (*1946 in Marquise) lives and works in the world. Selected solo exhibitions include Kestnergesellschaft Hanover, Hanover (2020), Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Long Museum, Shanghai (all 2019), The Art Institute of Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago (all 2015), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2010), Musée d’Art contemporain de Lyon (2009), Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York (2007–2009), Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM (2004, 2005, 2010), Musée des Arts contemporains, Grand-Hornu (2004), Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1995), Musée d’Art moderne, Saint-Étienne (1991). Significant group exhibitions include Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London(2020), S.M.A.K., Ghent (2017), the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen (1998), 10th Biennale of Sydney (1996), Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich (1995).