Noemie Goudal is an up-and-coming name in the world of art photography. Parisan-born, she now lives in London having studied at Central St Martins College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. In the last few years, she has exhibited internationally, currently showing in the Saatchi Gallery’s Out of Focus exhibition, and the Corinthia Hotel – who have awarded her their first artist in residence position.
Goudal’s photographs are characterised by their sense of theatricality. Via compositional and technical devices, she creates multiple layers that parody set design. The results are clever juxtapositions that play on themes of fantasy and reality, combining the static with the transitional, the natural with the man-made, and the whimsical and playful with the strange and thoughtful. Often devoid of a human presence, they place the onus on the viewer to offer up their own narrative.
In a conversation with Glass, Goudal talks about her latest series for the Corinthia Hotel in London and some of the ongoing themes of her work. How are the images of your latest series related to space? I work a lot with backdrops that I make with paper, and the idea was to open views of escapism throughout the hotel. I choose a few different places. I wanted to have one of the rooms that was very intimate and a very personal space, where people felt a sense of privacy, and then the more public downstairs area, and then the spa as well which I thought was quite an interesting area of the hotel especially it’s where a lot of people go.
Your work focuses a lot on the interrelationship between nature and culture. Is this an ecological comment or are there other motivations? In all my series there is the sense that the man-made and the organic are intertwining . People see this straight away because it is a common universal concern at the moment and I don’t necessarily want all my series to be about that. What I try and do is offer as many readings as possible, so I don’t want my images to be about one thing or another. I think it’s a journey where hopefully people can reinvent their own stories, or offer questions that they can think upon.
You want your pictures to be open ended, but the nature of this project has meant you’ve had to use quite specific sites and locations … Yes, that’s why this series was different from all the others. It’s the first one that is very narrow framework. I had to use this space here. For all the other series I had the whole world to photograph, which presents its own problems. It strikes me that in past work your chosen , or created, built spaces that have a deliberately makeshift quality, or a sense of decay here you’re dealing with a high luxury space. Yes. For me it was a very good exercise and a challenge. You’ve got this space and you’ve got to do something with it. At the beginning it was extremely difficult. The architecture is very clean and a lot more minimal and straight lined then what I usually use, that’s why I really needed to show how the images had been constructed, the tape that joins the panels of the image together and the underside of the paper for instance, so that you always know that the backdrop is a fiction, is a story. You want people to ... I keep saying “I want people” but people can do whatever they want, it not for me to decide!
You’ve mentioned this idea of fiction and escapism in your work but it doesn’t always lead to a comfortable feeling. There is a sense of displacement and dislocation, as well as a feeling of the undoing and an unravelling of your environment which is quite unsettling. Is that an intention? I have heard that before, some people find them quite austere and negative. I think it’s a way of bringing different places into the same image and a play on layers. It’s decomposing in order to recompose something, to recompose another story. I also like the idea of offering new perspectives, as well as new stories, so you have a space and just by placing something else in it you can alter it. That’s what I’m trying to do in all the images.
by Freya Wigzell
Noemie’s work can be seen at the Corinthia Hotel and the Saatchi Gallery’s Out of Focus exhibition until June 2, or on her website here