Letizia Le Fur, Mythologies

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Rue Du Bouquet (here). Hardcover (23.5 x 32 cm), 88 pages, with 56 color photographs. Includes an essay by Laura Serani. Design by Bizzarri-Rodriguez. In an edition of 500 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: The work of the French artist Letizia Le Fur lies somewhere between reality and dreams, with her surreal images sparking imaginative visions. Le Fur was formally trained as a painter, before slowly transitioning into photography, and it comes as no surprise that the use of color and form is central in her work as an artist. Le Fur names Greek mythology and the search for beauty as her continuous inspirations and passions. “These founding myths teach us about the beginnings of philosophy; they talk of love, describe a fantastical nature, and conjure up extraordinary creatures. It’s enthralling.” In her project “Mythologies”, she explores these themes, bringing in her own sensibility and aesthetic approach. The work was recently published in a photobook of the same title.  

Mythologies is a vertically-oriented book of a medium size. The glossy photograph on the cover is quite striking, capturing an opening in the forest with a blue strip of water and the sky changing from red to orange to pink and blue. With just a few exceptions, all of the photographs in the book are vertical. The book is printed using different types of paper, perhaps reflecting the many textures of the natural world. It also easily lays flat, and the thin white border at the gutter ensures that all of the images are visible. The book is equally divided between two chapters, “Origin” and “Golden Age”, and the essay by Laura Serani is placed in the middle. 

The first chapter “Origin” was inspired by Hesiod, and in it Le Fur considers the creation of the world through atmospheric and dreamy photographs. The opening sequence of images lures us deeper into the forest, ultimately drawing us into the artist’s vision. In Le Fur’s photographs, wild landscapes turn into dreamlike and mysterious formations. A low angle shot of tall thin plants against a black background is paired with a close up of a rock formation covered with patches of yellow moss. Placed next to the rocks, the plants now resemble tall trees, as Le Fur plays with scale and perception. A close up of bright fading cactus leaves looks almost like a sculpture. A couple of pages later, another spread brings together two images, both capturing striking arrangements of intertwined brightly wild plants, resembling scenes from paradise. Another strong pairing brings together a tight shot of a bright rock formation and smaller image of a single tree shot at dusk. Again, Le Fur continually plays with scale and color. Out of the chaos, the world flourishes.

Le Fur creates associations and connections with her pairings and sequences of images, but ultimately she leaves it up to viewers to imagine a narrative. The images are stripped of their location and time period, instead transforming plants, rocks, fields and the surface of water into a reimagined world. Le Fur puts the focus on their formal arrangements and luminous colors, and her photographs resemble paintings. 

The second chapter of the book, “Golden Age”, refers to harmony as described by Ovid, and addresses peace between the gods, nature, and humans. The images alternate between nature and the figure of a naked man, imagined as an Ulysses. In one photograph, the man appears from the back as he is reaching for a tree branch, while the light turns the surroundings golden. We see him walking down the forest, jumping into the water, standing in a wheat field, or climbing over the rocks as he gets out of the water. The human body, both vulnerable and strong, is juxtaposed with expansive landscapes and plants, and there is a definite sense of the fragility of man versus the harshness of nature. Reminiscent of idealized ancient Greek statues, the nudes take on almost a sculptural quality, and there is a clear suggestion of classicism at work in the poses. In the last photograph, we see the man comfortably lying on a tree branch, in tune with nature. In this chapter, the artist imagines a new world, with a new social order. 

The progression of two chapters also reflects the artist’s own path: after a chaotic yet productive phase, similar to the narrative in the “Origin”, she moved to a more harmonious personal project, similar to the “Golden Age” chapter. The next volume, titled “Metamorphoses”, will focus on her personal transformation, and she will apparently attempt to “portray transformation when it is motivated by evasion, survival or conquest.” 

Mythologies is an unpretentious and subtly elegant publication, enlivened by thoughtful sequencing and editing. It is an adventurous tale that attempts to address the fundamental questions of life, suggesting a path to the good life as envisioned by the ancient thinkers, and considering the ideas of freedom, existential anxiety, and even ecological anguish.

Collector’s POV: Letizia Le Fur is represented by Laure Roynette Gallery in Paris (here). Her work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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