Artist Focus: Thierry Genay

Artist Focus: Thierry Genay

from January 10, 2021

For the past ten years or so, Thierry Genay, a former graphic designer working in the world of trend books, has been devoting himself solely to still life photography. What started with a small compact camera in his garden in Toulouse took a decisive turn when he fell in love with a still life by Jan Van de Velde of the Rijksmuseum. Subjugated by the pictorial material of the large ochre and grey backgrounds of his rigorous compositions, he began to compose his own settings, whose pictorial aspect was truly impressive. The artist can spend hours moving, reshuffling and composing in order to achieve the spectacular result of each of his photographs.

Thierry Genay has two main sources of inspiration: the first, more obvious, is the golden age of still life painting in the 16th and 17th centuries, the second is contemporary painting, which is not always reflected in his work. "What I like in the first is the reference to the passing of time, which is more marked in vanities and cabinets of curiosities. I like the symbolic aspect of the objects represented as much as their photographic substance. This is one of the essential aspects of still life. I translate it in my work by choosing objects that are marked by time in their material and that evoke a simplicity that one acquires through work, that is to say also with time. The composition supports this idea by releasing a void around the elements which allows the whole to breathe."

The photographer takes the time I need for all the compositions he creates. This can vary from a few days to a few months, or even a year or more, because he can leave a photograph aside before returning to it, before perceiving that it brings something interesting to his approach. He works in the natural light of a window and then composes with a very limited selection of objects. He uses as backgrounds and bases canvas cardboard that he paints, and then works on his composition by precisely adjusting the place of each object. "I am often told that my photographs are soothing. This is flattering to me, because it is the idea of the still life, of the quietness of a material or immaterial interior, of a certain inner life. Still life is a pictorial and photographic genre that has a long history, and what is important for me is to feel that I am entering this history by bringing a personal touch."

See all of Thierry Genay's works