Nicolas Floc’h has always included living things, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and their flows in his artistic projects. For the last dozen years, Nicolas Floc’h’s interest in depicting underwater environments has led to production of documentary photographs connected with global change and definition of the notion of underwater landscape, and to a series focusing on the colours of water, photographs re-enacting monochrome in painting while bearing witness to the health of our oceans, biochemical cycles impacted by human activity. Wide-angle shots, the photographs make no attempt to seek out fish or divers. Nicolas Floc’h wants to show what stretches “before your eyes”. The artist says, for example, that when he was in the Calanques National Park, he took photos at regular 10-metre intervals in order to “obtain a reading of the coastline, an inventory of landscapes”.
Although he makes choices all the time while he’s in the act of photographing, they’re easy enough compared with the drastic selection he has to make for an exhibition. He may have created several tens of thousands of images, as he doesn’t just work for himself but also for tomorrow’s scientists who will need to study the evolution of the photographed area. “In his case, the distinction between documentation and artwork is often invalidated and generally scarcely relevant. The images presented as artworks correspond to the visible tip of the iceberg, inextricably bound up with a whole series of stages including preparation, approach, journey, learning, observation, recording of images, encounters, exchanges and so on.”, Jean-Marc Huitorel explained in Glaz in 2018.
At the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire, the artist presents Initium Maris. Unlike most underwater iconography, his splendid black and white photographs picture underwater forest scenes that seem to border on fiction. Are we still on Earth or has the artist spirited us into another world? With him, the unknown and the marvellous are not necessarily to be sought outside our galaxy.
Nicolas Floc’h is a photographer and visual artist. Born in Rennes in 1970, he lives in Paris and teaches at the European Higher School of Art of Brittany (EESAB) - Rennes Site. He has been in direct contact with the ocean since he was a child (he used to spend all his free time in La Turballe) and might well have become a fisherman, but finally opted for art as his means of exploring the marine environment. His photographs, installations, films, sculptures and performances examine an era of transition in which flows, disappearance and regeneration play essential roles. The projects he initiates are often connected with societal, environmental and economic observations, as well as to productive processes in which he imagines possible evolutions. Long-term projects nourished by experiences, scientific research and encounters result in open works rooted in reality, where evolutive processes are of central importance.
Since 2010, Nicolas Floc’h’s work has focused on depiction of underwater habitats and environments, and aquatic and atmospheric landscapes. His various series of documentary photographs enable us to approach the visible and invisible flows that connect ocean, land, atmosphere, ice and living things. His Structures productives (2011) and BOAT (2014- 2018) artistic projects, Glaz exhibition at the FRAC Bretagne and residency aboard the schooner Tara in Japan in 2017 were all important steps in the process that led Nicolas Floc’h to develop the Paysages productifs photographic project from 2015 to 2021.
Created in Brittany, Initium Maris is the project’s first series, the most complete along with Invisible, which was shot in the Mediterranean. He has been developing another essential series, La couleur de l’eau (since 2016) in parallel, a project enabling him to explore such sweeping terrestrial and atmospheric regions as the Mississippi basin (Villa Albertine, 2022) and the Rhone basin (Camargo Foundation, CNAP, 2022-2023), looking at and considering them from the ocean – a decisive planetary ecosystem.
It’s also worth mentioning that a composition for symphony orchestra commissioned by the National Orchestra of Brittany and written by the Japanese composer Dai Fujikura, based on images from Initium Maris, was played and screened at its world première in Rennes in April 2022 and then at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in September 2022. The Initium Maris-Civis educational component has been distributed to schools across French soil by IFREMER (France’s Marine Science Research Institute) and the Ministry of National Education since autumn 2022. In 2023, Initium Maris is presented as part of Chaumont-Photo-sur-Loire.
Nicolas Floc’h won the 2018 national photographic commission “Flux, une société en mouvement” (Flow, a Society in Motion) and the 2019 public art procurement for Invisible with the Calanques National Park, in partnership with the Camargo Foundation, which will result in an eponymous work published by Roma. In 2022, Nicolas Floc’h was resident artist at Villa Albertine, New York, in the United States.