Designed in close collaboration with the artist, this retrospective exhibition is the first presentation in Spain of the work by Jean-Luc Mylayne (Marquise, France, 1946). For thirty years the artist has devoted himself with tenacious rigour to the photography of birds. Each of his large format images presents common birds (robins, swallows) in their natural habitat. The images are scrupulously theatrical, never random and sometimes made with lenses manufactured according to his specifications in order to create a complex spatial field. His approach combines an accurate conception with formal acuity and infinite patience.
In the titles of his works Mylayne reflects the total time required to create each piece, an existential agon that traces the heart of his work and the centre of his metaphysics. His photographs combine several temporalities: the extension in time of the preparation, the moment captured by a mechanical process, the cycle of nature represented by an individual returning from their annual migration, along with a historical time which covers the common existence of humans and non-humans in the same environment.
The resulting creations are carefully calibrated constructions, where the bird plays its assigned role in a prefigured staging. Mylayne chooses his place and subject, one of among many birds, an example that highlights a certain curiosity about this man and the technical crew that invades his surroundings. It will take months to establish communication and to create the trust the success of the photograph depends on. During this time Mylayne gets the bird accustomed to his presence and to the effects of any supplemental lighting that the image may need as well as the sound of his camera shutter.
Despite his deep understanding of these creatures’ lifestyle, Mylayne does not have the intention of coming across as an ornithologist or documentary maker. His work asks metaphysical questions based on an exchange between humans and animals amplified by strategies of form, structure and concept. He often uses compositional styles that may include serial repetition, reflection and investment, or traditional formats such as the diptych or triptych.
The exhibition has the basilica architecture of the Palacio de Velázquez in the Parque del Retiro very present, in such a way that the selection of the pieces has focused on the image of the blue sky visible through the central dome of the palace, which is juxtaposed to the skies that prominently appear in all the of Mylayne’s work.