The dark post-apocalyptic visions of acclaimed French photographer Gérard Rancinan are brought to life with startling ferocity and terrible beauty in ‘The Destiny of Men’, his latest exhibition at Urban Spree Galerie. Conceived in collaboration with fellow compatriot and author Caroline Gaudriault, the exhibition features a series of fourteen large-scale photographs which have been conceived as sensual Gothic tableaux vivants. The intensely theatrical works juxtapose tranquil desert scenes of ascending Byzantine angels with those of combat-booted, neo-Punk angels surrounded by the debris of their violent decadence.
Intensely theatrical and heavily staged, the photographs feature a rich visual landscape of painted canvas backdrops, a wild array of props, elaborate costumes and dramatic poses. A number of the scenes are based on and borrow iconography from recognisable Christian narratives, including the Last Supper, the Archangel’s visitation of the Virgin Mary and the Pieta, while others conjure images of great conflicts and bloody revolution. The spread-eagled bodies of bloodied half-naked angels lie strewn amidst the chaotic remnants of their violence, their languid and muscular forms bearing a dark sensuality that has distinctly homoerotic undertones. It is precisely the raw physicality of the scenes and Rancinan’s unashamedly bold display of flesh—both broken and sensual—that underscores the flawed humanity of the angels rather than their divinity.
‘The Destiny of Men’ depicts a world of fierce extremes and contrasts whereby scenes of man’s desire for redemption, beauty and understanding are intermingled with his dark lust for violence, decadence and decay. However, even as the angels bask in the sin and decay or bright transcendence of their surroundings, Rancinan brings great empathy and understanding to the series and passes no judgement on the actions of his protagonists. Rather than present angels as a moral ideal to which humankind should aspire, Rancinan instead depicts them as flawed and complex figures that are much more human than divine. Capable of both terrible transgressions and great transcendence, the angels embody the eternal struggle between the light and dark forces that reside in every human soul and in the actions of humanity as a whole.