Jacques Berthet


I began my study at an ancient Spanish olive grove on the road to Morella, in the Castellon region, in the autumn of 2006. The weather was still warm, the harvest about to begin. The sun-bleached, perfectly rounded pebbles on the ground contrast with black trunks of trees planted hundreds of years ago, perhaps a thousand years ago, some of them. They reminded me of sculptures. In the square viewfinder of my camera, I see torsos, huge statues, giants, and I think of Michelangelo’s slaves; natural backlighting draws a portrait gallery that reminds me of Jacques Lacarrière’s description in L’été Grec (Greek Summer).

“These massive, heavy, bulging olive trees, gnarled or gouged by deep fissures, twisted, gutted, bearing a striking resemblance to monstrous gnomes, with the deadpan and mocking countenances of spirits of the woods stuck to such trees like heroes transformed into plants and immobilized halfway in their own metamorphosis.”

[...] The olive tree has remained a significant influence in the everyday life of cultures around the Mediterranean. In ancient poetry and writing, it is the most venerated of trees. The Greeks made it a sacred tree (particularly for its oil, used in lamps), and so have the people of Tunisia and Algeria in more recent times. In Islamic cultures, it is the cosmic tree, the center and the pillar of the world, symbolizing universal man.

Jacques Berthet, L’ombre et la forme (Shadow and Form), February, 2010 (excerpt)


b. 1949, Geneva, Switzerland

Lives and works in Geneva. His photographs, conceived on the principle of the series, show the research on nature and the transformation of the landscape thanks to the act of the filing of the industrial architecture memory. Selected solo and group exhibitions: Surgis de l’hombre, Galerie Alain Paire, Aix-en Provence (2013) • Frac Franche-Comté, Maçon (2013) • The Mediterranean Approach, [mac] Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille and SESC Pinheiros, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2012) • Collection de Institut d’Art Contemporain, Lyon, Cité du design de St Etienne (2011) • National Gallery, Bangkok (2010) • Centre d’ art contemporain, Geneva (2003) • Studio la Città, Verona (2001) • Kunsthalle, Berne (1999) • Centre pour l’image contemporaine, Geneva (1999) • Galerie Blancpain Stepczynski, Geneva (1998).