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Patrick Tosani

Pictorial mind games in a contemporary French photographer's first retrospective

by Isabelle Doal in Culture on 17 May 2011

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At first glance Patrick Tosani's photographs seem like textbook examples of monolithic, clean and simple photography. But look a little closer and objects like ice cubes, spoons and high-heeled shoes reveal themselves by a trick of perspective and massive proportions, playing with scale and drawing the viewer into a new dimension. Over 200 such clever twists (many of which have never been shown before) comprise the contemporary French artist's first retrospective, currently on view at Paris' Maison Européenne de la Photographie.

Tosani's focus on the odd details has the transformative effect of making everyday objects appear extraordinary and foreign, skewing scale in order for the objects to gain new momentum and dramatic intensity in their abstraction. Intentionally misrepresenting reality in a specific way gives the images a common frame of reference, connecting the series of isolated fragments into an otherworldly experience. This unusual terrain is more absurd than menacing though; Tosani's playful forms conceptually poke fun at the nature of photographic representation itself.

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The photographer ribs his fellow humans too, often choosing the human body as a subject, which he explores by forcing limbs into incongruous folded positions or by compartmentalizing details such as the top of a head or bitten fingernails. His quest even drives him to trace the body's presence, illustrated by a stunning series of empty pairs of pants, shot so that the two big holes where the legs go playfully evoke the astonished eyes of primitive masks with magical properties.

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Another whimsical series turns children (all met on a trip in Syria) into colorful blooming flowers by making portraits with shirts blowing around their heads like corollas.

The exhibition is currently on view at Paris' Maison Européenne de la Photographie through 19 June 2011.

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