Rayon Vert by Senta Simond

Rayon Vert relates to a number of things. The title of Éric Rohmer’s 1986 film, Jules Verne’s novel of the same title, the optical phenomenon and the latest work and book from Swiss artist Senta Simond, published by Kominek. The title Rayon Vert in Senta’s context is an insightful reflection of how she perceives both the idea of a moment as well as her photographic process. Parallels can be drawn between the new work and the 1986 film and with the book and the phenomenon in numerous ways but what feels of most importance is how the phrase is a representation of process for Senta which is distinctly evident in the rest of the book.

The work itself is entirely made up through photographs of women but perhaps more predominantly Senta’s friends; whilst Rayon Vert is undeniably beautiful to look at, offering us an exquisite illustration of female portraiture, it is this central theme and idea that the work pivots on and resonates most to be an exceptional piece of work. Because Senta has known these women for often years, there is a genuine feeling that Rayon Vert is the visual culmination of a much longer and more intimate process than the work first hints at; we are looking at a photograph of a singular moment yet perhaps even more so at the relationship between each woman and Senta, something far longer than the construction of the image.

Senta demonstrates a clear awareness of the dominant discourse and approach to photographing women and whilst Rayon Vert demonstrates a departure from this on visual and conceptual level in many regards, there are aesthetical hints to such artists as Imogen Cunningham, Martin Munkácsi and other modernists circa the 1920s. In this way Rayon Vert is very much historically conscious as well as being aware to the contemporary conversations of her practice and subjects. Crucially the relationship between artist and sitter in Rayon Vert is cyclical; rather than a singular performance of Senta directing her ideas into physical form, the work moves towards a collaborative conversation between two women and even more so two friends. The photographs themselves are therefore not only a product of Senta’s ideas and ability as an artist, but the responding openness from each woman as a reply to the pair’s relationship, to produce a series of photographs that have a deeply rooted sense of trust, friendship and intimacy. Any skin that is shown is sensitively done so; shadows and clothes politely conceal as much as they reveal nuanced, personal features of each friend. Furthermore each photograph is also very much a portrait of a woman in her entirety; body parts are never isolated to an extent where they become void of personality; instead Senta places familiar faces alongside angular, sometimes inverted bodies in immediate proximity to create a poetic study of each woman as a whole. This feels exceedingly important given Senta’s graceful rejection of the male gaze and numerous other cliches, reimagining the classical dialogue into something contemporary, personal and where aesthetic and idea are intertwined so thoughtfully.

The manifestation of the work in the physical book demonstrates Senta’s ability to permeate her process and ideas throughout her practice regardless of the medium through which Rayon Vert is shown. The liberal use of blank pages in the book gently pace us between one photograph and the next, a kind reminder that each work and the book should be anything but rushed. The book reiterates Senta’s approach to the photographs themselves through pure simplistic, beautiful form. Her choice to include the first names of the women in the back of the book cements Senta’s acknowledgement of these people as both real and personal to her. The idea, photographs and book are exceptionally balanced and Rayon Vert really is a truly graceful exploration of the female body, in a rare example of authentic intimacy.