Sabine Delcour, Constructed and gazed

30 April - 10 July 2022 Xiamen



Sabine Delcour is seeing the world as a “laboratory”. Since the 1990s, always using a same approach, she has explored the diversity of  spaces and territories along with places and scenery that she captures on her camera in Paris and around the world. She writes on her approach: “I pursue a photographic work focused on concepts such as territories, either man-built or natural, at the crossroads of its geographical, social and psychic dimensions. At the beginning, I worked on urbanized zones where man is only present through its physical intervention on his surroundings (architectures and passage ways) or its perception of the area (sound or written score). Then, step by step, I went further away from inhabited places. I turned towards the observation of more natural spaces, beyond physical boundaries, a pretext for questioning pathways from the tangible world to the invisible and perceptual world.


From an approach close to documentary photography, she succeeds in bringing out from her pictures, a fiction, a narrative, which plunges the viewer into a disturbance of perception and even more into a modified state of consciousness. Between the visible and the invisible, something is sensitively questioned in the viewer, because her landscapes unveil both the silent presence of things and the eloquent absence of humans. Sabine Delcour creates photographic landscapes which distant from western traditions, as in her work, landscape is no longer thought of as an object or a substance, but as an environment and a resource; a set of elements put under pressure that she captures in images. Thus, in her artwork, there is a way to feature urbanized and natural spaces, in which establishes pathways and challenges the traditional western dichotomy between nature and culture. One can also argue that, she draws in her images a dramatics of absence questioning the overshow of presence in contemporary culture, which has become a global culture through social networks.


Shall we very briefly recall in here, the aesthetic issues of her last piece of work realized in China between 2018 and 2020, named “New Way of Living”. Exploring from above 15th-floor-height of inhabited towers in cities like Ordos, Wuhan, and Qingdao, her images ask the question of urbanity in the context of interconnections and interdependence of cultures in the dynamic of globalization. More broadly, through her images, she is giving thoughts to the mutation of human condition on Earth. One knows that the traditional conception of landscapes in China, like the so called “Shanshui”, is composed of mountains “shan” and water “shui”, two elements united in countless relations. The artist does not seek to picture a similar world but to trigger in the viewer a spiritual feeling expressing a simple way to be in this world. To her, it is into nature that lays values such as eternity and cosmos harmony.


Diptychs displayed in the exhibition “Constructed and gazed” aim to address one out of the many current issues: how men can live on Earth considering limits imposed by nature? Through this set of diptychs, we can observe pathways being established between the mineral of the Chinese cities’ high-rise buildings, the mineral of Icelandic mountains, or the mountains of the Hautes Alpes in France. Multiple pathways also lie between China’s urbanized landscapes and the oceanic coastline of La Nouvelle Aquitaine, more especially the one of Basque coast (in France and Spain). The emptiness that catches the eye, the lines of force, the play of curves and obliques that makes images, colors of urban or maritime skies allow us to establish correspondences between pictures through time and space.


The artist writes: “My apprehension of the world requires that time takes shape, takes on thickness, that stories get written slowly.” In Sabine Delcour’s pictures, combined here in a diptych, the figurative expression of cosmic power drives the movement of artifactual shapes and natural ones existing in the living world, leading to material and emotional vibrations. Behind the visible runs the unknown. The fantasy and seriousness of Sabine Delcour’s pictures capture the reality of the world, stress out the lightness of the ephemeral and the seriousness of the moment of eternity that is life. Thus, the power of the artist’s intuition leads the artistic movement towards the universal through the secret revelation of the essential, which makes the greatness of being human.


Christian Malaurie

Writer, anthropologist, teacher-researcher

ARTES Research unit, Université Bordeaux Montaigne (France)



Artist Biography:

Sabine Delcour is a French artist born in the Gironde region. Winner of the Prix Moins Trente from the Centre National de la Photographie in 1994, she began her career as soon as she finished her studies at the University of Paris 8. Her photographic series take as a starting point the observation and the relationship of man to the landscape, whether it is urbanized, natural or wild. She frequently associates text with image, going out to meet those who live in the territories she shoots. Her approach, far from being documentary, stands out from the signified. She modifies space and gives it another dimension. Playing with the technical potential offered by her photographic chamber, Delcour operates with a view to opening the gaze to other perspectives. She sculpts the sensitive material produced by these optical illusions and thus bears witness to the relative nature of the photographic image and our perception of reality. 

See more about Sabine Delcour:


Co-curator Biography:

Pascale Giffard
Born in 1978, lives and works in Bordeaux, France.
From 2000 to 2004, she was first the coordinator of the Magnum Photos exhibition in Paris, and then worked at the international photography festival "Les Rencontres d'Arles". From 2004 to 2013, she served as the director of exhibition and catalogue production for 9 years. She collaborated with Raymond Depardon, Nan Goldin, Christian Lacroix, Clément Chéroux, Joan Fontcuberta, Martin Parr...
Since 2014, she has continued exploring in Bordeaux. Originally the head of the photography laboratory of Central DUPON Images, she is now an independent person responsible for promoting photography through the projects and their production within the "D’états D’images" association which she founded.