Vincent Grenier
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20th Media City Film Festival, 2014
by Emilie Vergé
(English translation)

Excerpt from "The Canadian Program"

The film by Vincent Grenier, Watercolor (2013) is among the most abstract films of this Canadian program that has works dedicated in exploring both landscape and formalist strategies. If the Sea Series by John Price or Brouillard by Alexandre Larose, with their blurred, and faded images, can evoke the technique of watercolor more than Vincent Grenier’s film, despite its title, “Watercolor", it's because Grenier divert the word’s meaning to use the meaning of its two component words, "water" and "color": the filmmaker simply filmed in close-ups the surface of a river, with its light reflections and color variations. Despite the presence of the stream, it is an urban landscape, since the surface of the water, reflect architectural forms that are outside the frame, such as the metal and linear structures of a bridge over the water, in the style of architectural structures used in their compositions by constructivist photographers (like Rodchenko). This film by Grenier can cause one to think of the haiku for its iconographic minimalism and its dialectic of the ordinary detail and the metaphysical, also be interpreted with the Eisenstein theoretical text on "the music of the landscape" that the Soviet filmmaker define in the Chinese landscape painting or the sequence of the port of Odessa in the film Battleship Potemkin. In fact, by choosing to shoot in close-ups the surface of a stream, Grenier composed an abstract film with two opposite formal principles: first, fluid, liquid, water, and on the other hand, the straight line or the quadrangle, the solid, of the architectural structures. Also in oppositions are the random movements in the river and the stillness of the architectural forms. The two formal principles interpenetrate with either dominant or a balance between the two: in the reflections of architectural forms on the surface of the water, where the architectural undulates slightly straight in reflections following the water movements and their variations. Or fine lines, circles are formed on the surface of the water, whereby the geometrical in the shape of lines or circular arcs, is made present in the fluid. In his theoretical text on "the music landscape," Eisenstein offers a metaphysical interpretation of such opposition between contrasting formal principles:

" obviously one should look for the philosophical assumptions behind the particularities of the Chinese aesthetic thought and cannons that result.

Unlike Elizabethan design, considering the world as a system of "four elements”, the Chinese world view is based not only on these same elements (which are five in Chinese, but, above all, about the interaction of " two principles "- the famous two opposing principles, Yin and Yang.

According to the Chinese model, similar to a rudimentary approximation of the principles of dialectics (as was also the case among the ancient Greeks), the world is built, stands and moves by the interaction of two opposites principles that penetrate the whole universe.

All phenomena are sorted by categories of corresponding opposites which, by their interaction and struggle, generate all the phenomenas of reality.

In various fields these principles come with different aspects, but the nature of their interaction remains the same.

According to the Chinese doctrine, it is the female principle and the male principle. And all phenomenas are classified according to these two principles. Some correspond to the female order, the other to the male order.

These are: light and dark, soft and hard, the flexible and the rigid, fluid and still, the sound and silent, vague and precise, etc., etc.

The game of the interaction, of the alternation and interpenetration of these opposing principles (which, according to Chinese teaching, are the basis of all phenomena of the universe), is also the basis of the structural dynamic of the visual music on which is built the landscape.”

"The nature of the game with such elements within the landscape partition has links closer with the principles Yin and Yang:

"The great masters of the T'ang dynasty already create rules ordering the language of forms and demonstrating that the smallest pattern, as small as it is, must always and still embody the fundamental principles (Gundprinzipien); and these principles are the same ancient Taoist symbols of male and female elements whose interpenetration is at the root of all existence and all the processes of the visible world. In this game of the two principles, (...) All the visible nature is revealed to us (...) To grasp and represent its characteristic and decisive traits, such was the constant problem that the great masters of the past were asking themselves… "

The famous waterfall attributed to Wang-wei is subject to the same laws:
"In this landscape of the great master of the period T'ang is seized the battle of two primary natural principles: the fluid and the frozen ..." - Sergei Eisenstein, “Non-indifferent Nature: Film and the Structure of Things” Chapter on Landscape Music.

Thus the abstraction and formalism in Grenier’s film makes it possible to go beyond the standard classical point of view on nature in the landscape, to produce a "musical landscape" of metaphysical scope.