Charlotte, North Carolina -- SOCO Gallery is pleased to present Artificial by Nature, an exhibition of photographs by French-born, New York-based photographer Karine Laval. The exhibition features images from Heterotopia, Laval’s most recent body of work. Artificial by Nature presents a series of chromogenic prints that transform and question our experience of the natural world. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition with SOCO Gallery.

Karine Laval produces composite landscapes of natural shapes in the world around her through a radical manipulation of light and vantage point, establishing a way of seeing that is both familiar and foreign. Branches become boundaries in her complicated mosaics of color, segmenting the color-saturated petals and leaves from each other as they blend into reflecting waters or a technicolor sky. Each layer of Laval’s photographs transposes the position of her lens, leaving the viewer blissfully unaware of which way is up or which way is down. French philosopher Michel Foucault inspired the Heterotopia series, as Foucault coined this term to describe ‘spaces of otherness’ that are ‘neither here nor there.’ Laval explains in an interview with Musée Magazine, I’m not trying to establish truth or give answers, but rather spark off questions. Laval calls images mirages because they are not always what they appear to represent, and depend upon the viewer to use their interpretive faculties to uncover what they think the image contains. These unruly and beautifully tangled collages of nature prove that perplexity and uncertainty can be found in even the most seemingly simple corners of the Earth.

Untitled #2 (2014)

Noteworthy: As an artist, how do you stay fresh creatively speaking?

Karine: I follow my heart and intuition and enjoy what I’m doing as this is the best motor for discovery and to keep going. In general, I find that patience, curiosity, experimentation, and a genuine sense of playfulness and openness are keys to staying fresh creatively.

Untitled #18 (2014) 48 x 66

Noteworthy: Tell us about your upcoming show, “Artificial by Nature” and your new series Heterotopia, which opened June 28th at SOCO Gallery in Charlotte, NC. 

Karine: The title of this new series (Heterotopia) is derived from French philosopher Michel Foucault’s essay “Des Espaces Autres” in which he uses the term “heterotopia” to describe “spaces of otherness” that are “neither here nor there,” such as the moment one sees himself in the mirror, or gardens, which represent truly ambiguous and contradictory spaces where nature and artifice collide in a form of utopia.

For over a decade I have investigated the notion of space – not only as a physical or geographical place, but also as a mental or imaginary space – and our relationship to the environment, between the natural and the artificial. The images in the exhibition were photographed in various private and public gardens in the United States and Europe. The distortions, superimpositions and colors are not the result of digital manipulation; they were created in camera and with reflective surfaces, using the natural environment as both a plein air studio and the subject matter.

Flowers are an obvious subject matter for their beauty, but they also offer patterns that can easily allude to abstract forms or alien bodies. I manipulate reflective materials to create layers that convey different meanings, emotions, and can also trigger the imagination of the viewer, as well as mine. The colors and floral environment are very seductive. But there is also something ominous, or something unnatural and strange. The landscapes are clearly a projection of my imagination and my fantasies, but also the product of playfulness in the process of creating the images. I see these landscapes as worlds that don’t exist yet, but which could exist beyond us. The acidic colors act as a vehicle to translate a world in transition or mutation, oscillating between a psychedelic vision of nature and a toxic and artificial post-natural world. They could also belong to the world of virtual reality.

Heterotopia was partly inspired by writer J. G. Ballard, particularly his fantasy novel The Unlimited Dream Company (1979), which I was reading when I started to work on the project.

Untitled #47 (2014) 48 x 30

Untitled #44 (2014) 48 x 72

Karine Laval is a multi-media artist whose work focuses on abstracting the experiences of memory, narrative, and everyday life. Born in Meudon-la-Forêt in Paris, Laval studied at the Sorbonne, and later at Cooper Union, The New School and the School of Visual Arts in New York. Laval has had solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Paris, and Rome, amongst other cities. In 2016, Laval collaborated with Hermès New York to produce an installation of works from Heterotopia in the store’s downtown Manhattan windows. This body of work made its debut at Benrubi Gallery in New York in 2016. Photography District News has named Laval one of 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch and the artist was recently nominated for the prestigious Prix Pictet Award. Private collectors of her work include Peter Marino, Sir Elton John, and Henry Buhl and companies such as the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; AT&T, Texas; Citibank, New York. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. For more visit karinelaval.com and @karinelaval on Instagram. 

SOCO Gallery is a contemporary art space and bookshop based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The gallery provides a thoughtful platform for contemporary art to be experienced, discussed, and acquired. SOCO Gallery produces a range of exhibitions annually, and exclusively represents artists working locally, nationally, and internationally at the highest levels. The gallery specializes in assisting private collectors, institutions, and corporations to build their collections with museum-quality artworks from emerging to established artists.

For inquiries or more information, please contact Monica Friel at monica@soco-gallery.com or visit soco-gallery.com and @socogallery on Instagram.

Featured Image: Untitled #45 (2014) 48 x 72. Images copyright © Karine Laval courtesy of SOCO Gallery.