PIERRE CORDIER: The first thing people ask me at conferences, the first is ‘Yes but Mr Cordier, what about chance?’
What they mean, what they think, is ‘This Cordier, he doesn’t do much, he leaves it up to chance.’
My stamp is ‘chemigram.’
I am Mr Chemigram.
Oh yes, Pierre Cordier, Mr Chemigram.
I made my first chemigram during military service in Germany, near to Cologne. I had met a German girl called Erica. I wanted to make her a birthday card. So I took a sheet of photographic paper, I wrote using nail varnish, ‘Happy 21st Erica.’
Then I thought I would do a black background, then I put it in the developing solution, and then I watched as the nail varnish moved and changed form and then I put it in the fixing solution and there was my first Chemigram.
So here I can show you a test of what happens when one uses a ‘localizing’ product. In this case, the ‘localizing’ product is a spread for slices of bread, and it is very good.
And then I put some Liege syrup on the paper, and then I dip it in the developer and fixer. And I obtain a very simple chemigram, just a very simple one.
Brassaï, the famous photographer, wrote to me, saying ‘how diabolical and very beautiful your process is, make sure you never divulge it.’ But several years later I disobeyed Brassaï.
I am very happy that other people do chemigrams, absolutely, and that there are many around the world who do them. Some people say ‘Yes, Cordier was one of the first’ but that doesn’t matter to me, what’s important is that people continue to do them.
I put some distance between myself and the notion of photography, hoping to be welcomed within the world of painting, because in fact I am neither a painter nor a photographer, but a bit of both. But the painting world couldn’t care less about this photographer, Cordier.
To use a good witticism, which Monsieur Degas said of Nadar, ‘Oh you’re just a faux-artiste, a faux-painter, a faux-tograph!’
FREE TALK: The second in a series of screenings programmed by our Exhibition Road artist in residence Jamie Jenkinson, this screening looks at the relationship between movement and colour in artist film and video.
The V&A Innovative Leadership Programme is aimed at managers working in the arts & creative industries looking to develop new skills, insight and opportunity. Applications are now open for the next course.