Publisher: Schirmer Mosel
In his new photo book Elger Esser: Combray, recently published by Schirmer/Mosel, Esser consistently limits his motifs to the French countryside and its secluded corners, which in their apparent enchantment evoke images of the fictional town of Combray from Marcel Proust’s novel Á la recherche du temps perdu (1913). The large-format volume combines more than 100 images from a series of works that were taken over a period of more than 10 years by Esser, who, on February 19, 2016, will be honored with the Oskar Schlemmer Prize, the Baden Wuerttemberg State Prize for Visual Arts, and a large exhibition at Kunsthalle Karlsruhe (Elger Esser: zeitigen runs until July 20, 2016, from January 2017 at Landesgalerie Linz). With his conceptually orientated series of works – the reworked historical postcard images or the sepia-toned cityscapes and seascapes – Elger Esser creates images of longing that cannot be anchored in any timeline. The uninhabited landscapes, abandoned places, gardens, small lakes and river courses, monastery ruins and dilapidated church naves, forests bathed in light and moss-covered stonework from the Combray series seem to be entirely removed from time. The French town of Illiers was indeed renamed “Illiers-Combray”, in honor of Marcel Proust’s 100th birthday, but the town of Combray, to where Proust’s protagonist sets out to find the lost memories of his childhood, never existed – thanks to Esser’s pictorial world, Combray now assumes visual form.