Fernando Etulain 

Life on Still #1 

Life on Still #1

About the artist

Now based in Mexico City, after many years in Paris, Fernando Etulain could have been André Breton’s travelling companion or Jean Cocteau’s sidekick – he shares their Surrealist and dandy spirit. In his series Farbtafel (2008), he placed a dollar bill on a Hans Holbein portrait, a French shortbread biscuit on a Dürer oil painting, and clothes pegs on a painting by Max Liebermann depicting women in a flax barn. Etulain reinterprets and twists. In another of his series, Satyrus Paniscus (2009), he tore up pages from porn magazines, isolated details, and then assembled the bits into almost abstract shots. Again, he borrowed from history when he offered a series of clear, airy still lives inspired by Isaac Newton’s experiments (Chronoradial, 2009) with light refraction. Here, the classic nude is revisited with the subtle and delicate touch that permeates his work.


Your photographic work has often approached still life through compositions of objects. In this series, Life on Still, you have turned to living matter, to flesh. What was the idea behind this project?
Life on Still is a collection of photographs taken at different times and in different locations. The fact that the subject here is a human body does not modify my approach, which is quite similar to what I do when I shoot compositions of objects or landscapes. The basic idea was the same, namely that a form of animism can emerge from the way inanimate objects are positioned within a representational device. In both cases, my purpose is to suggest an organization of human experiences and their surroundings.

Here, flesh is shaped by the light, its muscular structure enhanced. Your vision of the body is almost sculptural, with poses often reminiscent of academic nudes; some, with their soft lighting, even evoke Ingres. The nineteenth century witnessed the invention of photography, which, interestingly, was used by painters to prepare their compositions. Did you deliberately seek to follow academic traditions through an original usage of the photographic medium in its own right?
I had no particular desire to claim lineage with a specific tradition here, although a large part of my training as a photographer was indeed closely related to the fine arts in the classical sense, hence to the academic. I simply draw from the past and present. It is also true that I am very aware of the effects of composition and lighting on objects, and this owes much to the associations I make between photography and painting. This applies to most of my work, and such pictorial references often come to mind. For these particular images, the work of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was important to me: it drew my eye towards a sense of beauty and the sublime in art as imitation.

Why do you think body and flesh are now relatively neglected subjects in contemporary photography?

I have a feeling that contemporary art and photography have been seeking to become detached from the figurative. Abstraction appeared in art, and it has become difficult to return to the figurative without being perceived as anachronistic in relation to the word “contemporary”. I have however had many opportunities to enjoy the work of artistic photographers and contemporary artists whose work focuses on human morphology and body language, with very striking results, brimming with brute, elemental force.

Limited edition, numbered and signed. 

Selected shows and awards

Cromatografías, Mexico, 2014
LadoB, 3RD EYE, Mexico, 2011
Haus, Centro de diseño cine y television, Mexico, 2011
Bricks & Walls, Ediciones Jalapa, Mexico, 2010
Tapetes, Anudando Historias, Museo Franz Mayer, Mexico, 2010
Cesta, Ediciones Jalapa, Mexico, 2009
XIII Bienal de Fotografia, Centro de la Imagen, Mexico, 2008

Selected publications

Peepingtom Digest # 2, An Exploration of the Mexican Contemporary Art Scene, Peepingtom Gallery, Caroline Niemant et Stephane Blanc, Paris, France, 2011
Farbtafel y El Registro Sin Imagen, Periplo, vol. VII, Brenda Ledesma, Mexico, 2011
Tapetes, Anudando Historias, Museo Franz Mayer, Jaime Odabachian y Lorenzo Alvarez, Mexico, 2010
Cantera de Diseño, Centro de diseño cine y television, Renata Becerril, Mexico, 2010
Roma / Roma, Galeria Labor / Pechacucha, Giorgio Blasi, Mexico, 2009
XIII Bienal de Fotografia, Centro de la Imagen, Juan Antonio Molina, Mexico, 2008


& order

Fernando Etulain 
Life on Still #1


Technical information

Pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta paper - limited edition, numbered and signed certificate.


30 x 30 cm, Edition of 100

By the same artist

Fernando Etulain

By the same curator