Right from the cover it starts: a piercing bright circle draws us in with its solitary glow. Are we looking at a light at the end of salvation, or are we trapped and just experiencing a small peephole to the outside world, one that is too far to reach? Following this image is a full bleed black inner cover contrasting with the bright circle, allowing our eyes to rest for a moment as we begin the journey into The Cicada’s Song.
In his recent photobook, French Laotian artist Eric Tchéou takes us on an existential journey through loss and transformation.Tchéou, already an accomplished writer of fiction, has shown a deft and meticulous skill with intimate emotions. The Cicada’s Song is a poignant example of his power to draw us through a journey of confusion and yearning, to a place of quiet inner contemplation.
Tchéou’s photographs are an astute blend of atmospheric out-of-focus scenery and repeated objects punctuated by sharp, unflinching portraits, sculptural compositions and close-up details. The book’s rhythm and content is poetic, drawing meaning from personal experience with the images set in a lyrical pace.
In a reflection on impermanence, Tchéou quotes Matsuo Bashuo: “Nothing in the cicada’s song suggests that it will soon be gone”. Along the photographic journey of The Cicada’s Song, we are presented with images that are at once still and at the same time moving quickly, comparable to the processes of change and progress. A neon exit sign, eerily floating in a tumultuous dark blue evening sky; a man bowing down on the ground, as if in pain, yet moving forward; a solitary room lit amongst a landscape of darkened windows; the artist’s hand holding his father’s frail hand, plunged with catheters; an empty white walled space focused on a terminating corner.In the later pages, a still and sombre self-portrait is set against an opposing page, displaying an intensely vibrating interweave of trees. The facing images hint at the inner sprit of the artist that listens for The Cicada’s Song. It is a calm, organized and structured gaze that contemplates the sense of the forces that permeate our lives.