Didier Rittener has spent nearly twenty years building an archive of images. He copies faces, patterns, textual fragments, works of art, and landscapes onto A4 tracing paper, sometimes adding his own modifications. Together they form a collection entitled Libre de droits (Public Domain), which he dips into for his murals, sculptures, and works on paper, particularly by chemical transfer, as in this case.
The four images that comprise Après tout are numbers 352 to 355 in Libre de droits. They reference a painting from the Museum’s collection, Charles Gleyre’s Les éléphants (Elephants, c. 1856): in a pre-Flood landscape, Adam and Eve are fleeing to the left while a herd of elephants, a hippopotamus, and a bear take up the centre of the composition and a pterosaur glides across the sky. All Rittener keeps is the landscape, stripping out the humans and animals. The earthy colours of Gleyre’s painting become a powdery black and white, hinting at scorched vegetation. The panoramic format is expanded by two separate processes: the image is segmented into four separate sheets, each fragment overlapping slightly with the next, stretching the horizon line and drawing attention to the curvature of the earth, and a significant change to the right-hand composition, which removes the rock that echoed the tall palm trees in the original.
The title Après tout reinforces the idea of a second flood that has left no living creature behind, only plants. The expression also sounds like a rather resigned response to an announcement that the human race is doubtless doomed to extinction in the near future.
Julie Enckell Julliard (ed.), Voici un dessin suisse 1990-2010, exh. cat. Vevey, Musée Jenisch, Zurich, JRP Ringier, 2010.Carla Demierre, Federica Martini et alii, Didier Rittener. Disparaître ici, exh. cat. Pully, Musée de Pully, 2009.
Yves Aupetitallot (ed.), Didier Rittener, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Saint-Gall, Neue Kunst Halle St. Gallen, Zurich, JRP, Ringier, 2005.