‘Natural beauty’ is an elusive but much claimed concept. Claimed by tourism boards of the native landscape and makeup commercials about the latest product, it is seldom the case that beauty and nature are entirely in sync. Any yet in these images, we see it presented with startling intensity.
The contemporary French artist Hubert Duprat was aware that larvae built protective cases around themselves using materials from their natural environment. His curiosity about the potentialities of that lead him deprive the larvae of all resources except for gems, jewels, pearls and gold. The resultant images show that the insects not only adapted to these materials but created incredibly beautiful trinkets.
The insects can be seen to spin little cocoons from the precious materials. The insects themselves seem like additional rare jewels set in gold.
The creatures, of course, work entirely unguided; their motivations as mini-jewellers is not what looks on trend, flattering, or opulent but rather they seek functionality. It is this functionality that it difficult to reconcile in one’s mind to the idea of jewellery which is most often ornamental and seldom serving any other purpose than to please the eye. And yet these delicate and valuable hovels serve a purpose no more elevated nor more complex than a slug’s shell.
But of these gold shells themselves, who can we determine is the identifiable artist? For Duprat, it is a joint collaboration between man and nature in which he sees the insects as artistic colleagues or interns, “The work is a collaborative effort between myself and the caddis larvae. I create the conditions necessary for the caddis to display their talents. I create situations, I’m a bit like an architect who has builders carry out his work.”
However, I would suggest that Duprat does not grant the insects enough credit for their role. One of the things which struck me with these images is that all larvae create such intricate patterns and constructions, it is merely the materials that differ. Equally complex and gorgeous vessels are created a million times each day around us in forests, gardens and the dustiest nooks of our homes. Purely because in these instances the insects use wood and stone, its merit is not immediately obvious to us. It takes this extremely rich imaging of the vessels to alter us to the beauty of the larvae’s practice; which ultimately lies in the process not the materials used.
You can watch Duprat discuss his work here (in French with English subtitles)