What do you “see” when you hold a glass of Cognac? Journalist Victor Coutard asked two Cognac enthusiasts who are also image specialists: the French painter Olivier Masmonteil and the German photographer Paul Lehr.
The words “sparkle”, “limpidity”, and “color” belong to the vocabulary of tasting, and these notions are among the first that come to mind when thinking about the way you look at a glass of Cognac. Olivier Masmonteil and Paul Lehr know them well. However, they do not believe they are limited to the register of description or contemplation. What interests them is showing the imaginary aspect that is superimposed on the senses: both of them mention the “mind’s eyes”.
Olivier Masmonteil: “Seeing the glass and seeing beyond the glass”
“In a glass of Cognac, I see its amber color but I also see the landscape that appears behind it. This hue is like a filter that separates two worlds,” says the painter Olivier Masmonteil. Aged 47, this lover of cooking and fly-fishing, who spent his entire childhood in Corrèze, not far from the Cognac region, has a strong relationship with the idea of landscape, which runs throughout all his work.
“I see Cognac as a landscape at the end of summer, at the turn of the seasons. Or like a blend of dawn and dusk, because Cognac is a spirit that is about both the beginning and the end. Moreover, Cognac invites you to close your eyes.”
Paul Lehr: “Seeing means playing between senses and dreams”
German photographer Paul Lehr delivers his portraits to newspapers all over the world (Le Monde, Die Zeit, The Wall Street Journal, etc.). He is attracted by the “faces” through which he tries to instinctively capture the times we live in, only armed with his Nikon FM2. At the same time, this experienced taster is involved in a personal project in which he intends to play with the various colors of spirits, including Cognac.
“When my eyes rest on a glass of Cognac, sensing and dreaming intertwine. I could be in a house by the sea looking at the water, and I can hear the rustle of dry grass and smell the fireplace. It is very dreamlike. I love Cognac: I’d photograph it, trying to capture and sublimate its special colors. Depending on the light, they might shimmer between white and amber, between shadow and brightness.”