France – Paris
Chantre de la couleur Ou L’ordinaire magnifié par la couleur
In fact, the entire oeuvre of this Belgian photographer (born in Antwerp in 1941) is made up of shock images. “Instantaneous images in the search for which he could spend days on end,” confessed this great traveller, who is exhibiting here for the first time 80 prints made between 1974 and 1996 using the Cibachrome process invented in 1933 by a Hungarian chemist, Bela Gaspar, and commercialised in 1963, which produces a print from a slide (the so-called positive-positive process) by the destruction of the pigments incorporated in the sensitive layers of the exposed and developed paper. Distinguished by the sharpness of the image, the intensity of the colours and the saturation of the solids, these rare reveal the full power of the photographer’s eye and, in particular, his incredible ability to render materials, textures and shadows, his art of making things visible and magnify them through colour.
“To be a seer, not a witness.”
Converted to colour as soon as he moved to New York in the early 1970s, it is through colour that Harry Gruyaert succeeds in making the ordinary extraordinary. Harry Gruyaert’s ability to make the ordinary extraordinary. Far from his native Belgium, which was too narrow for his taste, but whose “grating” and “rather ubiquitous” side he was able to render perfectly. And “rather Ubuesque” in a series with a surrealist flavour, New York would befor him: not only did he discover the American masters of colour photography (Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore), but also Pop Art, which encouraged him, “to look differently at banality, to accept a kind of ugliness in the world and to use it as a means of expression”.
« L’esprit du lieu » (« the sense of place »)
“To accept the ugliness of the world and make something of it.” It was also his friendships with the New York scene which, according to the exhibition’s curator Diane Dufour
that Antonioni’s Red Desert, “seen a thousand times”, had already instiled in him: “the need to survey the world […] not to point it out or inform us about it, but to sculpt it, to shape it […].
model it […] To become a seer, not a witness.”
“l’esprit du lieu” (“the sense of place”) “I throw myself into things to experience this mystery, this alchemy”, explains the photographer himself. Yet rejects any descriptive apprehension of reality. This is where one of the paradoxes of his photography, which, although devoid of any staging, a strong fictional character, whether in the Moscow series or the Egyptian series of electrifying nocturnes… A master of chaos (everything contributes to the composition, sometimes very fragmented, on the edge of the frame…), Harry Gruyaert doesn’t just seek to like his great masters Bergman and Antonioni, to depict “solitude in the urban landscape” but also, and above all, the palette of each place, what he calls “the sense of place”. For example, the neon green of a fogged-up Antwerp laundromat storefront the red of the curtains and the table on the Trans-Europe-Express where a sleeping man lies. The blue, yellow and marshmallow pink of a “colourful” sidewalk in
County Kerry in Ireland…
“Harry Gruyaert – La Part des choses”
6, impasse de la Défense, Paris 18e
Until September 24, 2023,