Monday, November 28, 2016

If Van Gogh Had a Camera...



If you have a chance before December 23, pop into the two-floored Arles Gallery, where the owners Anne Eliayan and Françoise Galeron--both of them photographers--have organized an interesting show called “Les Photos de Van Gogh.”  The exhibit is on the gallery's lower level, in a vaulted cave that dates to the 17th century.

The idea, Anne says, was to imagine what might have happened if Vincent Van Gogh had a camera. To realize it, she turned to 25 photographers and other artists, asking them for images that either reference the Dutch painter directly or were inspired by his life and work.

One photographer placed himself in the exact spot in Arles where Van Gogh painted a particular landscape; it looks remarkably the same today. A series of three black-and-whites pays homage, in part, to Vincent’s older brother (who was stillborn and also named Vincent) and to Vincent’s father, who--like his own father--was a pastor.

Two embroidered pieces (a pillow and a textile wall hanging) were done by Casablanca-born Christine Millerin, who has her own studio/boutique just across the street (#7 rue de la Liberte).

Anne has three of her own photos in the show; I particularly liked her dreamy take on Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night.”

Also part of the show are two large paintings by the Arles-based painter Ise Cheddadi, who used a technique she calls pixelisme to create two large portraits of Van Gogh, each composed of 600 or so tiny paintings. Your eye sees the artist’s face clearly only when the piece is viewed from a distance or through a camera lens. One of her Van Gogh portraits hangs in the gallery window and you can see others on her website.

If you’re lucky and Anne has time, she’ll take you through the show herself; she did that for me and it added to my appreciation immensely. The work is varied, moving and quite wonderful but it’s easy to miss some of the references if you’re not so familiar with Van Gogh’s work. Some pieces are just pretty photos until you hear the story behind them.

When I saw the show in mid November, about half of the images were already sold. Most are priced under 200, as Anne and her partner want their gallery and its artwork to be accessible to all.

The “Photos de Van Gogh” show comes down December 23. The gallery's next group show, called “Arles and Mythology,” opens March 24, 2017. And on the main floor, there’s a whole gallery full of interesting photos and posters to explore as well. The Arles Gallery is just off the Place du Forum, at 8 rue de la Liberté, +33 (0)6 59 35 57 51, arlesgallery.com. The hours are Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.

Where to eat before or after? If you’re looking for a nice, simple lunch nearby, try the interesting open-faced tartine sandwiches (on Poilâne bread) at Cuisine du Comptoir, open all day just next door, at #10. The best-sellers are currently the poularde (chicken, capers, homemade mayonnaise) and marius (tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, basil). For just 15€, you can have the tartine of your choice,  plus soup or salad, a glass of wine or 1/2 bottle of mineral water and a coffee. For more about the restaurant, read my 2011 review here. Cuisine du Comptoir is open for lunch every day except Sunday; open for dinner every night except Sunday from April to December; and open for dinner on Friday and Saturday only from January through March.

Another extremely popular nearby restaurant is Le Galoubet (18 Rue du Dr Fanton, 04 90 93 18 11), with its friendly staff, pretty shaded terrace nice cooking and good prices.  And a bit further from the gallery (but still a five-minute walk max) is Le Gibolin (13 Rue Des Porcelet, 04 88 65 43 14), considered one of the top three spots in Arles...and great for wine lovers as well. 

Photos: Click on any photo to enlarge. (1) The gallery, with one of Ise Cheddadi's Van Gogh portraits in the window. (2) Gallery co-owner Anne Eliayan curated the show and is pictured with her take on Van Gogh, called "Starry Night." (3) "Les Sabots" by Celine Geneys. (4) "Tourment Creatif,"  a digital lithograph by Christophe Kay. (5) Another"Nuit étoilée," this one by gallery co-owner Francoise Galeron. (6) A "pixelisme" portrait of Van Gogh by Ise Cheddadi. This one is composed of 1008 little paintings, about 3.5 cm each. (7) "Arlésiennes" by Jurgen Grade. (8) Photo by Claude Sportis. The title translates as "Pine Needles as a Van Gogh Painting." (9) An embroidered wall hanging by Christine Millerin. (10)  Photo of a sculpture by Arles-based artist Thibault Franc. 

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