When I flew into Singapore this morning, I gave little thought to the aircraft that carried me in. I thought nothing of its structure, substance or poignant potential to inspire artworks. Manolo Chrétien did.
French born artist Manolo Chrétien saw something on the surface of planes that so easily could have gone unremarked; the grace, life, character and history of aerodynamics and the materials and environment that make it possible.
Born in 1966 on a French Air Force base, Manolo Chrétien’s work is the inevitable result of a childhood surrounded by bright aluminum, hot tarmac and kerosene smells.
But it is his never-ending quest for tracking the fluidity of movement, the ‘anemorphose’ (the wind that sculpts the elements) and his exacting eye and unique production that enables him to replicate this fluidity in such a tactile, sensual way.
At the heart of this exhibition is a photographic collection, but to be so simplistic, would be to dismiss the unique qualities of each one of these photographs. They are large and graceful at the same time. With a couple of portrait shots of the planes almost having an introductory quality; hung high enough that you get a sense of looking up and under the nose.
Each image has been printed onto large pieces of recycled, brushed aluminum. This technique is interesting and sophisticated, leaving me peering around the edges and under the art works that are mounted off the walls. The closer one stood, the clearer the grain of the aluminum. Not merely a vessel to carry the work, but integrated into the photographs, the weight and strength and sharpness of the metal was evident in the image.
This exhibition bares a symmetry with the Red Sea Gallery where it is displayed. The Red Sea Gallery is part of a converted army barracks. The whole campus is now transformed into a thriving hub of restaurants, bars, antique dealers, galleries and markets. Both gallery and aluminium are now transformed from their utilitarian functions.
While beautiful in their own right, the Flux series of photographs seems slightly out of place in this space. There is a slight discord in the inclusion of these large scale photographs of waves and the ocean. Curated into a separate corner of the space, as they rightly should have been, I felt like I was getting an insight into a whole other practice that might have been better kept for another day – or, perhaps fitting into a larger manifesto of art that did not easily translate across languages.
The highlight of this exhibition for me is the distorted reflections of city scape. Citilusion, Shanghai and New York City seen through the reflection in a sheet of polished riveted aluminium from an old French airplane. These images drew me in, as my mind sorted the twisted images back into reality. It was a cloudy day in Singapore when I entered the Red Sea gallery and these works were the first cheerful images I saw to the right as I walked in.
‘Aluminations’ is an exclusive showcase of Chrétien’s latest works and his first solo exhibition outside of Europe and North America. The space is well sized to show case these large works, which fill the walls and absorb the silence of the space.
Aluminations is on until the 23rd of November 2013.
Block 9 Dempsey Road, #01-10 Dempsey Hill, Singapore 247697
Open Daily 9.30am-9pm (including Public Holidays)
Image copyright Manolo Chrétien 2013
Citillusion Series; NYC Red & Green two panels, 142 x 94cm