Plossu travels with Granet

In the preamble, we warmly congratulate the museum’s curators, Pamela Grimaud and Bruno Ely, who invented the sequences of this exhibition. The equation was not easy to solve, François-Marius Granet is the son of a mason from Aix who discovered Rome in 1802. He is a discreet innovator, his taste for ruins and vedute originates in part from the ancient regime. Bernard Plossu was born in 1945 and considers himself a child of the Beat generation and the Cinémathèque de Paris. For his apprenticeships as a young artist, he cites Robert Bresson, Vittorio de Sica and Pasolini. This free association was not obvious, large age and period differences separate the main characters. The insatiable passion they feel for traveling and staying in Italy was not enough for them to speak.

To better understand Italy, books and paintings

With its beams and carvings of unexpected spaces, the structure on the top floor of the museum on rue Cardinale is auspicious. This file involved strict comparisons, elegance and precision, nothing that was heavy and demonstrative. Surprise and enchantment await you, small and medium formats follow each other: often small, hundreds of blacks and whites accompany the muted colors of twenty Fresson prints. At Granet, 60 washing drawings are reinforced with brown, watercolors and finely framed drawings. In the photographs, apart from a few hidden silhouettes – young women, passengers on a bus, the appearance of a monk’s costume – the human presence is minimal. Precariousness, fervor, or lightness may arise. We are on a high mountain pass, in Villa Adriana’s gardens, in Tuscany or in Verona. Once again, here it is what you can not touch except by taking pictures “the unlikely” gentle pull “Nominated by Denis Roche when commenting on The Mexican Journey: Guillaume Geneste is a Witness, Plossu” deposits every day … a little more than it requires “.

We walk among the ridge paths, the backyards, the squares and the alleys of the slopes. We do not capture a whole: the layers, answers, and details of these miniatures are innumerable. The reins of the seismograph are maintained, Plossu confesses the possible gaps in his inventory: conversation partners he will meet later, the Dolomites covered in snow, Urbino, who has always fascinated him, the birthplace of his great-grandmother.

Italy is captivating. It does not give up immediately. Understanding and translating the special conditions of a territory is also done by reading. In the window, made with modest books that Plossu likes, an intimate library is revealed: we see scribbled fly leaves, Cesare Pavese, Vincenzo Consolo or Antonio Tabucchi in pocket editions, works whose titles and models immediately evoke membership, dusty roads by Rosetta Moy A winter in Rome by Elisabeth Razy, The wine-colored sea of Sciascia. In another showcase, image references indicate that the wildest freedom, shift, and native impulses do not prevent constant acculturation. Plossu is familiar with Italian metaphysical painting before Mussolini. Not just Corot, Morandi or De Chirico.

A dedicated exhibition

to the one who has just gone

Granet lived in Italy for almost 25 years. In his time Rome was a defeated and declining city of 130,000 inhabitants, which he traveled on horseback; the ancient monuments were invaded by grass and flocks. Land views, crenellated towers, monasteries, fragments of the Colosseum overgrown with trees are among his favorite motifs. With more freedom and subjectivity, an identical attention is manifested in Plossu. What sets him apart from his predecessors are the accelerations and cuts in his pace, the speed and transience of his intuitions: games with shadows and dreams, light and memory transform the network of appearances.

Someone he misses incredibly much. During the press visit or on the phone, Bernard Plossu soberly talks about his heartache and his enormous grief. His companion since 1980, Françoise Nunez, the mother of his two children, left him on December 22, 2021. Cancer triggered her life, she was 64 years old. A strictly magical participation allowed them to work together. Plossu identified among his contact sheets the images to be developed, Françoise Nunez, whose photographic work we will discuss in another article masterfully translated the nuances of Bernard’s print: “She had the intelligence of gray”.

Until 30 August, Italia discreeta, Granet museum, Aix-en-Provence, open Tuesday to Sunday from 12.00 to 18.00, catalog, Filigranes editions, 29 euros

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