Colour me happy

IMG_2624I’m a girl who likes to have a bit of colour in her life (and no, I don’t mean ‘blue’ movies…), though Paris isn’t playing ball at the moment, coating each May day in grey clouds and dull drizzle. Luckily a comprehensive redecorating programme of the Granny Flat is underway, with paint colour tester patches springing up everywhere, but leave her loving arms and venture outside in these times of questionable weather, and everything feels a little bit beige.

If you’re scouring the streets for happier hues, then the metro is usually the last place you’d think to find them, what with all that concrete casing, those grimy white tiles, and the icy cold stares of packed-in commuters. But for another month, that’s exactly where you need to go looking as RATP play host to another artist in their RATP invites… exhibition series, furnishing selected metro and RER stations with photographs from Belgian artist Harry Gruyaert.

BELGIQUE. Boom. 1988. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum photos

BELGIQUE. Boom. 1988. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum photos

Now if we’re talking colour, he’s a chap who has devoted his artistic life to the study of it; he was one of the first pioneers of colour photography way back in the 1970s. Whilst us amateur snappers may rely on the black and white setting to give us that professional edge, Harry sees colour photography as more physical and affecting, exploring all of the different shades, tones and intensity that he can find.

BELGIQUE. Anvers. 1992. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

BELGIQUE. Anvers. 1992. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

Starting his career in Paris taking photos of the fashion industry, Harry was soon drawn towards travel, and the exhibition adorning the walls of the metro platforms in his career’s first port of call show the results of his work in his native Belgium, Morocco and London. Not only do you get the chance to explore the aesthetic journey he has taken, but you literally follow him on his physical journey as his photographs are arranged into four distinct sections and seven metro stops, meaning that you get to travel too if you want to see the entire collection.

BELGIQUE. N1 Malines-Anvers. 1988. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

BELGIQUE. N1 Malines-Anvers. 1988. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

Part 1, Maroc, (Luxembourg, RER B) is the culmination of 40 years of travel through the rural landscape of Morocco, the artist enchanted by the inexhaustible palette of colours laid out before him. At station Jaurès (line 2) the inspiration comes from just across the channel in a series of photographs called TV Shots, which capture his London experiments disrupting TV sets and zapping through the various colour TV programmes of the era, influenced by the time’s Pop Art movement.

FRANCE. Fort Mahon. 1991. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

FRANCE. Fort Mahon. 1991. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

Part 3, Made in Belgium, can be found spread over three stations (Hotel de Ville, La Chapelle and Saint Denis Porte de Paris) and has its roots in the country of Harry’s youth. It displays his work there in the late 1970s, where he tried to put his painful past behind him and endeavoured to find the different nuances in a less-than-vibrant landscape. The final part, Rivages (shores), located at Saint-Michel and Bir Hakeim, captures the subtle shades of nature’s colour wheel between the sea and the sky at some of geography’s lesser exotic seashores.

50 Shades of Grey is so last year, colour’s where it’s at. The exhibition sticks around until 15th June. For more info, click here.

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