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Musée de la photographie André Villers


Musée de la photographie André Villers, 2011-13


Arts cultural regenerational education project: 

Promotion of the Musée de la photographie  coinciding the promotion of André Villers, Mougins, France and the HSBC Prix pour la Photographie Prize



The promotion of Musée de la photographie André Villers and the Musée de la photographie exhibition Prix HSBC pour la Photographie, (2011-2013).


Project publications for a  spectrum of media for the museum and HSBC prix pour la Photographie exhibition, including "Flash Art" (May 2013),   "Artreview" (June 2013), "The Art Newspaper" (July-August 2013) and "The Riviera Reporter" (May 2012 & June 2013).



Musée de la Photographie André Villers

André Villers et la Photographie : Noces de Diamant!

 

En 1952, au centre héliomarin de Vallauris, André Villers fait la connaissance de Pierre Astoux. Celui-ci l’initie à la photographie. Ce qui fut à l’origine un échappatoire pour oublier la douleur et l’ennui, est devenu pour André une passion, un métier, une raison de vivre. Accessoirement, un musée a été érige. Le dit musée ne pouvait passer à côté de l’occasion de fêter le soixantième anniversaire de la rencontre d’un homme extraordinaire et une pratique artistique. André Villers et la photographie se sont nourris mutuellement, chacun donnant à l’autre une part de leur histoire commune. 

 

Si André Villers est connu pour avoir longuement photographié Pablo Picasso, ce qui fut décisif véritablement dans sa trajectoire artistique, est bien plus leur étroite collaboration artistique que le simple fait d’avoir portraituré ce modèle si singulier. En effet, le peintre a accompagné le photographe sur le chemin de son insatiable curiosité et de son goût pour l’expérimentation. Diurnes, un ensemble de clichés découpés et de photogrammes crées à quatre mains, matérialise par l’œuvre cette connivence de ces deux amis. Un petit faune découpé par Picasso fut le début de cette aventure, une publication commune constituant le point d’orgue.

 

La rencontre des peintres et des sculpteurs a ainsi suscité à André Villers l’envie d’exploiter toutes les potentialités que peut offrir la photographie et c’est dans son laboratoire qu’ont pu se révéler ses talents de magicien de la chimie.

 

Sachant instinctivement saisir l’instant décisif de la prise de vue lorsque tout se joue à la seconde, il n’hésite pas à passer des heures dans sa chambre noire, afin d’insuffler à ses images une perfection dans les contrastes mais surtout dans le but de transfigurer complètement le cliché originel. Les petits objets usuels, telles des pâtes alimentaires ou du papier à cigarette, prennent leur place dans le processus de développement. Parfois ces derniers se mélangent aux personnages qu’il avait portraiturés par ailleurs, souvent ils occultent et remplacent complètement ces derniers. 

 

André Villers en côtoyant le monde des plasticiens s’est ingénié à emprunter les différentes formes de représentation. Du rendu fidèle de la réalité, il a progressivement basculé vers la déformation de celle-ci pour aboutir à la plus parfaite abstraction. Il met en relief les qualités intrinsèques de la matière tout en portant une attention toute particulière à la composition.


Cependant, le propos de cette exposition ne consiste pas à proposer une exposition rétrospective, retraçant l’ensemble de la carrière d’André. Cette partie de son œuvre est très présente dans le cadre de la collection permanente du musée. Il s’agit plutôt de montrer sa dernière production, celle qu’il a réalisée au mois d’août dernier. 

 

Soixante ans après le premier déclic, il continue inlassablement à faire de chaque journée un rendez-vous avec la création. Ses difficultés à se déplacer sont depuis le début une contrainte qu’il a pu surpasser par la qualité de son regard. Celui-ci est toujours aussi vif comme l’atteste son très récent autoportrait. Il révèle son espièglerie, sa faculté de discernement mêlée à une tendresse infinie pour les gens qu’il aime et qu’il côtoie. Une humanité rare, une passion sans faille, un courage énorme, sont les ingrédients nécessaires à la poursuite d’une démarche artistique. 

 

La série qu’il vient de réaliser se réfère à un unique objet figuratif, en l’occurrence  une chaise. Des artistes, par le passé se sont intéressés à cet ustensile du quotidien. On la retrouve géante et calcifiée dans La légende des siècles de René Magritte. Elle devient emblématique de l’une des formes du ready-made avec One and three chairs de Joseph Kosuth qui décline la chaise de manière plastique et sémantique : l’objet en lui même, sa représentation photographique, sa définition. 

 

André Villers ne s‘est attaché qu’aux caractéristiques plastiques. Il l’a mise sens dessus dessous, jouant avec l’ombre, usant de la solarisation, de « complications esthétiques »,  la déformant comme s’il s’agissait de papier, démontrant si besoin était, que dans le monde de l’image tout devient possible. 

 

Soixante ans après, comme dans un beau mariage, tout est encore possible pour André, comme aux premiers jours de la rencontre. 

 

Olivier Lécine

Commissaire de l’exposition

 

Brief Biography: André Villers

Born. 10 October 1930 in Beaucourt, France

Died. 1 April 2016


Pippa Jane Wielgos

 

The photographic work of André Villers has been described as pivotal to the historical movements and changes in aesthetics central to Cubism, Dadaist collage and dream images proposed by automatic writing and the images of Surrealism.

 

Following the diaspora of the Second World War and the emergence of European Modernism, Villers photographed many of the greatest 20th century artists, painters and writers who visited Mougins and the South of France. 

 

These iconographic personalities included Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Jacques Prévert, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Alberto Magnelli, Jean Arp, Le Corbusier, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, Bram van Velde, César Baldaccini, Hans Hartung, Pierre Soulages, Man Ray; Antoni Clavé, Antoni Tàpies, Francis Ponge, Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini, Léo Ferré, Michel Butor, Ben Vautier and Graham Green Greene, to name but a few.

 

His originality and inexhaustible imagination, both as a photo-journalistic and fine artist, was described by the American photo-journalist David Douglas Duncan, in "A Secret Garden, Photographers of the Imagination", as one in which “he redesigns the world into which he was born”.

 

“Villers taught himself everything he treasures most in life: photography, painting, a passion for poetry and how to walk once again after five claustrophobic years spent in plaster casts when many doctors dismissed him as a hopeless invalid. He had earlier been stricken with a spinal deformity caused by wartime childhood malnutrition during enemy occupation of his hometown in eastern France”.

 

From 1947, at seventeen years of age, with severe bone tuberculosis and severe calcium deficiency, he was invalided to a sanatorium in Vallauris and rendered totally immobile. As part of his therapy to make him walk again, he was loaned a camera. 

 

During this formative period, he was introduced to photography. In 1952, he made his first dark room experiments. His early photographs were of Vallauris (where Georges and Suzanne Ramié founded the Madoura Pottery and invited Picasso to work) and its local inhabitants.

 

A chance encounter in March 1953 changed the course of Villers' life. He saw a man in a street and asked permission to take his photograph. The man was Pablo Picasso. 


He was 23 years old and it was five years after he had left the sanatorium in Vallauris where he had spent eight years recovering from bone tuberculosis, during which time he had spent five of the years flat on his back unable to walk.

 

The artist recalled this fortuitous meeting with Picasso, 49 years his senior, in an article published in "The Independent" in 1998 during an exhibition of 25 images of his work at the Royal Academy in London, "Picasso : Painter and Sculptor in Clay".


"One day when I was out, by chance I met Picasso”…. “I didn't know anything about his paintings. I still don't know what attracted me to speak to him". He raised his camera seeking permission to take a shot of the artist, but Picasso refused. After some pleading, Picasso eventually agreed to just one frame.

 

After taking the picture, Picasso asked to see the box of pictures that Villers was carrying under his arm, "just in case someone asked to see them." After perusing the novice photographer's work, Picasso said: "Having seen what you do, do you want to see what I do?" He went on to add: "Don't worry. People take me for a mad man, but all I want to do is tell the truth".

 

Picasso provided Villers with his first Rollieflex camera. This enabled him to produce portraits of the painter, reportage of other subject matter, as well as artists and writers who visited or lived in the area. 

 

The Picasso-Villers relationship evolved into a close working friendship which culminated in hundreds of images documenting Picasso’s professional and personal life – several of which are based on photographic experiments.

 

A selection of these can be seen in the archive and display of 200 archive and new images currently showing at The André Villers Museum of Photography in Mougins. It also also holds 70 works by invited world renowned 20th century photographers, including Lucien Clergue and Robert Doisneau.

 

From the studio in Chemin Le Fournas (Vallauris), fifty years after the inception of Cubism, Picasso and Villers explored the synthesis of painting and photography through printing techniques, solarisation, and paper abstractions - cut outs known as ‘découpages’, exposed on bromide paper and re-photographed by Villers to create a Cubist genre in photography.

 

During the mid-1950's Villers began a set of carvings titled "Ex-Photos", which were exhibited in 1970 at the Loeb Gallery in Paris.

 

The Picasso-Villers artistic relationship was also evident in 1962 in the collaborative work of thirty experimental découpages and photographic images published in the book edited by Heinz Berggruen titled "Diurnes" (Daytime), with original surrealistic text of poetry by Jacques Prévert.

 

In 1970, Villers made negatives from pieces of tracing paper and, experimenting with a new way of creating camera- less photography, published the book by Michel Butor, "Pliages d' Ombres" (Folding Shadows). This manifested itself in photographic work based on experimentation with shadows and transparencies and the use several emulsion techniques (solarisations, jets of developer).

 

In 1971, 10 images were also featured in the artist's book, "Telle La Feuille et L'Arbre", with preface and 19 poems by George Ribemont Dessaignes, copyright Andrée Caraire. This was in homage of Alberto Magnelli, an Italian modern painter, who played a central role in the post war Concrete art movement.

 

During the 1980's, he set about producing a set of paintings on cardboard called "The Photographers". These were exhibited in Paris, Tokyo and New York by the Yoshii Gallery alongside the work by the American photo-journalist David Douglas Duncan whose book dedicated to the project entitled, "A Secret Garden, Photographers of the Imagination", notes Villers’ inexhaustible ability to question and experiment with the fusion of painting and photography. 

 

Villers also worked with the Dutch painter, sculptor and poet Karel Appel who made an important set of paintings with photographs by Villers. Villers later produced works in collaborative venture with the French painter and sculptor Robert Combas.


In 1984 Villers published his text "Photobiographie", recounting his life, his artistic process and his relationship with Picasso in a special issue of "Les Cahiers du Sud".

 

The only major UK showing of Villiers' work was in the Royal Academy of Arts in 1998, in the exhibition, "Picasso : Painter and Sculptor in Clay", which showed 25 images Picasso between 1953-59, selected from the Musée de la photographie André Villers in Mougins, the town where Picasso lived until his death in 1973.

 

Within the exhibition other prominent photographers also photographically documented Picassoin his studios and environs. These included Brassai (1932), Robert Picault (1950), Lionel Prejger (1950), Lucien Clergue (1955), Willy Maywald (1956), and stills from film-makers as Luciano's Emmer's film of "Picasso" of 1953.


Since the 2000, Villers has produced a set of paper cuts works and experimental photographic techniques in line with fine art of contemporary artistic practice in his own idiom. not disimilar to the abstracted elements from his earlier Cubist composition formulated with Picasso. 

 

In 2010, some of these experimental works were seen the exhibition "VILLERS 80" at The Villa Aurielia in Fréjus, which showed Villers’ recent work of 60 experimental argentique works, découpages and solarised works, 


Collections of the artists’ photographic work can also be found at Nicephorus-Niepce Museum in Chalon-sur-Saône and the Museum of Photography in Charleroi in Belgium. 


Villers’ contribution to art is honoured in Mougins in the Alpes Maritimes in a Museum of Photography bearing his name. Next summer it will host the 2013 Prix HSBC pour la Photographie”.


In 2006, Villers was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the French order of national merit for the recognition of significant contributions to the art of photography.

 

© Pippa Jane Wielgos


Above photograph of advertisement featured to promote the exhibition with photograph of the Musée de la photographie André Villers 

by Pippa Jane Wielgos alongside securing publicity in:-


"Flash Art"

 Organisation of an interview between  Emmanuelle de L'Ecotais,  2013 Artistic Advisor, Prix HSBC pour la Photographie. Umberta Genta. (Editorial & advertisement: May 2013) and advertorial.

 

 "Artreview"

Advertorial: June 2013.


"The Art Newspaper" 

Summer festivals issue

1/4 page advertorial: July 2013.

  

"The Riviera Reporter"

Winners of HSBC photography prize at André Villers Photography Museum

 Editorial: May 2013.


"The Riviera Reporter"

The André Villers Photography Museum, Mougins

Editorial: May 2010.



MUSÉE DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE ANDRE VILLERS - Porte Sarrazine, 06250 Mougins,  France.

Free entry. Tél. : +33 4 93 75 85 67 : museephoto@villedemougins.com