Marc Gilmant: Reflections and shadows

3 By Ellen Hall 3

On a sunny summer afternoon in Collioure, Rue Mirador in the old Mouré section is an oasis of calm and shade just a few steps away from the crowded beaches. In the narrow alley outside number 9 neighbours stop to exchange news and offer fresh-picked apricots. Inside the dark cavelike Gallery Pressoir, Marc Gilmant shows his photographs of light.

Born and raised in Belgium, Marc discovered Mediterranean luminosity near Cannes at the seaside home of his grandmother, who gave him his first camera. Working in Brussels he photographed large abandoned industrial spaces – glassworks, factories, warehouses. Since moving to the Pyrenees Orientales Marc has continued to explore traces of the past and what he calls “the memory of places”.

The vestiges of the Nobel explosives factory at Paulilles before its conversion to a protected natural site was the subject of a project Marc exhibited in the Chateau Royal of Collioure in May 2009. Examining the black criss-cross lines slicing the crumbling walls into geometric forms raises the question: what is solid and what is insubstantial shadow? This play on light is the essence of Marc Gilmant’s artistic vision. What you see is not what you get!

In fact, Marc Gilmant is a most painterly photographer. “The camera is a tool to allow me to approach painting.” Inspired by the celebration of Fauvism in 2005, Marc created his own series of images focusing not on landscapes, but details which would ordinarily escape notice. In homage to Matisse’s “La Plage Rouge”, Marc investigated traces of red: in a sunlit palm tree, a wine bottle or a speck of rust. Real objects become abstractions, as on the canvases of the masters.

Natural light is the key to Marc’s technique. A dry Tramontane or a humid wind from the sea changes the quality of light. In a recent exploration on the theme of “Wine”, Marc Gilmant photographed the large demijohns of Banyuls maturing on the roof of a local wine cellar. Like Monet’s studies of Rouen Cathedral, Marc’s camera captures the bulbous bottles at different times of day, from dawn to dusk. Here the effects of light are more important than the object itself.

In October as part of the “Grandeur Nature” exhibition at the Chateau Royal in Collioure, you can see Marc’s photographs on the theme “Dreams of sand and water”. Another poetic vision he is developing at the moment is a film tribute to his grandmother who transmitted her love of images with that first gift of a little black box.

[(Gallery Pressoir is open every day from 11 to 13 and 16 to 19 during the summer.
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