Delightful Flowers at the Pavillon Populaire

One of the six of the best free things to do in Montpellier is a visit to the Pavillon Populaire to see a photography exhibition, and the current display is a lovely way to spend an hour or so.  “Au Bonheur des Fleurs” (The Delight of Flowers) is just that – delightful.  Five artists are featured, all with very different takes on one of the oldest subjects for photography.

Nobuyoshi Araki’s work book-ends the exhibition; at first glance, his highly-coloured shots of floral bouquets look a little conventional, but then you spot the dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs – each picture features a small, scaly, plastic figure, which can make for some wonderful images: one has its neck frill fanned out, a complement to the open bloom beside it; another attacks a display in a vase, but in the shadows cast behind, the dinosaur cowers under the threatening form of the flowers, appearing a much larger beast!

Paul Den Hollander has pictures from two series on display.  Those of Metamorphosis have a blurred, dreamlike quality from their long exposure and tight focus, while those of The Luminous Garden have deep colours and twinkle with lights, a result of the ‘photogram’ technique, giving a strangely magical effect.

Photo Courtesy of Pavillon Populaire

Lee Friedlander’s incredibly detailed black-and-white shots of Japanese cherry-blossom hark back to Victorian floral studies, and Gerard Traquandi provides a parallel series of photographs of a bouquet wilting over time and ink drawings, the fine lines of his latter providing a spare contrast to the complexity of the former.

Finally Denis Brihat gives us poppies and black tulips, each individual flower getting its own frame and seeming to hang in the air, so we can see every frill and crinkle and how fragile the poppies seem, while the tulips are strange, dark, velvety shapes.

A great way to pass some time, and kids will love the dinosaurs, so everyone’s a winner!

The exhibition runs until 21 October, open Tuesday-Sunday from 11am-1pm and 2pm-7pm, free entrance.


By Phil Booth – a British expat living in Montpellier

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