Vintage photographic art: catching up with Didier Naert

"Cyanotype Paris"  2013 by Didier Naert. Courtesy of the artist. The exhibition is presented at Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, from June 4 to July 31, and is presented by Alliance Française Dubai and Andidote.
"Cyanotype Paris" 2013 by Didier Naert. Courtesy of the artist. The exhibition is presented at Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, from June 4 to July 31, and is presented by Alliance Française Dubai and Andidote.

Didier Naert, a French movie set designer and artist, works with vintage photographs printed on aluminium or black paper board and draws with gouache around the prints giving the compositions a dreamlike aspect. His exhibition, Paris Vintage; Imaginary Extensions is on show in the Sofitel on The Walk, JBR in Dubai for all of Ramadan. Here I caught up with him for a Q&A session:

Q: Can you explain more about your technique?

A: I carefully select vintage photographs that I then print on aluminum or place on paperboard and I paint around them with gouache. I have developed two techniques: “extension” which often combines several photos like an imaginary puzzle and then painting around the unique original photographs.

The second technique is called “composition”, which is combining one or more photographs but I print them on aluminum and that allows me to enlarge the original photograph. This technique allows me to create very large-scale artwork and sometimes it can feel like walking in a real street!

Q: Do you first source photograph and then paint on top of them?

A: Yes definitely! I look for photographs that stimulate my imagination, photographs that in a way I want to revive with my paintings around their initial subject.

Q: How did you decide on this technique?

A: I have always made notes, remarks, or drawings on my scouting photographs when I am preparing for movie sets. In a way it is a similar creative process like making sketches before painting a picture. So this technique came naturally, I think I can say that it is part of my creative process.

Q: Where do you source your images from?

A: I have an important collection of argentic photographs, as a photographer, I also made many myself and I constantly look for new ones. In Europe, this is easy, with specialized auction or even flea markets sometimes. The beauty of argentic photographs is that they last, compared to the digital photographs, I feel that they tend to disappear almost immediately. They are intangible and honestly how many people have them print on paper today?

Q: What kind of response have you had from the people of Dubai?

A: I believe they appreciate the closeness of old photos and contemporary compositions, as well the aluminum medium that I use in my composition. My work is neither nostalgic nor old fashioned and I think the Dubai audience can relate to that easily because in a city like Dubai that has emerged and changed so quickly that looking back can become even more interesting in a sense that you want to remember how it was 40 or 50 years ago, in a positive way.

Q: Do you think people in Dubai have a kind of reverence for all things European that is explored in your show?

A: Reverence might be too much, but it is true that a city like Paris, full of memories, will always remain attractive. But, yes, I hope in a sense that my work is an encouragement to slow down the phenomenon of the forgetfulness.

Q: Your exhibition will be up during Ramadan - how do you feel about that?

A: Traditions fascinate me. They cross centuries and survive the test of time. This comforts me and alleviates my concern about time and its inexorable quality of passing so quickly. During this month people take time to slow down their pace and introspect. This conscious effort to connect with ones inner self is therapeutic and calming.

Q: Finally, what is your opinion of Dubai and the UAE in terms of art scene?

A: I stayed only four days which is very short. My focus, apart from the actual show, was to make contacts and to look for old photographs of Dubai. This city is amazing and I am fascinated by its past. So many things happened so quickly. As I said earlier, my creative process is based on vintage photographs that inspire me, and for the little I have seen the potential of creativity based on the UAE of the previous decades can be fantastic. So I hope I will be able to source these old photographs and to come back and show artworks based on vintage photographs from the UAE.

* Paris Vintage; Imaginary Extensions will run until July 31 at Plantation, The Sofitel, The Walk, JBR and is presented by Alliance Française Dubai and Andidote.

Published: June 15, 2015 04:00 AM


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