Monday, 2 August 2010

Open Air Art in Rouen: The Botanical Gardens

Our Normandy holiday included a free day.  As it was a Sunday and they seem to have as many weekend railway works as we do, this meant finding things to do in Rouen.  The weather was really hot and sunny so we decided to go to the botanical gardens.  They are a short bus ride from the centre over the Seine and through the previously industrial Left Bank which is often depicted in Impressionist paintings.  The botanical gardens were lovely, not very big but there were lots of shady areas for sitting out of the sun and part of the garden is a replica of Monet's garden at Giverney, complete with bridge.

There were several installations spread through the gardens as part of the Festival.  These included large plastic bubbles which were supposed to represent drops of rain:

Shigeko Hirakawa had placed tiddlywink shaped circles in a number of the trees.  These change colour in different light and atmospheric conditions.  Unfortunately the light was too bright for me to be able to photograph them.  Then there was an impressionist style garden based on a grid principle.

I really liked the geums in this area.

Opposite the gates of the Botanical Gardens is a gallery which belongs to FRAC.  This appears to be the equivalent of our Arts Council.  FRAC Haute Normandie had commissioned a photography exhibition for the festival on the theme of Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe.   The interpretations were very some photographers chose to develop themes of nature, others the nude and others contrasts of light.  Some had done abstract images drawing on Monet's later works, including the waterlilies paintings which were done when he was suffering from cataracts.  These interpetations included a video of someone swimming down a river, the person appearing and reappearing against an 'background' of thick green river, and another which focussed on the effects of pixellation.  There were detailed studies of people lying on the grass and of fruit and food. The second part of the exhibition was totally different and more in the tradition of social comment.  Andrea Keen photographed  people picnicing in different locations including the Giverney carpark (I think), a woody glade in the Cevennes and on the banks of a man-made lake.  What we tend to forget today is that when Manet painted  Dejeuner sur l'herbe the railway from Paris to Dieppe was new and had opened up the possibilities of days out for people living in the city.  For the first time people of all classes could discover the great outdoors.  I found this exhibition extremely interesting not least for the way in which the artists had used Manet's work to inspire a wide range of interpretations using modern artistic technology.

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