On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Alliance Française Abu Dhabi, two local-based artists, painter Bénédicte Gimonnet and painter/photographer Isabelle Avenarius shared an exhibition that showcased their perception of the urban and natural landscapes of the Middle East drawing inspiration from Arabian Art and culture.
Beautifully arranged around the Alliance's premises, the displays take on an entirely new dimension once the inspiration behind each is translated into words. To shed light on her photography, art and the mechanics of her work, Isabelle Avenarius took the time out of her very busy schedule for a quick chat with BookFabulous.
BookFabulous (BF): The photographs on display are brilliant, but you started out as a painter. So, what got you interested in photography?
Isabelle Avenarius (IA): Yes, I am a painter but I was interested in experimenting with other visual medias and using a camera like a pencil. All this experimenting led to my first Photo-series 'Impressions Naturelles' in 2008.
BF: How do you get inspired to start on a project?
IA: I am mostly inspired by the contrast in a new environment and its features (nature, architecture and light).
BF: Tell us a little about the collaboration between yourself and Bénédicte Gimonnet to produce this exhibition ‘City, Desert and Sea’?
IA: As we recently discovered each other’s work, we found out that we were inspired by similar subjects but using different techniques. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Alliance Française in Abu Dhabi, Bénédicte and I proposed the concept of a visual dialogue between her painting and my photography.
BF: Which of the pieces on display did you most enjoy working on and why?
IA: The 'Serie Mosaiques' is a tribute to the traditional Arabian Art. Each time I am using slightly different techniques (Illusion of a wood inlay work or a stone mosaic with a geometrical pattern), it is always a new challenge. My favourite piece is called 'The Marina', the first creation that inspired the other pieces of work in this series.
BF: I understand that the series is not all on exhibit here, does that mean we can expect future additions?
IA: Yes there are more works to come. The exhibition at The Alliance Française is a preview of the entire 'Serie Mosaiques' that is yet to be exhibited in full.
BF: You have previously exhibited in different places around the world, how was the experience of working on ‘City, Desert and Sea’ in Abu Dhabi different to that?
IA: So far I have exhibited in Paris, Zurich, Zermatt and Germany (online Gallery whitewall). My work there was mostly inspired by the landscapes of Northern Europe, France, Switzerland and Peru. Now, in Abu Dhabi, I describe the encounter of the city with its natural surroundings. So I am also focusing on architectural photography using geometric patterns influenced by the Arabian Art.
BF: Regarding the type of gear; Does using the best equipment necessarily translate into the best photo?
IA: Photography is not all about your equipment. It is about observation and inspiration, capturing the subject, the light and movement at the right time. It is also about your interpretation of what you see and creativity.
BF: So, what advice would you give to budding artists to hone in their skill even if they cannot afford the best equipment?
IA: Even with a simple camera practice a lot and discuss your work with other photographers.
BF: Back to painting. Is there any work in the pipelines right now?
IA: This photography 'Serie Mosaique" was initially inspired as I was painting the nature around me [in Abu Dhabi]. However, I have not been painting recently although I always keep in mind using both techniques together.
BF: Since BookFabulous is obsessed with all things books, what books have influenced your artistic journey and what are you reading right now?
IA: My artistic journey is mainly influenced by visual experiences while travelling rather than by my reading. However, I am presently reading a trilogy called 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.
The exhibition runs until Saturday, March 22, at the Alliance Française, Abu Dhabi.