BREATH OF THE FRAGRANT CITY

Amplify Studio is honoured to herald a new photographic exhibition by Patrick de Mervelec. A member of the Leica Foundation's 81/91 Global Family. Patrick shares the same company as Salgado, Sieff, Roversi and Doisneau.

“BREATH OF THE FRAGRANT CITY” (2010-2016) takes us through these compositions where the depth of perspective and harmony in contrasts transports us into the mystical realm of the photographer’s vision: intensely feminine and voluptuous; observing these images, we breathe in the infinite nuances and fragrances of the Atlantic and the rare essences which permeate the air of the surrounding mountains…we feel the curvaceous forms of her body, so provocative and seductive. This collection of photographs, curated from a series taken between 2010 and 2016, was inspired by Baudelaire’s poem Parfum Exotique (Exotic Perfume)*.

Exotic Perfume
 
When, with both my eyes closed, on a hot autumn night, 
I inhale the fragrance of your warm breast 
I see happy shores spread out before me, 
On which shine a dazzling and monotonous sun;
A lazy isle to which nature has given 
Singular trees, savory fruits, 
Men with bodies vigorous and slender, 
And women in whose eyes shines a startling candor.
Guided by your fragrance to these charming countries,
I see a port filled with sails and rigging
Still utterly wearied by the waves of the sea,
While the perfume of the green tamarinds, 
That permeates the air, and elates my nostrils, 
Is mingled in my soul with the sailors' chanteys.

 – William Aggeler, “The Flowers of Evil” (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

CURATORIAL STATEMENT

Patrick de Mervelec creates a visually poetic and sensual essay conveying the uniquely volatile and enigmatic character of the “Mother City” - her landscapes and seascapes: windswept beaches, trees gnarled by the weather, ghostly boats emerging through the mist, bewitched by her cliff-lined coast as they sail to a safe port, navigating past the wrecks spread out round the coastline…

ARTIST’S STATEMENT

The ambivalence of this city: an urban precinct, yet set in a wild and remote world, inescapably ruled by nature, dominated by the intense moodiness of the elements. Here one roams through images that awaken the senses, lure one in, misty silhouettes, vessels that shimmer beyond the waves, shores of oriental splendour where distant suns build idyllic cities. Heady atmospheres of rich cultural extremes are embraced in the mountains’ contours; this metropolis is unpredictable, alluring, bewitching; like a mysterious woman, you inhale her fragrance, you discover and uncover her secrets.

BIO OF PATRICK DE MERVELEC

Patrick de Mervelec was born in Paris in 1945. He worked in France until 1998 and has since been based in South Africa.

In the early years Patrick studied photography at the Institut National de la Photographie in Paris before becoming assistant photographer to Maurice Tabard - one of the great masters of the surrealist movement and a peer of Man Ray’s - who became his mentor. Tabard’s still life and innovative solarisation techniques still influence Patrick to this day.

Thanks also to Tabard, Patrick developed an incisive eye and learnt to capture images at speed. This gave him a knack for street photography and reportage and he became a photo reporter at Paris Match, covering the frenzied events of the sixties, doing features on the Beatles, Deneuve, Piaf or Churchill. Parallel to this he was fashion photographer for a number of publications including Marie-Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and l’Officiel.

Patrick was a member of the Paris based Fondation Leica from 1981 to 1991. This group included Salgado, Klein, Roversi, Doisneau, Sieff and Depardon.

Over the years Patrick has gained much experience in advertising photography and particularly enjoyed working on the presidential election campaigns for political leaders such as François Mitterrand (“La Force Tranquille”), Emil Constantinescu, Mesut Yilmaz or Nelson Mandela/Thabo Mbeki.  

The early seventies saw his entrée into the theatrical world and, as actor and director, he had the opportunity to work with Gilles Bouillon, Peter Brook, Yoshi Oïda, Andréas Voutzinas, Delphine Seyrig and Claude Brasseur. In 1973 he directed a documentary movie, “L’Atelier”, focusing on the Actors Studio and Lee Strasberg’s “method acting”.

The art of portraiture has always been intrinsic to Patrick’s work; he loves interacting with people. Whether he is working with friends, strangers, artists, musicians, politicians, writers, farmers, street people or dancers, his approach is one of candour and simplicity and his images unravel the identity and tell something of the story of the person he is working with.

Patrick has created photographic collections on a variety of different themes from nude studies to documentary photography, landscapes and dance.   Most collections have culminated in the publication of a book accompanied by a series of exhibitions (see below).

Over the years, he has conducted a series of master classes in photography, the most recent of which was in 2016 at the Summer Academy, Venice, during the Biennale.

1988 Participates in ‘Splendeurs et Misères du Corps’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art – Paris (certain works housed in the Museum’s permanent collection).

1989 Publishes (in gravure) ‘Histoires de France – 1789 / 1989’ (Editions Contrejour; preface by French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang) on the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. Exhibitions (same title) at FNAC Art Galleries throughout France.

1996 Publishes ‘Regards sur l’Afrique du Sud’ (Editions Nouveau Monde), with poems by Mazisi Kunene (translated into French).

2001 Publishes ‘The Jo’Burgers’ (Protea Book House), prefaced by Don Mattera. Exhibitions (same title) throughout Africa.

2002 – 03 Publishes ‘Nude Landscape’ (Protea Book House). Exhibition (same title) at Photoza Gallery, Johannesburg. ‘Looking at South Africa’ exhibition at Rau Art Gallery, Johannesburg.

2004 Publishes ‘Looking at South Africa: 1994 – 2004’ (de Mervelec & Aurouet). ‘Looking at South Africa’ exhibitions throughout Africa and at Zuva Art Gallery, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg.

2005 Publishes ‘The South African Ballet Theatre’, (In Camera Art Publications). Exhibition (same title) at Gesseau Art, Johannesburg.

2007 – 08 Publishes the catalogue ‘Cul de Sac, my pilgrimage with Johnny Clegg’ (In Camera Art Publications). Exhibition (same title) at Alliance Française, Johannesburg; Espace Michel Simon, Noisy-le-Grand, Paris; Museum Africa, Johannesburg.

2009 Exhibition ‘The Gautrain, constructivism & urbanism’ at Alliance Française, Johannesburg. Exhibition of vintage print collection, ‘Histoires de France 1789 – 1989’ at Alliance Française, Johannesburg.

2013 Publishes ‘Johannesburg architecture and heritage’ (In Camera Art Publications); book launch and exhibition at David Krut Projects, Johannesburg and The Photographers’ Gallery, Cape Town.

2014 Creates collection ‘Les Nuits’ focusing on the choreographic work by Preljocaj.

2014 – 17 Currently working on two new exhibitions and book publications.