On June 17, 2022, la Galerie Coutaz inaugurated its space at 7 rue Balechou in Arles. The Gallery presents an exhibition of Denis Brihat, godfather of the gallery.
A major photographer of the second half of the 20th century, the artist, or rather “The man of the craft” as he says, participated in the emancipation of photography in contemporary art from the beginning of the 1960s
Settling in Bonnieux in 1958, in the hills of the Luberon, he decided to devote himself to his personal work, the observation of nature. He uses a large format camera and makes his prints himself, to give life to “photographic paintings”.
For this he uses old processes, in particular toning, which is an additional chemical treatment. The tones of selenium, gold, copper, iron, allow him to develop a color palette.
Photographic etching, a chemical process that attacks the darkest areas, provides depth and substance. However, the simplicity and purity of Denis Brihat’s photographs make us forget these techniques.
From the beginning his photographs were intended to be displayed on a wall, to be shown to the public as an original creation.
His work was quickly rewarded with an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1965 and in 1967 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
After working for the Rapho agency, he left for India from 1955 to 1956.
The photographs taken during this trip earned him the Niepce Prize in 1957.
Tired of the madness of the city, he decided, encouraged by his friend Robert Doisneau, to settle in Bonnieux in 1958. Leading a Spartan life, in a landscape worthy of Jean Giono; it is in the hills of the Luberon, that Denit Brihat takes the time to observe nature, while listening to Bach.
It was during this period that he met Bernard Coutaz, founder of the music label harmonia mundi, together they created record covers, which remained the “trademark” of the label.
In search of pure photography, Denis Brihat works with a large format camera and makes his own prints. His experiences and his rigor lead him to a complete mastery, to the freedom of creation.
At the end of the 1950s, he was one of the first photographers to want to present photography as an original creation, to hoist it into contemporary art. For this he produced large prints, in limited editions which he calls “photographic painting”.
During the summer of 1969 he organized the first photography meetings in Bonnieux with Jean-Pierre Sudre, Jean Dieuzaide and Jean-Claude Lemagny, all filmed by Michel Tournier.
The following year he gave way to Lucien Clergue for the First Edition of the Arles Photography Meetings in 1970. He participated in it by training a new generation of photographers.
Until 2012, Denis Brihat continued to practice photography and make his own prints.
The exhibition at the Galerie Coutaz brings together works made between 1975 and 2008.
It’s a walk through different seasons, different trees, punctuated by the finesse of wild oats.
What suggests still lifes are almost portraits of nature.
A calm and serenity are unfolded in the photographs, forcing one to take time to observe the poetry of nuances and depth.
Today Denis Brihat is still in Bonnieux surrounded by his wife Solange, his photographs and his memories, which he shares with tenderness and simplicity.
Between the former National School of Photography, the arenas and the ancient theatre, the Galerie Coutaz is located in the historic center of Arles, in the heart of a lively cultural district in full expansion.
There is no coincidence, only signs. Indeed, the gallery is located in the former mansion of Eva Coutaz, who was President of harmonia mundi for more than 40 years.
It is a family story that continues today towards new horizons, in the same spirit of rigor, support for artists and encounters with the public.
The gallery also highlights the publication of art books with an area for books, where works related to the photographers represented and their themes are offered.
For its first exhibition “Récit N°1” the Galerie Coutaz presents the works of Denis Brihat, godfather of the gallery, and Adrien van Melle.
Denis Brihat : Au travers des chemins
from June 17 to August 27, 2022
7 Rue Balechou
13200 Arles, France