Harry Gruyaert

Online Viewing
Irish Summers
Photographs by Harry Gruyaert
Original music played, composed and recorded by Tuur Florizoone at 'Studio des Rameurs' in Brussels. 
Contrabass: Soet Kempeneer
Production: Valéry Faidherbe
Calibration: Albin Millot

With the support of the Département du Var
Hôtel Départemental des Arts - Centre d’art du Var


This online viwewing brings together a selection of images Harry Gruyaert made on trips to Ireland over the period 1983-84. While some of these photographs are included in a number of Gruyaert’s previous projects and books (e.g. ‘Rivages’/‘Edges’), this is the first time that they are presented as a series.

For Gruyaert, who turns 80 next year, traveling has always been a way of breathing. Most of his well-known photographs were taken during numerous trips around the world and are often immortalized in thematic books, such as Gruyaert’s publications about Morocco, Moscow, or his upcoming volume on India (scheduled to appear with Editions Xavier Barral this fall). Wherever he goes, the artist’s main concern is to tell something about the country and time by means of photographing its specific color palette and light, and this without a predetermined agenda or story he wants to tell. This also accounts for Gruyaert’s images of Ireland, the island he crossed in 1983-84 in his Volkswagen van, capturing the country’s outstanding natural beauty and distinctive popular culture along the way. The portraits on view of stolen moments of happiness and collective recreation of the Irish working class of the 1980s on one of those rare sunny summer days, illustrate Gruyaert’s interest in complex, borderline chaotic images and his ability to capture the ‘decisive moment’ on film.

In these colourful tableaus of groups of sunbathing friends and families, not devoid of a touch of humor, the subjects are very present. However, in other images included in this exhibition, desolation, solitude even, predominates. In his pictures of for example an abandoned telephone booth on a gray stone road, or the interior of an empty local pub, Gruyaert once again demonstrates his talent to find beauty and colour amidst even the most empty or banal setting.

With its typical eighties vibe, present in the fashion, hairstyles and even the cars of those portrayed, ‘Irish Summers’ is clearly a portrait of a country in a given time. However, this series is also largely determined by an ultimately timeless element; that of the (changing) light, masterly playing the leading role in the images taken on the beach on which dramatic clouds gather while thin sunbeams break through. This fragile light, the threatening skies and the palette of shades of gray and soft, muted colours might have reminded the artist of his motherland Belgium. The guy from Flanders that Gruyaert is and always will be — despite his universal relevance and deeply singular approach to his subjects, no matter how diverse they may be — unmistakably felt related to these Irish summers.

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