8 Dec 2008

Emmanuel Nouaillier

Black & white piece featuring traditional French shop fronts

One of the best things that has happened since setting up this blog is people sending me ghost sign related materials from around the world. The most interesting of these are when the signs have been used as a springboard for artistic and other creative activities.

Most recently I got a series of emails from Emmanuel Nouaillier who is an artist working in Northern France. As a country, I would suggest that France more than any other rivals the USA for the number and quality of Ghost Signs that can be found. What Emmanuel has done with this raw content is quite remarkable and I had to do a double take when he explained his methods to me. I will try to describe this process here.

First is choosing a location to work with, these are generally run-down buildings with one or more fading hand painted signs on them. He then uses a series of photographs of the location to begin constructing, in miniature, a scaled ultra-real replica of the scene. To create these tiny models he uses foams, plaster, cardboard and other materials before proceeding to paint them. This is clearly painstaking work as you can see from the size of the brush he is using. The first series of pieces were produced at a scale of 70:1, and he is now working on his second series which will be quite a bit larger, scaled at 40:1.

Hand painting the miniature replica of the wall.

Once the models are finished he then takes them outside into the natural sunlight to photograph them. This results in the images you can see here which appear almost as if they were photographs of the original street scene. In some cases he then applies effects to these photographs to give them the quality of an acrylic painting. This is a fascinating endeavour and I think the results are fantastic.

The finished result photographed outdoors.
Another Dubonnet sign on a derelict building.
Faubourg Nord 1955
Photograph manipulated to give effect of an acrylic painting.
‘Decay’, a work simply of a fading building, sans ghost signs.

Emmanuel is working towards completion of his second series and an accompanying book for some time in 2010. This second series is also going to feature a South London and a Brooklyn sign so it’ll be interesting to see the project move out of Emmanuel’s homeland. I will give any updates as and when they arrive and I’m sure there will be opportunities to buy some of his productions once they are all complete. Thank you Emmanuel for sending me these, they’re great!

[Update: More from Emmanuel.]

Other artists working with ghost signs:

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