Artist: Olivier Millagou
Exhibition title: One Way Wahine
Venue: Sultana, Paris, France
Date: April 28 – June 18, 2016
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Sultana, Paris
Olivier Millagou’s third solo exhibition at Galerie Sultana lends its title from a 1965 beach movie “One Way Wahine” – a thrill-seeking comedy with a backdrop of the luxuriant, tropical beauty of Hawaii. Millagou takes advantage of the idyllic vision of the archipelago conveyed by the 1965 film to create a contemporary landscape in contrast with this carefree spirit, proposing instead a paradise lost.
Palm tree trunks, represented here by raw terracotta pots, have neither life nor fronds and are stripped of their magnificence. They symbolise both the state of the Hawaiian landscape today, which no longer resembles the idyllic vision of 1965, as well as also representing the state of the contemporary Provencal landscape: from hurricanes on the one hand to red palm weevils on the other. In fact, the headless palm trees are part of today’s landscape as much in Provence as in Hawaii, and a great majority of palm trees on the Cote d’Azur have had to be destroyed after being attacked by destructive red palm weevils.
The Pacific and Provencal coasts are subjects that have inspired Olivier Millagou from his earliest works. “One Way Wahine” takes common similarities from these two cultures (printed fabrics and terracotta) and plays with Provencal know-how used to create works making reference to Hawaii. The pots were in fact produced by Poterie Ravel in Aubagne, a company that still produce hand-made garden planters from local clay. As for the black sun motif, this was produced by Les Olivades in Saint-Etienne du Grès, an iconic century-old business in the South of France renowned for its prints.
The sky blue fabric, decorated with a black sun is also part of this unenthusiastic vision of paradise. The black sun surrounded by a simple golden halo becomes an endlessly repeated motif. The painting represents a black, open umbrella seen from above. This object supposed to be representing a carefree state, of quiet and happiness, loses its colours and becomes, here, worrying.
But, the exhibition is bathed in a yellow light, as warm as the power of the sun, that when added to the sky blue of the printed fabric brings by “colour an optimistic note. One Way Wahine” is a unique path towards a paradise that is ultimately not as far away as you think.
Any resemblance to 20th century artists is neither fortuitous nor involuntary.
Olivier Millagou, 69, 2016
Olivier Millagou, 66, 2016
Olivier Millagou, 64, 2016
Olivier Millagou, 68, 2016
Olivier Millagou, 68, 2016 (detail)
Olivier Millagou, 66, 2016 (detail)
Olivier Millagou, 69, 2016 (detail)
Olivier Millagou, 65, 2016
Olivier Millagou, Parasol Painting IV, 2016