Yann Kebbi: from New York to Douarnenez

Yann Kebbi: from New York to Douarnenez
Must see  -   Exhibitions

Douarnenez, situated on the edge of a marvellous bay off the coast of Brittany and even at the end of earth, finis terrae, has been attracting artists for quite some time. Many painters ventured there to try to capture the infinite nuances of an incomparable landscape, energetically brought to life by a once-thriving fishing port but most of all because of the subtlety of an iridescent and flickering light. Today, slower economic activity has made houses more affordable and artists have begun settling down into what is shaping up to be a “city of art”. And Douarnenistes also have the opportunity to get initiated into the creative process at a new Arts Centre which was once an old school building. In addition to the studios there are also exhibition spaces, allowing amateurs to display their work alongside established – and even internationally recognized –artists such as Yann Kebbi, who worked in Paris but had ties to Finistère and who, this spring, has set up his easel in the land of penn-sardin

Among today’s illustrators, Kebbi is one of the best, the most thriving and one of the most engaging and much has been written about him by the international press. As a lover of urban life, its energy and its crowds, Kebbi naturally felt at home in the greatest city of them all, New York. The city was the inspiration for most of his illustrations that graced the walls of the Douarnenez Arts Centre. Hay from the White Cube for example really conveys the feeling of intense activity and dense movement typical of an American metropolis. The focus here is not on the idolization of a single piece but on the repetitive effects or shock produced by the abundance and juxtaposition. No less than 200 sketches are being shown —which might give some galleries something to think about!

Kebbi may be an artist adept at using black and white but really, he excels at using colour. Yellow seems to be his favourite, instilling his street scenes with an amazing tone, calming and soothing like the intimacy of a bedroom. His skills have been perfectly mastered and honed as if to appear improvised, his brush very effectively captures the countless figures that move through the big city. The exhibition also showcases some full-size portraits that exemplify Kebbi’s real talent in that area.  From the page of a notebook hastily blackened in order to preserve a trace of a beautiful moment to the large, more serious compositions, the variety of shapes is as vast as the sources of inspiration.  The artist even decided to cross the ocean to provide visitors from Brittany with an array of views of their coasts, their bays and their boats. These sailor snapshots are superb; they can capture the glory of a sunlit day as well as the splendour of the “shades of grey”. The women of Douarnenez (a unique kind of person!) appreciate Kebbi’s work as connoisseurs and are left feeling homesick only because of all the images from across the Atlantic. They are the widows, the nuns, the sailor’s daughters who, every year during the port’s heyday, went for long trips on the high seas. It’s hard to be a homebody when you live at the end of the earth. When Yann Kebbi takes his globetrotter’s notebooks from his backpack, he is welcomed as a friend.

Cité des arts, 88 rue Louis Pasteur, Douarnenez – until March 24.