Damien Poulain, Pavillon éphémère

fronton, in situ fresco and exhibition, commissioned by the festival
& Halles of Toulon

Damien Poulain travels the world, the geometry of his colours circulates freely between arts, design, architecture, and public space. His works also take shape in the collective performance. His practice is popular, he wants his works to be accessible. Simplicity is at the heart of his work, it is a true quest, sensitive and necessary, allowing freedom and sharing. Damien, the experience of place is central to your work. Here, the mural Pavillon éphémère covers the wall of the inner courtyard of the former Bishop’s Palace of Toulon.

Could you tell us more about the context of this commission for the Festival Design Parade ?
This mural was commissioned by the villa Noailles for Design Parade. Its director Jean-Pierre Blanc gave me carte blanche to create a mural in the courtyard. The trust given is extraordinary, it allowed me to give free rein to my imagination and to let my ideas float to lay down my colour combinations on a historic building of the city of Toulon.

Did becoming part of a historic and religious building lead you to proceed differently from what you usually do? How was this dialogue built ?
Investing a place is also appropriating it and, in this case, I imagined the architecture of the courtyard in relation to a whole, to the city of Toulon and its world. I transformed the Bishop’s Palace into a ship to let it parade in the city and connect it to the sea. As the painted part is not on the listed part, it becomes a collaboration with historic heritage, but in no case I let the building and its history intimidate me or have an influence on me, apart from its forms and the numerous cells, which, in my imagination, could remind me of the cabin of a boat. I guess the courtyard inspired you : open-air, it is a crossing and sharing space where we reconnect with ourselves and the others in the heart of Toulon. The courtyard is a meeting place, between indoors and outdoors, the public sphere and the private sphere. An open theatre where the public from the street and the guests of the festival meet. This is what interests me most in this place, it is a link between the street and privacy where we can stay just like on the pontoon of a boat. I transformed it into a “pavilion”, playing on the double meaning of the word, both a marine identification banner and a pleasant building, being part of a larger architectural ensemble.

I just wanted to talk to you about the title you chose. Pavillon éphémère, it evokes various worlds and references. Can you tell us a little about it ?
I wanted to immerse myself in the city, as I always do, I wander through its streets and I let my eyes linger on the elements that catch them. What I retain from Toulon are the sea, its boats, and its harbour. I enjoyed observing the models of the large ships at the National Maritime Museum, these companies, these monuments that set off for great adventures to conquer other continents. This tour inspired me to paint the mural : I covered the walls of the courtyard with triangular shapes in reference to the dressing overalls. The “dressing overall” is the former word for pavilion but it also refers to these small pieces of coloured fabric that were hung on the ropes between the masts to celebrate a happy event. Decked with its new adornment, the Bishop’s Palace bedecks itself. This is where my idea of pavilion comes from, like a building ready to leave,
with its participants, embarking on a journey for a few months.

How were the colours dictated to you ?
The place is always the one defining the colour. I am not entering a conquered territory. The colours are therefore those of Toulon, born from the sea and the mountain surrounding it, from the subtly coloured buildings and their shutters – sumptuous architectures from the 1950-1960s – and finally from the dialogue with the radiant green of the palm trees punctuating the city. From the courtyard, I soon gazed at the sky, it appeared as a blue colour patch swept by white clouds. Yellow then appeared to me as a bright and joyful obvious way of inviting it. It is the colour associated with the marine world where the sky and the stars are still the guide and guardian of time.


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