Emmanuel Lenain’s Exhibition ‘Tender Concrete’ a Tribute to Chandigarh Architecture


Commemorating World Heritage Day which falls on April 18, the historic Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, threw open an exhibition, christened ‘Tender Concrete’, showcasing a collection of 16 black and white photographs by Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India.

Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India

Lenain, who has extensively travelled across the length and breadth of India, calls it his sweet home. The candid images of people and places he has captured during his random travels speak volumes of his unyielding passion for photography.

Exhibition ‘Tender Concrete’

The exhibition ‘Tender Concrete’ was inaugurated by Adviser to the Administrator, UT, Chandigarh, Dharam Pal at the Hall of Government Museum and Art Gallery Sector 10 on April 18, and will be on display till June 30, from 10 am to 4.30 pm, daily, except on Mondays and gazetted holidays.

Exhibition ‘Tender Concrete’

The exhibition ‘Tender Concrete’ features 16 pictures of Brutalist Architecture, depicting the magnificence of the iconic buildings designed by the consummated architects of the times, offering a fleeting glance of the bygone era, known for architectural advancements. This speaks high of the visionary minds and the rich legacy of cultural heritage they have left behind to be taken forward.

Amongst some of the visuals captured by Emmanuel Lenain, in a simple yet shining black and white on public display at the exhibition, is a conglomeration of 16 photographs, a majority of them shot in Chandigarh, including the Tower of Shadows, Chandigarh Museum and Art Gallery-10, Gandhi Bhavan, the Secretariat, Panjab University, Mill Owners’ Association Building, Institute of Indology, Indian Institute of Management, National Institute of Immunology, Lilavati Lalbhai Library, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, et al. These vibrant, simple yet stunning images captured in pure black and white are to be seen to be believed.

Black and White photographs in Exhibition

The rare architectural marvels are meticulously captured on camera by a deft hand, gathering the scattered threads of architecture, immortalised by the acclaimed masters of the times, including Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Raj Rewal and Balkrishna Doshi, among others.

A well-meaning quote by the prolific artist cogently derives home the point, leaving nothing to speculation “I am not among those left aghast by Brutalism. Quite the contrary: concrete, when handled by the greatest architects, has always seemed tender to me. It allows for sensual and dizzying curves, the alternation of empty and full, a plunge into solitude and reverie”. The quote gives a sense that things should not be taken on their face value. Even an odd and ugly-looking object can look engaging to an ingenuous eye.

Exhibition ‘Tender Concrete’

Sharing more on the visuals captured with incredible precision, Emmanuel Lenain makes a point “For these photographs, I have not followed the documentary genre but a personal subjective approach. A photograph of architecture is not necessarily a topographical survey; it can be the expression of an emotion. I am less interested in the buildings taken as a whole than in architectural details, which taken out their context, acquire a poetic dimension”.

Black and White photographs in Exhibition

He is reported to have confided in a scribe about his undying passion for photography during an informal chit chat “When not working, or reading, I love clicking pictures for posterity. I see India as a vibrant country.” His photographs speak the language of the mute. The black and white depict the fascinating frames of architecture and Nature, people and places, elections and emotions, all rolled into one.

(The writer , Ramesh K Dhiman, is a former staffer of The Tribune and freelancer. He has written extensively for leading newspapers and magazines on art, culture, mythology, besides travelogues.)


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