© 2005 CHARNWOOD ARTS and KALA KAHANI. All photos by © Claude Renault. Graphic Design and website by GATAFUNHO, © 2005
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Water and The Sacred
a photographic exhibition by Claude Renault
Hardiwar: Pilgrim Offering
Words From Kevin Ryan

I have never met Claude face to face but in this age of ‘virtual communities’ I feel that I have become a friend of this remarkable man. True, in the past this happened through letters but the difference here is in the speed and quantity of information that can pass between people in a short time.

I have already learnt much from him, about India, about him and his interests and above all through the mutual critique of our photographic work and that of others, a lot more about the compelling art of photography.

His work comes from a love and passion for Indian people and culture – he is the traveller with a cause – he aims to show us the positive qualities of a more traditional India – but he doesn’t ignore the urban, he is not immune to the distressing, or ignorant of the natural beauty of this amazing country. In full, his work combines these other elements as backdrops to the capture of people with whom he has often quickly formed a true rapport….but it is the people who are paramount.

Indian people are generally far less nervous and reluctant before the camera than Europeans – they can accept and forget its presence more readily than the self-conscious suspicion of many of us Northerners. For someone so dedicated to the portrayal of people, India is a paradise – it draws and has drawn many photographers for the same reason – including of course the work of that great Frenchman Henri-Cartier Bresson.

Claude is highly supportive of emerging Indian art photographers – he is most generous with his praise, critique and support for their work. They in turn admire the depth with which he engages in his investigations and explorations of the soul of India.

When I realised how much his work was influenced by painters such as Gauguin I knew that I wanted to be able to share his work with an appreciative audience that might also be excited by and explore the references between his photography and painting. Just as Bresson turned to drawing in his later years perhaps too Renault will pick up the brush at some point and bring his work full circle!

I hope that you enjoy this exhibition as much as I have enjoyed the process of curating it!

Kevin Ryan
Director – Charnwood Arts

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   Director, Charnwood Arts



Words From Claude Renault

“I love - take pleasure in making my photographs in a certain way. I am very fond of the Pont Aven School of painting - of Gauguin and Filiger in particular, who are to me a source of photographic inspiration.

I like flattening the perspective "à-plat"; what you see is masses of colour, flat and full. The colour fills the background, as sharply as the foreground. That's why I like to use apertures like f : 8, f :11. While I was taking a picture in Pondicherry, for instance, I immediately thought, by association, of a painting in which Gauguin uses a tree transversally, almost to divide the scene. And I did the same, even with completely different settings, colours and, of course, characters. People, of all social classes, mostly people in the streets, people in temples, are ever present in my photographs.

I never want to indulge in the sordid though, a trap you can easily fall into in India. I deliberately choose to show the brighter side of it. What I want to capture is a moment of intense emotion, the movement, the colour. I like a surface filled with coloured masses, without being abstract, so, I get as near as possible to my subjects.

In some pictures, as a result, you don't see the whole of their bodies, heads or legs are cropped, for the sake of the whole scene that I want to represent.

The theme of this exhibition grew in my mind from my most recent journeys to India, over the last two years, it was that of the sacred, almost always connected with water, the primordial element which underlies creation myths. I followed the courses of the main sacred rivers of India, the Ganges from the sources to Kolkata, the Yamuna, the Narmada, the Cauvery in Tamil Nadu…and I spent hours observing water rituals, always fascinating to me. To do that,I covered thousands of kilometres, in crowded bus’s, in excruciatingly slow trains, on foot or improvised means of transport, so I naturally faced a reality that had nothing to do with the theme, but was still as fascinating to me. A powerful aesthetic fascination which I still tend to express - searching for some geometry interrupted by vital movements.

Water and the Sacred perhaps, but I would say that my style is more the real unifying theme. It's impossible to deal with India and ignore its day-to-day, pulsating life.

Claude Renault

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   Director, Charnwood Arts


Varanasi: Woman On The Ghats

Water and the Sacred
a photographic exhibition by Claude Renault

The Charnwood Arts – Kala Kahani programme is delighted to be able to bring this premier of Claude Renault’s exhibition ‘Water and the Sacred’ to Charnwood. Kala Kahani is predominantly a literature based project so we would love to hear.......

.......Words From You!

If you wish to leave any comments about this exhbition or tell us of any stories of your own about your travels in India please visit the
Kala Kahani discussion forums. We'd love to hear from you!