It’s not often you are truly stopped in your tracks but I was yesterday. I was walking through Pimlico deep in conversation with someone and a giant glinting disc in a shop window caught my eye. It was huge, different, metallic and perfectly formed. There was another one in the next window that looked like Dangermouse. I stopped because my brain told me these look familiar but also like nothing I’ve ever seen. They have the appearance of something natural, man made and cartoon all at the same time. Closer inspection revealed them to be nose cones from planes. Either paintings or photography on aluminium, they had that quality you sometimes find when it’d hard to define exactly what format the image is in. Most importantly they looked absolutely ace.
Thankfully the people at the Mauger Modern Art Gallery were hanging the work and happy to let me barge in and find out about the art. They are the creative output of Manolo Chretien, a French photographer, who grew up and around airports as his father was a famous pilot. He’s been travelling the world from active airports to Airplane graveyards shooting them face on, cropping the wing and tails and giving the nosecones a new look. Many of them look like dogs, others smile at you, some just look like patterns and others look like worn out old planes. Then there are those that still do their intended job and look mad bad and dangerous to be spotted by.
From menacing fighter jets to luxury Lear jets to military transporters and passenger airlines Chretien’s exhibition gives you a new look at aviation. Head on and that’s not something you encounter everyday.
Manolo Chretien on 'Nouveaux Nez'
"When I was young, each plane was fascinating to me when seen from his nose. It was like looking someone in the eye, ready to talk to him. It's very exciting to feel watched by an artwork as if it's alive.
"Talking about the idea for the artwork, he says: "It's been in my head for years, since my father woke me up one school day, facing me in the air as he flew the cockpit of a helicopter up close to my bedroom window. I remember it as if it was yesterday; my father with his Raybans smiling inside, making signs of 'time to get out of bed kids!'"