‘Chiens Bleus, Chiens Gris’ by LEYHO

The Olivier Cornet Gallery is delighted to present ‘Chiens Bleus, Chiens Gris’, a comic book and exhibition about the life and death of Francis Régeard during World War I, by the artist LEYHO, his great grand nephew.

The exhibition will also include a series of WWI photographs by François Bost, Olivier Cornet’s great grand uncle who was enlisted in the Photographic Section of the French Army during the war and who ‘followed’ the Battle of the Somme.

Official opening on Thursday, 19th July 2018, 6:30 pmOlivier Cornet Gallery, 3 Great Denmark Street, Dublin 1

Guest Speaker: Jessica Peel-Yates, Manager of the James Joyce Centre Dublin

“Gallerist Olivier Cornet met graphic artist Leyho in the summer of 2017 when they were working on the Drawing on Joyce project for the Bloomsday Festival. They discovered that their French great grand uncles had been on active service in the First World War. Both had documented it. Olivier’s great grand uncle Francois Bost had been a war photographer while Leyho’s great grand uncle Francis Régeard had carried notebooks with him in the trenches.

Francois’s photo album and Francis’s notebook pose as many questions as they answer. Together, they reveal the chaotic horror of the war machine, far from glamourized or propagandistic representations.

When he was a young child, Olivier Cornet remembers first seeing the pictures that his great grand uncle took during the First World War. “I saw his aerial photographs as a kid and they just looked beautiful to me,” says Cornet.

For Leyho, Bost’s photos offered visual fragments, unedited jigsaw pieces, to inspire his “Chiens Bleus, Chiens Gris” bande-desinée project. These bleached out photos capture the immediacy of the battlefield, far from black and white nostalgic representations.

Leyho says “One can legitimately wonder how to put into images the incredible period that was the First World War. It has been so well documented, photographed, and even filmed. Every person has a definite trace in memory, a strong mental image. So much so that one can speak of “collective imagination”. Discovering Bost’s photos, and discussing with Olivier the commonality of their ancestor’s experience, helped Leyho imagine his graphic interpretation.

Leyho continues “The term imagination is essential because it highlights that, of all that could be lived during these battles, no one today bore witness to the reality of them. We can only imagine it, theorize it and maybe even fantasize it. We cannot know it. It is with this point of view that I drew and coloured this story. I sought to give an impression, emotions, rather showing the photographic truth.”

Leyho was also inspired by ‘Aftermath, the war landscapes of William Orpen’, an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Ireland in 2017. Orpen’s sketch books, his bleached landscapes, his trench-eye view of the traumas of war, fed Leyho’s interpretation of his great grand uncle’s story. Leyho says “To tell such a story, I think you need to go deep down into the imagination of a soldier in his twenties, upset by a profound cataclysm that no one should experience.”

For Cornet, it was the tangibility of his great grand uncle’s photo album that made war real to him. Recalling his childhood, Olivier said that he experienced Bost’s photos in glorious technicolour. François Bost used his camera to capture the reality of the first World War, the so-called War to End All Wars. He didn’t know that his images would, a century into the future, join forces with Francis Régeard’s notebook and the art of William Orpen to inspire the 9th art of Chiens Bleus, Chiens Gris.”

Jessica Peel-Yates, June 2018