If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. But it won’t be a bunch of teddies enjoying a cheese and pickle sandwich. Oh no. It’s the weird and wonderful “balloon invasions” of Charles Pétillon. It’s not only forests that are the locations for the French artist’s alien landings, either. They are popping up everywhere, from suburban homes to playgrounds to golf courses.
The self-taught former advertising photographer switched to still life in 2002, and has since been exploring the relationship between man and the environment through his art practice in tandem with a successful commercial career. Pétillon’s balloon invasions are metaphors for our intrusive presence in the world. In CO2, for example, the forms spill from a garage like the fumes from a car, but the artist is also commenting on our seemingly endless quest to acquire more material possessions – here they are bursting free from their overfull storage. The fragility of the balloons sits in tension with the sharp edges of industrial scenes, whereas in his rural settings, they appear a more comfortable if still incongruous part of the environment – clouds of gas bubbling from the earth, perhaps. Lille gallery Maison de la Photographie is hosting an exhibition of Pétillon’s work from 20 February to 22 March.