Bridges ‘make you travel without moving,’ says artist Philippe Metaireau

Artist Philippe Metaireau describes bridges in the romantic way that you might imagine a man from Provence, France, would describe them.

“Bridges — they are things that move and they make you travel without moving,” he said. “They move because they can take you from one side to the other.”

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Metaireau, who spends part of each year in his home country and the rest in Victoria, studied at the École d’art et d’architecture de Luminy in Marseille. After a brief period designing houses in Saudi Arabia as an architect, he pursued a full-time career as an artist and continues decades later.

It’s a path he said has been much easier in France than Victoria, where he currently has his debut show at Dales Gallery.

Metaireau loves bridges in a way that most people don’t. He has painted seven landmark bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver and Paris’s Eiffel Tower, which he calls a bridge to the sky.

But in the collection at Dales Gallery is one closer to Victorians’ hearts: the Johnson Street Bridge.

Metaireau has painted the bridge from the rarely seen view from its top, looking through its beams across the Inner Harbour. Scrawled on one of its iron arms are the initials JSB and what Metaireau calls the bridge’s birth and death dates: 1924-2015.

“A bridge is like a person, even people who lived here 50 years ago will still remember him or her — the bridge as it was,” Metaireau said. “The bridge helps you go somewhere else. And a person helps you in the same way.”

Gallery owner Alison Rogers called Metaireau’s work interesting and vibrant.

“Philippe came in with the triptych of the Golden Gate Bridge and I was fascinated, I thought it was wonderful. I thought it was a great overview of San Francisco, which is a city close to my heart,” she said.

“Then he showed me the Johnson Street Bridge and I am very fond of that and sad to see its demise.”

But ever the bridge fan, Metaireau said he’s also looking forward to its replacement.

“A new one is coming that is going to be so beautiful,” he said.

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