Camille Claudel lived in Nogent sur Seine as a teenager, and from there, she was launched into her career as a sculptor, her talent carrying her to Auguste Rodin’s studio and into another complex world. The recently-opened Museum in Nogent sur Seine holds an important number of her sculptures, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of late 19th and early 20th century French sculptors.Read More
Since I share many Europeans' profound shock and dismay about the Brexit vote in now what is becoming rapidly "Little England", I found myself thinking back to a wonderful series of carvings I had seen the evening before. They helped me regain a sense of perspective and reminded me that down the ages, every country, especially here in Europe, has gone through so many upheavals and shocks. I was exploring the wonderful little Burgundian village, Montréal, near Avallon.Read More
Every artist must at least occasionally have moments of doubt about whether work being created will stand the test of time or whether it will even be appreciated by other people. It is inevitable, I suppose, given that most creative ventures are fairly solitary. You work away at your desk, your potter's wheel, your easel, your sculpture table, your musical score, your ballet bar or whatever the work might require. Your vision and your passion, you hope, carry you forward to creating something that is good, worthwhile, meaningful to others. And something that will stand the test of time.Read More
That’s life for you, isn’t it! All of a sudden, there is so much of fascination to blog about and share with the world, and at the same time, there is the quandary of what to do – blog or draw?And there are only those twenty-four hours in the day, alas. Nonetheless, I will burn the midnight oil a little to celebrate a wonderful event that I was privileged enough to share this weekend.
In a green and harmonious forest, deep in Burgundy, France, there is now a magically glowing Green Giant, a living forest sculpture created by Alain Bresson, a noted French artist.
Alain has been creating imaginative sculptures that celebrate the world around us for a long time, with work exhibited in notable venues in Paris, as well as Africa and other parts of Europe.
His land art is increasingly welcomed in exhibitions that draw attention to our environment, and in the case of the inauguration I attended, his imaginative empathy and understanding of the forest was clear.
The Green Giant came about almost by chance – as Alain laconically and self-deprecatingly recounted at the inauguration, deep in the lush forest surroundings, he was walking in the local community forest. He suddenly saw the two strangely configured maples growing together and realized their possibilities. He had already had troubles with his own village. The authorities there made him destroy a previous Green Giant sculpture, but happily, in the case of the adjacent community of Argentenay, near Tonnerre, the Mayoress, Catherine Tronel, was more than receptive to having him create a living sculpture in the “forêt communale”.
So Alain covered the trees with yet more moss, which glowed luminously after all the rain we have had, and added delicious touches of scarlet to make the Giant gloriously jaunty. Moss globes, also with flamenco-style flowers tucked in to add allure, were hung from other trees to add depth to the scene. At the inauguration, as Alain explained, we could not yet see the total scene as he had planted different seeds in the moss and in the Giant’s foreground. They will germinate and change the effect, and make the Giant an evolving sculpture that will continue living for years to come. Much more fun than a sculpture that is created and then, that’s it, once it is placed in its official position.
As you parked by burnished pale gold grain fields and then walked into this cool forest, where birdsong is the only sound you normally hear, it was like entering a magical green world.
Then suddenly this hugely tall green presence arrests and surprises, then delights. There is power and whimsy, and ultimately, a deep respect for our oh-so-important forests. Alain Bresson has travelled a long and successful route since he first went walking in the local countryside as a small boy on a school outing. While all the rest of his class brought back bunches of poppies and daisies to the teacher, he brought back branches, sticks and nettles. The teacher was horrified and reduced the eight-year–old to tears with his reproaches.
Now, I suspect, were that teacher to see The Green Giant, he would be of a different mind about Alain’s selections and skill.
Vous entrez dans une fôret lumineuse, spacieuse, où les verts sont intenses, infinément variés. Le sentier serpente, invite à se délaisser, à explorer. Et soudain on voit une boule de mousse, ornée d’une fleur vivement rouge, suspendue d’une branche. Puis, en voilà une autre. Ainsi, les yeux vers les cîmes des arbres, on aperçoit, d’un coup, le Géant Vert qui vous contemple de son hauteur impressionnante.
Son créateur, le sculpteur Alain Bresson, l’a créé de deux érables vivants qui ont une forme entremêlée se prêtant à devenir “une personne”.
Alain Bresson n’est point étranger à ces formes de “land art” dans la nature, car il en a créé maintes versions dans sa longue carrière artistique. Il est reconnu pour ses oeuvres qu’il expose avec beaucoup de succès à Paris, en Allemagne, en Afrique, un peu partout. Mais c’est d’abord chez lui, dans sa communauté même, qu’il a voulu créer un Géant dans la fôret. Pourtant, sa sculpture fut mal vue par l’hiérarchie élue; Alain fut obligé à détruire son oeuvre!
Heureusement pourtant, la jolie petite communauté d’Argentenay, (en Bourgogne), voisine de celle d’Alain, a été très receptive à l’idée qu’Alain a proposée de transformer deux érables vivantes en Géant Vert. L’inauguration a eu lieu le samedi 5 juillet, avec la présence de notables tels que M. Raymond Le Deun, Préfet de l’Yonne, M. François Patriat, Président du Conseil Régional de Bourgogne, M. André Villiers, Président du Conseil Général de l’Yonne, M. Jean-Jacques Gleizal, ancien Président du FNAC Bourgogne, et, bien sûr, Mme. Catherine Tronel, Maire d’Argentenay. Alain Bresson a brièvement expliqué que l’énorme personnage du Géant Vert est parsemé de graines dans la mousse lumineuse. Elles vont pousser bientôt pour ensuite acceueillr les oiseaux, les papillons, les fourmis.
Le Géant va ainsi évoluer, changer, se répandre en beauté. Sa splendeur verte intense va fluctuer au fur et à mesure que le temps se sèche ou que la pluie tombe, tout comme chaque être vivant. Par dessous de leurs revêtements de mousse, les deux arbres vont poursuivre leur croissance lente, au rhythme de la forêt qui les entoure.
Grâce à Alain Bresson, nous avons tous, en coeur d’une si belle forêt de Bourgogne, un Géant Vert qui nous aide à célébrer la nature, qui est, en fait, notre meilleure amie.
Our outer skin - nature - rewards a closer look on many occasions.Read More
Back on April 28th, 2012, I.M. Pei, the architect, was quoted by William Cook in The Spectator as saying, "What interests me about architecture are the links between old and new – art, history and architecture are indeed one."
I found the most wonderful example of this happy marriage between history, art and architecture during my visit to Matera, South Italy. In amongst the astonishing labyrinth of caves, grottoes, vaulted homes and churches in the golden tufa Sassi area, many inhabited for millennia, is MUSMA, the Contemporary Sculpture Museum of Matera. The museum of a many fingered series of tamped-earth floored grottoes, full of niches and wells dug deep into the cool tufa limestone, was originally a palace, the Palazzo Pomarici, dating from the 17th century onwards with some outer constructed rooms added on to the caves. The original caves go back, probably, to neolithic times, and have been used as dwellings or places of worship and refuge ever since.
Yet today, the inspired marriage of art, history and architecture has resulted in an amazing structure that houses a really impressive collection of modern sculpture, Italian and international, from 1800 onwards, but mainly from the 20th century. Imaginatively displayed and placed in these cavernous grottoes or in the more traditional rooms, the collection is broad in scope and of very high quality overall. To complement the sculpture, there is a collection of prints and drawings, with a few small paintings, by many stars of the international modern art scene, mostly artists whose oeuvre has included some form of sculpture.
I found the links between the old and the new, through this museum of most unusual architecture, to be really memorable. It was a highlight of my trip to Matera, and well worth a visit for anyone who is in the Basilicata area of Italy.
One of the highlights of a trip to Barcelona is the collection of Romanesque art in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) - fittingly, you climb up to Montjuic mountain and enter the impressive, domed Palau Nacional, with its frescoes, huge spaces and wonderful diverse collections of Cataluna's art.
The Romanesque collection of art, however, is reputedly the best in the world assembled in one place, and it is astounding in its breadth and depth, its presentation and its relevance to all the other art that one can see in the same museum. It is a wonderful reminder of how the 10th-13th century world in Spain was so closely linked with that of France, Italy and Northern Europe. As a young woman, I used to travel from Paris to Barcelona by car, meandering through France to all the major Romanesque sites. This Barcelona collection is the perfect continuation of the wonders that one can see in France in the famed churches and chapels.
Frescoes, tenderly rescued from chapels and churches all over Cataluna but mostly to the north, are beautifully mounted in domed reproductions of the churches, or incorporated into arches. The domes are created from wonderful wooden structures whose complex beauty and carpentry are works of art in themselves, seen from behind the display of each fresco. Colours are as vivid, in many cases, as if the frescoes were executed yesterday - their directness is arresting, details astonishing.
Many of the frescoes are done in colours that seem so modern, as can be seen in the excellent presentation on the Museum website. In a way, this religious art is fun - it is imbued with religious fervour, yes, but also with a fresh reflection of life and the things that mattered to those contemporary worshippers. Details are wonderful and well worth looking at closely as you wander through the beautifully presented rooms (many redone in late 2011).
There were delicious cattle, cockerels, other beasties amid the details of everyday life. Many of them are the direct link to Antoni Gaudi, for instance, when you look at details of the Sagrada Familia sculptures. Then when you turn to the rooms of Romanesque sculptures at the Museum, the simplicity and power of the wooden or metal crucifixes were memorable and haunting, especially as they are superbly presented and lit.
In similar fashion, the fabulously simple, wooden figures, arrestingly displayed, are very powerful. Some are almost Oriental in the serenity of their faces and expressions, their surfaces beautifully worked and smooth.
As a counterpoint to all the polychromed frescoes, there are rooms of carved capitals on pillars from cloisters and churches, the stone wonderfully worked with saints, plants, fanciful beasties... and in the final room, there was a selection of enamelled religious objects, many in champleve, many from Limoges. Again, the reminder of how close were the religious communities of France and Spain.
Anyone with an hour or more to spare in Barcelona should do themselves a favour and see this remarkable collection of Romanesque art - it takes one into a world of powerful, direct emotions - joys, sorrows, deep beliefs and hopes, seasoned with humour and respect for life and nature.