Sunday, March 18, 2007

Granite and other media

Cultural events here aren't exactly thick on the ground as dandelions, but we do all right. Last weekend there were no less than two exhibitions in St Brieuc ( our prefectural town and my place of work ) we wanted to see, and I had some other errands there, so off we went.

The first was at the main museum, of pictures by Emile Daube. Unfortunate name, perhaps, but daubs they were not. He was for long in charge of the museum's art collection, and also taught painting to appreciative students some of whose works were also there. He struck me rather as one of those unfortunates whose actual talents lie in a direction other than their creative passion; he painted some brilliantly accomplished formal and informal portraits, but clearly his great love was for landscapes, which he painted in large numbers, the majority of which were just fair to middling, many in the post-impressionist style typified by the Pont-Aven school, but which had a respectable offshoot here in the north of Brittany also.

The second exhibition was a short-run show of work by women sculptors from this departement to mark International Women's Day, and was held in a converted chapel opposite nearby. The chapel is a rather sombre and forbidding building from the outside, but inside proved to be a well-lit and conducive space. I loved these wooden shapes by Irene Le Goaster.

I don't find wrought and cut metal work, of which there was a certain amount, very sympathetic, though it was clever, but this critter from reclaimed materials was fun.

This one appeared to be making a comment, I assume from the air of cheerfulness of the figure a fairly sanguine one, on the future of women in the age of the Internet and the Euro.

These two, the first in ceramic, the second wood, seem to portray quite opposing visions of womanhood. The split, hollow and faceless wood form we found sad and disturbing.

My favourites though, I think, were some granite heads by Nathalie Reau.
Having worked with granite a little when I repointed the front of the house, I am hugely impressed by anyone who can cajole this material into beautiful shapes. Only the dressings of our house are made from cut blocks of the real hard granite, the rest of the walls are composed of some softer and browner granity type stuff ( I'm not a geologist!) which was probably just what was ploughed and dug out of the fields, and which breaks easily along a horizontal grain. However, just to chip neatly a little from the edge of the blue and mica speckled doorway stones with a cold chisel was heavy going.

Last year I saw a wonderful granite sculpture of a seal by the animal sculptor Jean Lemonnier, who is based at La Gacilly in Morbihan (unfortunately the website linked does not feature the seal, but other things of his). It was left rough and unpolished, which conveyed the massive ruggedness of both the animal and the coast where it lived. These heads were solid and chunky, but polished and with a subtlety of expression.

The one above is entitled 'Paternal Love'; he is strong, with much upward movement, possibly a little stern, but also, like all these faces, somwhat mischievous.

This one, I think my favourite, is 'The Goddess of Accomplishment'. I love the way her tongue protrudes slightly at the corner of her mouth, just as perhaps the sculptor's own does as she concentrates hard on achieving her task. But accomplissement also carries a sense of fulfillment, completion, repletion. She could also be seen as having the slit-eyed, far away, sleepy look of a satisfied woman.
And this fine character is 'The Lady of Perros'. That is to say Perros Guirrec on the Rose Granite Coast, to the north and the west of here, where the sea is blue and the rocks are pink and the Islands are Seven, and the granite is the finest.

( All photos taken with permission.)


Anonymous said...

Interesting! I like the Goddess of Accomplishment best, too! And the last photo of the wall.

Zhoen said...

I like Paternal Love, some ancient yearning on my part.

"I'm taking you to meet my father. He's a mason."

"Do I need a secret handshake?"

"A monumental mason."

"A big man?"

"... He's very strong. "

Oliver's Travels.

Marly Youmans said...

Are both the walls yours?

I'm going to have to send this to my e-pal sculptors...

Granny J said...

Ms. Accomplishment is my choice, as well. Working granite must be demanding, but the results are worth it. And thank you, Mr./Ms. zhoen for reminding me of that delightful shaggy dog tale that was exported to PBS here in the states. I had a nice moment recalling it!

stitchwort said...

The granite heads are a bit too Modigliani for me - I like the clay woman best.

chris miller said...

I just noticed that we have some kind of "international Woman's day" exhibit happening now in Chicago -- so I guess this event really is international.

Regarding these sculptures -- I'm not very happy with them -- but maybe I just lack a Gallic sense of humor. They feel so - so loosey-goosey to me --- despite the incredible effort required to
carve them.(exception: the simple wooden shapes by Irene Le Goaster.)

On the other hand, I had a much better time with the sculptors at Galerie de Crecy (Jean Lemmonier etc) -- a few of whom I've had on my website for several years now.

But thanks for sharing the pictures -- I enjoy seeing exhibits without leaving my chair !

Robert said...

It is good to see "local" work like this at such a high standard or did you choose carfully? Even so I will have to try harder.

Is the black dog yours?

Like Erik in Holland your countryside looks so tidy, definately more advanced than us in some ways. Out daffodils are at least halfway though their flowering.

Lucy said...

Thank you, it's interesting to note people's different responses!
ML-glad you like my wall!
Z and GJ- It's great when people start conversing, like when a party goes well and guest's are getting on! I'll look up Olver's Travels, I don't know it.
M-Yes, my walls! Initially they were just a jumble of all anyhow stones with mortar not much more than mud, or non-existent; it took me about 5 summers to bring them into shape. Thanks for sending the sculptor chaps over!
Stitch-yes she is rather grand isn't she?
Chris- ah well, each to their own!I've never heard 'loosey-goosey' before! Perhaps I should change my blog name to that, as I've been wondering about 'box-elder', that people might think I', a county in Utah or a small town in Montana, or even some nasty invasive kind of tree bug...but I'm fond of it now. In fact, if I'd been allowed one thing to take home (a game I always play), I'd have been pushed to choose between the granite and the wood forms; the lighter wood ones on the plinths reminded me of chocolate seashells, and the big ones were very imposing presences. Glad you enjoyed the Crecy site, you prompted me to go and look at it in more detail.
Robert-yes, I think the standard was generally high, if not all to my taste; there was a lot more I could have taken, and some that didn't photograph so well but was still very good. I'm very interested in sculpture, though not very educated about it, but in some ways I find it easier to respond to than 2D art... but I do think it needs to be touched, which isn't alsways possible!
Yes, the black dog is our Mol, an English cocker,in fact but a rather woolly stocky one!

Catalyst said...

These could be plaster casts. But, I believe you Lucy. I'll just take them for granite.

Lucy said...


herhimnbryn said...

Were you allowed to touch?
I wanted to stroke those wooden forms and would have cheerfully taken one or two home with me!

Marly Youmans said...

Oh, I'm glad Chris and Robert came by. I knew Chris wouldn't like them but was curious what he would say.

The walls are wonderful. I have a desire to make a stone wall in the back, to match the foundation of my house... Wretched carpal tunnel probably won't let me, though.

But maybe that's what teenage boys are for. (Not! as mine would say.)