Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The scrap-merchant poet's universe

That's a very clumsy translation of l'univers du Poète ferrailleur. (I think perhaps there's also a pun on ferrailleur, which can also mean a swashbuckler).  This is a fabulous, inspiring place, some way inland from here in Morbihan.  It's near a pretty village called Lizio, not far from the town of Josselin. We went there a couple of day's before we went to my brother's.

The swash-buckling scrap-merchant poet is Robert Coudray, and he is clearly a man of extraordinary inventiveness, originality and energy.  He has been in his time a film maker, stone cutter, farmer, cider maker, and sundry other things - he says he always envied people who knew from an early age what they wanted to be, that he never knew but always knew he wanted to know.  The museum, as it is called, since, he says, museums should not only be reliquaries of the past, has taken him over twenty years to make, and he's still at it.

It's main feature are the automata, the intricate, powered sculptures, which make you smile and smile.




The indoor ones that you come to first are made from all kinds of reclaimed materials, but are metal based.








Many of them play with light and shadow in surprising ways,




with satisfying lines and forms.




They are distinctive and sometimes distinguished characters.








The one above was perhaps the most complex and dynamic.  A series of balls were dropped and caught, several doing different things at once.  Sometimes a ball would go one way, sometimes another, sometimes one and sometimes two would drop into one place.  Sometimes one would appear to fall uselessly to the floor, but in fact there was a slope which ensured it would eventually end up in one corner, where it was taken up by the slow-moving large green wheel and returned to the system.  We pressed the button for this one at least three times in an attempt to take it all in.

The sculptures are intriguing and funny, but more than mere novelties or whimsies; everywhere there is a sense of beauty and transformation.  The presentation and decoration is delicious..




Outside, and in the further buildings, the constructions, which are his later works, are larger, and made using much more wood.


- as well as other salvaged materials
.



The lady above plays a tune on old tin soldiers' helmets.


and this vessel belongs to the pêcheurs des étoiles, the Fishers of Stars.  There's a good video of the making of it on the museum's website.


The character above is l'aeronaute.


There's a strong ecological spirit to the place.  There are some very handsome earth toilets, which use woodshavings,




only there are instructions not to use any shavings if you're only having a pee, as well as a moral motto reminding us that: Pope, prince or beggar, all are humble on this throne.


There are examples of solar, wind and water energy,


and some very well-lodged chickens.


Coudray's latest projects have taken him away from the moving machines and back to building.  I like the picture above, not because it's a great photo, but because it's got my sister, Molly and Tom in it, in receding spatial order.  Don't know who the person in the red jacket is, but the figure seated on the top of the rock is, I think, the Hermit,.


And this is the Hermit's House.


He has a television, to give him a view onto the world outside.  A text above it reads I have seven oak trees on my telly, which are indeed what is you can see, but in fact anyone can appear on TV here, 


including Tom.


The Hermit also has a Meditation Tower,


with this hand-shaped seat in its lowest room.


The strange watchtower, a stalked, organic building, is very recent, and doesn't even feature on the website or  plans of the site.

We like the coast of Brittany, are glad to be close to it, and for holidays we tend to visit other coastal areas. But there are some real treasures in the interior too, if you know where to look.  This is an altogether witty, playful and joyous place, but there's also a kind of depth and almost solemn vision to it which is quite extraordinary.  Highly recommended.

(The link in the first paragraph is to the museum's own website, which is all in French but very worthwhile, not least for the photos and videos, the one on the making of the Hermit's house is delightful too.  However, there is also this article and interview in English, a good translation, on the website for the town of Josselin.)


28 comments:

herhimnbryn said...

Magical wonder land!

Zhoen said...

Fabulous.

marly youmans said...

Oh, dear! I have a deep desire to go there...

Did you send a link to Clive? If not, I'll leave one. Perfectly marvelous.

For many years my husband collected keywound toys, often broken ones that he repaired. He'll like this too.

I am thinking of a raft of people who ought to see these.

Love this post!

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

Lucy, this is a wonderful post. The creativity of the work shown is sublime. I'm in awe!

How lovely that we've both produced puppet/automata posts. I shall put a link to this on my next 'puppet post'!

zephyr said...

Oh, how fantastical!! i now ache to go there...thank you for this!!

Rouchswalwe said...

Delicious indeed! Punkish and Gothic-ish and tastily presented. An ale! An ale! I read a book once some years ago about automata in China ... wish I could recall the title. Stories by Haruki Murakami come to mind ... Ach, this is a fabulous post, Lucy.

marja-leena said...

Oh, Oh, OH, how amazing, magical and I want to see these! Gorgeous post and photos, Lucy!

Peter said...

What an inspiring, beautiful place. Thank you for putting the effort in to share these pictures and words. I'm going to ask my sculpture-major daughter to look at it.

Fire Bird said...

wow!

Anonymous said...

Oh. . . oh, oh, oh. This is fabulous in every way. I'm sitting here in awe, scrolling up and down. Reminds me of Calder and also of the filmmaker Michel Gondry in the homespun inventive genius, the lightness and "airiness" for lack of a better term. Thank you so much for this post!
- alison

christopher said...

Imagine being the man who creates such a thing...

How can there be a better life than that?

Barrett Bonden said...

I've spent a professional lifetime trying to define the word "wit" and am still no nearer. But these models (plus their dynamics which you describe so appreciatively) surely prove that there is a different approach to the matter. This is wit made flesh (or waste metal). The delicacy of the structures is also a flirtation with real art. Many thanks for casting an even wider net over what can reasonably be said to be culture.

YourFireAnt said...

WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!! These photos are fantastic, Lucy. I haven't even read the text yet.

;-D

Isabelle said...

How fascinating! Not quite as fascinating as our little grandson Nicholas James, but almost...

Catalyst said...

What fun!

Tom Cochrun said...

wonderful! enchanting!

Thérèse said...

Une imagination debordante.Il a du s'inspirer de Leonard de Vinci.
Incredible and fun to watch. It's full of poetry too.

zoe said...

what a magical place! i am especially floored by the woman playing the organ, perfect :D

Dale said...

Christopher, that was my first thought, too -- to live this way, just making and making and making! Tho I suppose it's not so easy as that, really :-)

Lucy said...

Thanks all, glad this got such a positive response. I too felt that it must be the best kind of life always simply responding to such a full-on kind of creative energy. He's only a few years older than I am too... One can either be overawed and discouraged by such a gift in some one else, or be inspired and hope just to share in a small piece of it.

earlybird said...

Amazing! Thanks for this. Definitely added to my list of 'places to go'

Meggie said...

So glad I came to visit, Lucy. Loved everything, not least Tom, looking so well!
A journey into one inventive man's vision is a treat.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Absolutely stupendously inspirationally wonderful! I followed the link to you that Clive gave, Lucy, and you're going on my blogroll immediately. And thank you for these brilliant glimpses into a genius's world. I'm also going to his website, tout de suite!

Lucy said...

Thanks again, you three.

Meggie, Tom says thanks.

Natalie, nice to see you here, good old Clive!

the polish chick said...

magical and whimsical and lovely... except for the clown. i am sadly typical in my deep mistrust of clowns.

The Crow said...

I have spent a very happy couple of hours, first reading this wonderful post and falling into your photos, then viewing most of the videos related to their web site and his work.

As others have already said, I could imagine the joy of doing this for most of your life. To live the life of art!

HKatz said...

This is amazing. I love the hermit's house and tower especially.

Sheila said...

Who could have imagined it? Obviously the one who did it...but this is truly fantastical.