Sunday, July 31, 2011

Landing stages, Fontaine Daniel

Across the water, against the oaks and pines
a house stands shuttered and withdrawn,  
a single rowing boat lies beached below.

The landing stages are stranded, torn
adrift from land by time, though
waiting cages hang down still, and bent
wires, angled nails and notches scrawl
their own cyphers, unintelligible lines 
of script where now there are no longer lines.

Rusted, lame and tenuous, they crawl
further away from land, and  make,
year on falling year, a bleached descent, 
into the thickening water of the lake. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Les Toiles de Mayenne

Les Toiles de Mayenne, at Fontaine Daniel, in the Mayenne, not far from my brother's place.  Textile works since 1806, temple of good taste and subtle colour, antidote to fear and loathing brought on by seeing too many DFS sofa warehouse or similar ads, holy ground and place of pilgrimage to lovely, textile-loving sister.  Great if you're into patchwork.

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.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Been away, came back.

We've been at my brother's and sister-in-law's place,

just sitting around (my brother is probably watching the Tour, hence the drawn curtains),

eating and drinking,

enjoying the light on this and that.

One of the funny dolls my sister makes.

I grew up with those wheel-back chairs, always nice to see them again.

'Where dem cats?'   Mol enjoys her visits here, the resident cats enjoy them rather less.

Mol's in good form again, though she developed a peculiar case of 'broken wag', also known as cold or limp tail (no kidding), ten days or so after her operation, which has now worn off, thankfully.  She couldn't lift her tail, and it hung down at a sad angle, she could only twitch the end of it a bit. It was quite distressing at first, like seeing someone who normally greets you with a warm smile with a frozen face, unable to do so, though she didn't seem to be in any pain, and Emy the vet was quite worried, as she'd not seen such a thing before.  Day by day though, the she was able to raise and move the organ of wag a little more, and now it is back to normal.  Thanks be to the internet, for reassurance about such anomalies.

Sister-in-law made a lovely curry; she went to get the ginger and found it had most curiously sprouted.

We did get out and about too, and I'll sort out some more photos shortly.


Two of the swallowtail caterpillars were still there when we got back,

  one on the Mexican orange (another we found on that had disappeared), and the other on the parsley.

Then the parsley one made a trek across the thyme and climbed onto the fennel, which I understood was their preferred food crop of all, where I'd tried to put this one in the first place but been unable to make it hold on.  However, rather than moving up to the juicier leaves it seemed inclined to hunker down on the lower twigs.  Then at about the same time both caterpillars disappeared, though I've looked around a bit for them.  It seems unlikely that they've all been eaten at once, so I hope they've tucked themselves away somewhere invisible and are turning into chrysalids.