People, and there are a few, who have been visiting Box Elder for a very long time, might remember the time, on the occasion of Tom's last Very Big Birthday, when we had a party in the garden and our very own sculpture exhibition, of the work of the Dutch sculptor Jantien Kahn.
Reading back over those posts, and their comments, it's tempting to get melancholy at the old old story of the passing of time and the changes it brings. I'm struck by the people, on-line and off, who have gone from my life, one way or another, the babies who have been born and grown into quite big children, the children into great big adolescents, the neighbours who have moved away, the friends who don't seem to be friends any more. Why does it never cease to be, indeed to become more and more, sad and strange to us, this lost time, change and decay, business? I'm not someone given to dishonest nostalgia, mostly I'm good at living in the present, I am happy now and much that is in the past I'm glad to leave there and good riddance, but there are times when the balance of things seems to tilt too much towards loss.
But no, it won't do. The people I've loved best and sometimes lost were the ones who gave me the very best example of living fully and best in the space, and time, there was, for hoping that the best might be yet to be, of practising gratitude, of emerging from sorrow and difficulty and being all the more appreciative of renewal and peace and the beauty in the detail, who have shown that age and time may change but need not erode one's creative gifts, but that an awareness of shadows lengthening, and that our place in time is not infinite, is all the more reason not to squander them. And there is renewal, and good change, things grow and evolve, people fade or disappear altogether but others appear, the landscape changes but we grow accustomed to, fond of, other features within it.
And there are some people who are still around. One of these is Jantien, who doesn't seem to have changed much, though her work has evolved. She's lately been in these parts again, working at La Residence des Arts in Moncontour, which has provided her with working and exhibition space and simple accommodation, and last Saturday was the vernissage of her exhibition. We got there early so that I could take a photo of the exhibition space
and Jantien in situ before the crowds turned up.
The small lady in the above photo is Susanne, who we used to go to Keep Fit classes with, who must be well into her tenth decade but who still gets out and about plenty,
Here she is again.
One or two of the sculptures were old friends, which had once graced our garden
like this one, 'Leaves',
others were very similar, I don't think this is the 'Blackbird Flight' that we had, but it's clearly in the same series . Certain themes are still strong; there are still swans,
but in other ways there are changes. The forms are becoming purer and more abstract, more compact and simple perhaps, so they can at first appear as great polished pebbles,
|(I like how Jantien's head on the other side of the glass is facing the sculpture, I did that on purpose!)|
But the simplicity is deceptive, they are more perfectly balanced than ever, a fact that reveals itself when they are touched and handled, and they present a surprisingly varied number of shapes and faces, so that sometimes, in sorting through the photographs, I wasn't sure that I was always looking at the same piece.
No small part of their beauty is of course in the exposing of the integrity and quality of the stone, rather like Brillat Savarin's exhortation that good cooking should be about allowing the food to taste of itself, but again, such simplicity, in cooking or sculpture, is deceptively difficult to bring off. When the form of the sculpted piece is so perfect, though, one can allow oneself to wonder at the colours, the layers of texture, the geodes and chambers within the rock, which the sculptor reveals only partially in the surfaces she shapes.
Other forms and techniques were new,
such as this elongated horizontal (so tempting reach around and say, 'canoe', 'spearhead', 'belemnite', and who's to say we shouldn't, and yet I feel there comes a point with abstract forms where they should not be continually forced back to where they are abstracted from, and be permitted simply to be themselves...)
and these flattened vase/torso forms (there I go again...), with their lateral seams,
Another departure is in this fine, linear roughening of the surface of the stone,
sometimes entirely covering the piece, quite compatible with revealing the internal natural patterning,
and sometimes combined and contrasting with highly polished surfaces
It has been a great privilege to know and follow Jantien and her work over the years, and we hope to see much more growth and change for many years to come.
As we were back then, we are off for a few days into the wild western parts of Brittany tomorrow for our wedding anniversary trip, to stay in one of these rather wonderful looking gîtes (no stairs means better for Mol, we hope, who's doing OK for now), and explore some corners we've not seen before. In fact the day itself was yesterday, but we thought as we were going right into the hinterland it would be better to make it nearer the weekend to be sure of there being places open to eat, etc. Walking boots are waxed and cameras charged; there is wireless access so we won't be entirely off-line, but hope to be out and about plenty, reading etc. See you soon...