Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Tempus fugit, sculpture and off into the west again

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.

In fact a good number did attend.  Moncontour is a town of barely a thousand souls, many of whom live in the retraite, the enormous and ancient foundation for the elderly and handicapped on the hill, so the turn-out was heartening to see.

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... 


Jantien Kahn said...

Thank you so much for sharing your view and your words, on my sculptures and on me. This is one of the great pleasures for me as a sculptor: to have people respond to what I have revealed, both from the stone and from myself. It's good to know that you're still around as well. love, Jantien

marja-leena said...

Fabulous photos of such goegeous sculptures. I loe the details of the textures and colour variations within the stones, especially the middle ones the orangey colour! I want!

I also enjoyed revisiting those older posts you linked to!

Congratulations on you wedding anniversary and have a wonderful getaway! (In fact we are making plans for something for our own anni coming up soon.)

the polish chick said...

congratulations on your anniversary.

gorgeous sculptures, makes my fingers itch to touch them.

the introduction to your post is the very topic my good friend and i discussed at lunch, not an hour past - why, with change being a constant in our lives, do we have such a hard time embracing it? a question i am certain i shall be grappling with until the final change.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to you and Tom.
HHB Susan

Zhoen said...

I remember that post. Thanks for all the new photos of such amazing sculptures. I want to lay my cheek against all of them.

Zhoen said...

Ha! I visited that post, just to see if I remembered properly, and indeed, I left a comment.

'So often, at museums, I have wanted to rub my face on marble or alabaster sculptures, restraining myself with no small effort."

Yeah, some things don't change.

Francesca said...

The scultures are breathtaking - so simple and profound. I imagine it would be a very emotional experience to be in the gallery with lots of them,as they hold the space so perfectly. Wonderful.
Congratulations on wedding anniversary, and happy walking!

Roderick Robinson said...

All of which clears up something that astonshed me a couple of years ago when you provided a link to an earlier post showing your garden wonderfully decorated with this statuary. I read the text rather quickly, not taking it in, thus imagining all this was permanent and ending up somewhat glum. Thinking how we had fallen short of any real integration in Drefféac, failing to support the local art scene and being satisfied with watching the TF1 news and taking rather more modest pleasure in being able to follow PPDA in full throughout the transmissiom. Also inferring (at the time) that your baronial estate must have been huge given that these beautiful objects represented art at a very high level and must - not to put too crass a point on it - have cost thousands. The glumness was the price I paid for not reading you attentively enough and although there have been subsequent failings on my part you will be pleased to know (there's been enough damn evidence) that my tendency these days is to read you to excess.

How satisfying to be able to pay Jantien the photographic tribute her work deserves, proof that patrons of art (even those who do no more than go and look at it) rise above Dr Johnson's rather restrictive definition of the role.

And as proof that I did read you all the way through this time, let me refer you to a Brillat-Savarin moment of our own, when the presence of Jersey Royals at Tesco yesterday, caused VR to junk her plans for a homely evening meal and opt instead for one that consisted of what be may be called the basics: fish, asparagus and these wonderfully waxy little orbs that operate in disguise under the laughably incomplete label of potatoes.

Roderick Robinson said...

However I did miss out on one important recognition: your wedding anniversary an event that is far more important than a mere birthday - a sentient act vs. an act that was entirely passive. The perfect time for pleasurable reflection where even smugness is permissible. Be as smug as you like, the pair of you, for we all know it is not your default state.

Lyse said...

Très belle expo! j'ai eu un doute en voyant la tête de l'artiste, je me suis demandée si c'était une sculpture.
Tu nous parleras de cette belle expo mercredi ? A moins que tu ne sois pas revenue de la côte sauvage Bretonne.
Passes un bon séjour

Anonymous said...

Beautiful work :) And Happy Anniversary to you!

Jean said...

I too well remember your post about the sculpture in your garden.

What beautiful work, and here in another beautiful and appropriate setting.

Your words about the passing of time are beautiful too and complement it perfectly.

I especially love the photo of the sculpture and stand with their shadow on the wall, but many of the photos are gorgeous, full of shapes and textures I want to touch.

Jean said...

..and hope you both have a wonderful trip and very happy anniversary.

Catalyst said...

Such a wonderful talent. I simply love her "polished pebbles".

Marly Youmans said...

Confetti and skyrockets for your anniversary!

I was tempted to go back and visit the party, and did...

Your comments about loss and change made me think of a time when I took my brand new first baby to my paternal grandmother's funeral. I had to come a very long way and hadn't seen many people in years. The sense of fused hello/good-by felt so intense and right to my relatives...

Marly Youmans said...

P. S.

And I enjoyed the vicarious opening. I'm wondering about the warm reddish rock with all the bands and perforations--what is that?

I need to check my camera--just went to a friend's opening and ought to do the same for her...

Tom Cochrun said...

Thank you for the lovely post. The work by Jantien are beautiful and your photos celebrate them. I appreciate your musings about time and the voids it creates. We've been experiencing a bit of that as well.

Lucy said...

Thanks everyone for all your thoughts and good wishes, it's not even a magic number anniversary or anything either. So many of you were around that long ago too, which is very reassuring.

We are here in the back hills which are not so back there isn't wireless access, despite a disturbing preponderance of andouillette on the restaurant menus, though some do promise Roscoff onion soup and Plougastel strawberries which is hopeful. However, the computer is kind of to one side, and we have been climbing hills and looking round ruins today.

Jantien - Thank you for sharing you beautiful work, I hope you come back and see some of the comments here...

ML - you are one of the very long term faithful! Might you make it to Brittany for your 'versary?

PC - they are best when touched, though J gets a bit twitchy about rings on fingers. We've been lucky to see them quite recently in a more accessible situation. Yes, a paradoxical truism, change as the only constant..

HHB - thanks, old friend.

Z - I re-read your comments on the old post with pleasure. Owning one of J's alabaster swans enables such indulgence whenever we want!

F - and you're quite a newcomer! 'Holding the space' yes, that's good. The gallery space is interesting I think, simple and quite rudimentary, not extravagant but well-lit and sympathetic. I'm resolved to support it more.

Robbie - that must have been shortly before your advent on the blogging scene. I would be a nervous wreck if I owned all those beautiful sculptures, we would be talking tens of thousands at least. We do have one, but it is an indoor piece, we saved for it and consider ourselves very lucky, I'm afraid we can no longer afford her work, or at least not the ones we really would like. She isn't exactly local, living in Amsterdam, but her sort-of-mother-in-law is. Jantien drives herself and the sculptures here in an emerald green van called Yip 2 (or maybe Jip?) the Second. Y/Jip 1 was mustard yellow and a bit smaller. We'll enjoy smug, as I imagine you enjoyed your Jersey royals!

Lyse - Bien sûr, et je serai revenu des Portes d'Enfer (j'espère...) par mercredi!

Chloë - you were just a twinkle in blogging's eye when that first post appeared!

Jean - lovely to see you again, and thank you.

Bruce - you would love to see and touch them too, I'm sure.

Marly - I reread your lovely comment at the time too. The red stone is something new, and I forget quite what it's called but I really hanker for it I must say, I'll ask J when I see her next week.

Tom - thank you, glad you enjoyed them, and welcome, our paths have crossed over the years at Bruce's. Certain moments and phases bring on these reflections and feelings I suppose, not necessarily to do with one's age or stage, but inevitably more frequent as time goes on.

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh, Happy Anniversary! The sculptures are quite the treat and feast for the eyes. That's when you know the sculptor has been able to help the stones speak, when your eyes move over the surface and deep into communication with the pieces much like an actual touch. Arresting work.

Ellena said...

I'd love to watch Jantien in the making of what I see here. Interesting pieces of work. It always amazes me to see how a piece of stone can be transformed into something that speaks to us, that we want to hold and stroke.

I'm sure you know that I wished you Happy Anniversary on Tom's side. It counts I hope.

Avus said...

A late comer to this post, Lucy, but thank you for sharing those images of Jantien's marvellous sculptures.

Also a belated happy anniversary from an old blogging friend who nearly left but seems to have resurfaced again. (why do so many old contacts seem to have given up their interesting blogs - the curse of transitory Facebook and Twitter, I guess)

HKatz said...

"one can allow oneself to wonder at the colours, the layers of texture, the geodes and chambers within the rock..."

I've been catching up on your recent posts, and I have to say that this is one of the reasons I love your blog. Your photos, for instance, touch on multiple senses; looking at them, I can feel the texture of what you're photographing. And your text adds more layers, cerebral and sensual.

In this post, I love the art (especially the close-ups on the swans, highlighting the texture). She's a gifted artist in part because she can choose the right materials with such care and enhance them through her art. The different kinds of stone she chose seem alive.

Pam said...

Yes, beautiful. I think the swan is most to my taste but the abstracts are lovely too.

Lucy said...

Thanks again, so lovely to see you all. I'm inexcusably behind on the blogging front; had a great trip into Finistère but still haven't downloaded the photos! Back soon

Bro. Bartleby said...

Beautiful works in the exhibition, and good for you, climbing hills and doing what your feet were meant to do. Hopefully, at times, bare of socks.

Argyle Socks

How many years
did legs and knees
and feet
take to evolve
into confident
to stride across
floating mountains
plains and deserts
atop molten rock
only to walk daily
to and fro
the parking lot
legs hidden
beneath desks
to spend the days
toes wiggling
trying to escape
the darkness
inside argyle