ART FELL ON ME – the work of Nicolas Lavarenne

The first in a series of two

During 2017 more than twenty sculptures of the Nice-born artist Nicolas Lavarenne took to the streets of the medieval quarter of Antibes.  As a kind of exhibition, they were placed at strategic spots, some mounted on chrome beams to raise them above the cobbles.

About his work, Lavarenne has said, “Naked as the first man who stood up to see further, my sculptures dash on their stilts to survey the time. Detached from the earth, pinned to the sky, they run from town to town and around the world … And I’m happy with them.”

Some may be tempted to speak of the sculptural style as « realistic », but it is, of course, not realistic.  Despite the accurate anatomy of the figures, they are idealized, attenuated.

It could be the energy of the figures that made me think of figures in baroque painting, but the angularity is far more stark.

Almost all the figures are gestural.  They challenge their world, leap up at it.  They are bold, defying wind, it seems. “Pinned to the sky,” Lavarenne says.

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2018

 

Source

Official biography online – Nicolas Lavarenne

 

Images

My photographs

See also:  Lavarenne en Plensa: Kuns in die openbaar   on 

http://www.loertoer.wordpress.com    26/5/2016 

 

For Graham and Elna, who shared this with me

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

GRAFFITI SCULPTOR

I visited the Washing Trough in the medieval quarter of Antibes — a large trough under a six-pole roof.  Here, women (men wouldn’t stoop so low) washed and scrubbed clothing for centuries, not far from the remains of a little stone-packed enclosure in the bay made by the Greeks in the centuries before the Romans came.

Washing Trough

The walls around the Washing Trough, rough and irregular, supported by modern cement,  seized my attention.  There, an artist had attached small, cement-moulded sculptures, not bigger than the length of a hand.  And the more I looked, the more I saw.

Moulded in cement

 

Gross and brooding

It is clear that these figures — portrait-type faces, amongst others — were done by a gifted hand.  They are detailed and evocative.

Wood nymph?

 

Character

 

Battered by life

I have not been able to establish who this artist could be.  It seems likely that the artist is unknown, taking quixotic joy in placing these creations anonymously on stone walls off the beaten track.

Sad angel

 

Wizened king

Monsieur … Mademoiselle … qui que vous soyez, je vous honore!

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

December, 2017

 

Images

My photographs

 

 

 

 

FRIEDA OLLEMANS  – sculptor supreme

I don’t remember her that well.  But I remember the whisky-and-cigars voice, and the eyes that saw everything through the lens of irony.  Her dress … well, she didn’t pander to fashion.  Yes, you couldn’t escape it — there was a bohemian rising out of the late years of modernism.  Her husband Helmut was, in the words of someone who considered Helmut an enemy, “the most professional wine farmer in the Western Cape.”  And Helmut supported every hammer, every chisel, every chip of cedar wood or ebony, everything that Frieda did, because Frieda was an artist.  That’s what you did with artists.

Odysseus

Odysseus

Born in 1915, Frieda studied sculpture under H.V. Meyerovitz in Cape Town in the early-1930s.  She went on to an award-winning career at the Slade School in London for three years.  On her return to Cape Town in 1940, she made marionettes for puppet theatre as well as pioneering childrens art centres in  the Western Cape.  The Frank Joubert Centre in Stellenbosch is an example.

Wood nymph

She had exhibitions in South Africa and abroad.  Some of her work was displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as in Chicago.

                The Dancer

Her first one-person exhibition was held in Stellenbosch in 1972.  She presented pieces in ebony, teak, cedar wood, olive wood and lead.  Unlike any artist I’ve known she had notices up amongst the works:  Please Touch the Sculptures.  For me, there are few instances in the history of art more sacred than that.

       Woman – Bearer of life

              A figure for Mutti

It was a huge price to pay, but I clenched my teeth and did it.  And I have it yet — a figure by Frieda.  Her work for me is harmonious as well as being braced against an obvious realism.  The lines flow.  I once heard her say, The wood tells me what it must become.  And it’s in the organic design, never unsettling, never stark and hard-edged, always leading the eye easily, sensuously to surprising detail.  The finish is immensely satisfying.  You ponder these pieces.  I have pondered mine for more than forty-five years.   Those who inherit what I have will ponder it too, as will their grandchildren and those beyond.

                Figure by Frieda

                Figure by Frieda

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Bridgewater, Somerset West

August, 2017

 

Source

With special thanks to Süsse Bakker who provided the biographical information.

With thanks to Miki Flockemann.

Images

Odysseus, Wood nymph – Süsse Bakker

Remaining images – my photographs

 

 

 

 

ROMANESQUE AND GOTHIC – the human figure

 The human figure in a Romanesque church is small, stylized and, if you look, you see they are busy with something specific in their lives – they drive out demons or flee to Egypt on the back of a donkey.  Bernwards Portal, Hildesheim, Germany, illustrates this memorably.

Bernwards Portal: God gives Eve to Adam

The intention of the sculptor, probably prescribed by the church, is educational and illustrative.  Incidents from the Bible are portrayed.  What strikes me, is how childlike the figures are, almost as if the communities they were intended for, were childlike, eight, nine centuries after Christ.  It is a Europe rising from the shadows of the Dark Ages.  It is as if the search for form is breaking from the post-Roman world, from the world of Byzantine (400 – 600 a.d.).

Romanesque capital: the strange and the charming

There is Eastern influence in the form of the Romanesque figure of the human – monsters, devils and decorative motifs.  Some of the scenes portrayed in Romanesque are deliberately dramatic.  An example is Judas hanging himself.  The incredible variety of figures and forms suggest that sculptors were often left to their own devices.  The world of Romanesque figures is one of surprises.

 

Romanesque – a world of surprises

The churches with their rounded arches are to a human scale.  What they built, was houses of God, not cathedrals.  The pillars, the panels of art, everything is within easy reach, with you.

The wind changes direction from the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Western culture.  It is a renewal that would, in the centuries to come, be reborn in different forms.  The need to make a greater statement with churches yielded to the concept of cathedrals of monumental dimensions.

Notre Dame de Paris – monument to Gothic

This is Gothic.  Even today contemporary architects stand amazed by what was achieved.  So too, the form of human figure changed.

Chartres Cathedral Portal

I am referring specifically to the portals of Notre Dame in Paris and Chartres Cathedral.  Here the human figures lose their caprice.  Now the figures, as part of the new architecture, form a uniform community of believers, rather than individual figures busy with something specific.  The figures stand formally next to one another.  The vertical line dominates in the design.  The figures are static in their ecstasy.  They are focused on the coming life, a choir of figures untroubled by this world.  My interest comes from limited experience, but I will not forget the figures of the portals of Chartres – stone that radiates.

A radiance from stone

 

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

www.loertoer.wordpress.com

 

Images

Bernwards Portal – studyblue.com

Romanesque capitals 1, 2  –  Pinterest

Notre Dame de Paris – sacred-destination.com

Chartres Portal and detail – chartrescathedral.net

 

 

 

France, Germany  

 

 

JACQUES DOLLE

They argue about his name.  He is not Jacques, they insist, it’s Joseph.  He is worthy of the attention:  he left his mark on the city of his birth, more than a mark.  Born in Antibes in 1650, he is considered by some as a master sculptor.  The work he did in the Cathedral of St Mary, the main cathedral in the city, bears out this opinion.  At the portal you see what he was capable of, as intriguing a character, as he was mysterious,  in the history of Antibes.

                 Cathedral Portal

               Portal relief figure

 

               Portal relief figure

These relief figures depict legends and stories from the Bible, detailed work in the spirit of baroque, fitting if one considers too, the classic baroque of the church façade.  In the church we see the pulpit and the baptism font, both his handiwork.

                        The Pulpit

                             Baptism font

He attracted attention, especially if one considers the competition at the time from many Italian sculptors.  The Sun King, Louis XIV, came to hear of him and he went north for a few projects.  In Antibes there is too, his master work The Portal of France, a majestic Gate with a finely-fashioned pediment, that we know from a postcard.  But, the tourist office informed me, it is in a state of advanced neglect, with buildings around it making it virtually impossible to see.  On the reverse side of building, as a kind of compensation for the neglect, a pediment in full view of the street has been constructed, but the detail, I’m told, is clearly inferior to Dolle’s original work.  To add insult, it is recorded in the archives that he was never paid for this work.

It is also a story of creeping hatred.  For certain reasons he was not popular amongst the aristocracy, perhaps because of his humble origins.  Badmouthing poisoned his life.  He was stained with supposed paranormal activities.  One piece of scandal had it that, in the garden of a wealthy marquis, Dolle trafficked with white female spirit.  It was subsequently found that the “white spirit” had in fact been a marble Venus figure, from the time of the Romans.

His health deteriorated and he withdrew from life to the Monastery of Laghet where he dedicated himself to God.  Shortly before his death, − it was the year 1730 − he returned to Antibes, to the white marble figure in the garden of the marquis, the Venus that he had never forgotten, the figure that haunted him yet.  The next day they found him lifeless at her feet.

                                       Venus

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

 

Source

Pierre Tosan : Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins. HEPTA Antibes, 1998.

Images

Portal panels – my photos

Pulpit, baptism font – Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins

My drawing.

 

Two Museums in Nice

Image

Musée Masséna

A museum like Musée Masséna encapsulates an important vein of the history of Nice. I thought it would be worth seeing and was pleasantly surprised. It was built between 1898 and 1903 in the style of the First Empire, a style that celebrated the Napoleonic era and its achievements – at its height, the First French Empire in the early-19th century had 44 million subjects.  Jean André Masséna (1758-1817) was a military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, a character with a mixed reputation.  His Italian name tells of the French-Italian aspects of the city’s history  – Nice became French as late as 1860.

Image

Bay window roof in Musée Massena

The same style enjoyed different names elsewhere – Biedemeier in Germany; Regency in England.  Somehow the egalitarian spirit sweeping through the politics of Europe at the time had no effect on the sumptuous, highly refined approach to architecture, objets d’art and decorative aspects.  Musée Masséna is impressive.  It suggests that splendour is almost an inevitibility with those who can afford it – Greek friezes, ornate baroque mirrors, magnificent marble floor inlays, classical figures and gold-inlaid furniture.  Perhaps the mining magnates of Parktown in Johannesburg and the steel magnates in the USA at the fin-de-siécle were doing the same thing.  One hundred years later the president of Zimbabwe has ventured on this tradition himself – the irony spirals.

I went through it all, knowing, once more, that I am a modernist in my taste and a minimalist.

I left, going through the gardens that have won awards and that give onto the Promenade des Anglais, where the most expensive hotels in Nice are.  It was a long and tiring walk, the last part up a hill, before I entered the grounds of the Musée des Beaux Arts.  In this private mansion, built by a Ukranian princess in 1878, there is art spanning four centuries – religious icons in the Russian style and, amongst others, an interesting collection of large Vanloo paintings that cover the era before the Revolution and after it.  There is a rather beautiful landscape by one Théodore Rousseau, together with sculptures by various artists of varying interest.  One, a haunting image of a woman draped in gossamer by Anonymous… how do you create gossamer with marble?

Image

Head by an anonymous sculptor, 19th-century

Then, la cerise on top… two figures by Rodin.  One was The Kiss. 

If Rodin was the father of modern sculpture then the thoughts that underlie the creating of this work must be part of the reason.  Completing it in 1889, Rodin said that he was paying homage to women and their bodies, women who do not merely submit to men, but are full partners in passion.  Having been part of the larger concept of The Gates of Hell, The Kiss was inspired by a story associated with Dante’s Inferno, a story of illicit love and tragedy.  I have seen it before. I find I have to walk around it to appreciate each angle.  It is almost as if one has to swirl with the curve of her spine to arrive at the moment of the lips… with Michaelangelo’s gap between the fingers of God and man, this gap must rank as the most significant… yes, one can get passionate about Rodin’s Kiss.

Image

The Kiss

When I stood in the crowded enviebus back to Antibes, through dense summer traffic, the rather jaunty ‘bus driver was whistling Albinoni’s Adagio.

Will van der Walt ©

Vendredi  6 Juillet 2012

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Image Sources:

Bay window roof;  Anonymous sculpture – Photograph by Will

Rodin’s The Kiss –  iconicrealism.blogspot.com

%d bloggers like this: