- Oct 29, 2018
- Charente Maritime, western France
- Real Name
In a post earlier this year I put up a couple of photos of some local sculptures here in south-west France, and I promised then that I would take you on a more detailed journey into their whereabouts and provenance. I’m done with the building work at home after our April move (yes, the guest cottage is finally finished) and I’ve had a couple of days off for the first time in weeks. And so yesterday I took daughter no.3 up to the Les Lapidiales for an autumn visit. I’ll start with some background to this most intriguing of artistic projects. The photos are typical of the route through the quarry, where one first goes down to the underground galleries and the return to the workshop area.
There is a forest glade about ten minutes from me by bike, where leafy oaks, ash and stands of hazel stand tall above indentations in the ground, all that remains of a limestone quarry from an antiquity long gone. Over twenty years ago, a French sculptor called Alain Tenenbaum had the idea of creating a living workspace in the old quarry, where both French and international sculptors could come each year to work and make art for travelling visitors. He found funds from interested partners and bought the land and set about creating his vision of a sculptor’s heaven. It’s an outdoor studio in the style of a cathedral mason’s stone-yard, where time is of no consequence and a passerby may stand, mouth agape, and pick up a mallet and chisel themselves, to see if any craftsman’s DNA lies dormant within them.
At first the art was created on and inside the living rock, and currently there is a project to make 365 monumental sculptures out of sandstone blocks - a project that has yet to reach maturity. Invited sculptors arrive in the summer between May and September, and work ‘
’ in front of enchanted visitors.
Each season is a time for art, love, food, music and a delving into that special ambience that happens when many artistic people gather in one place.
Sculptors stay in the village, often in homes that have welcomed them for years. Each year new, bolder sculptors seem to appear, and the work grows exponentially better, or perhaps, more varied and fantastic.
Entry and parking to the spectacle is free, but a donation box is always rattling to the sound of coins.
Music nights, sculpture demonstrations and workshops also occur, and at weekends hundreds of people gather to pass the dark hours away amongst the stones and tree-trunks, mini folk-festivals where the artists reign supreme.
Les Lapidiales has grown in numbers and in importance over the years, and at last the Departmental powers in France have sided with this extraordinary fairground of stone, chisel, proud souls and a magical air of creativity.
It is a fascinating place to visit if you are into form, line and soul. My photos do no justice to the works, and cannot replicate at all the magical air that surrounds the visitors as they arrive, cautiously inspect the first works, and then sink into the ground to arrive with heads spinning on the far side of their Bosch-like entry amongst sculptures that were created two decades ago.