Sunday, October 18, 2009

Off the beaten paths in Montmartre

Today, the crowd was thick near Place du Tertre and I decided to visit Les Halles Saint-Pierre(2, rue du Ronsard)
The building is a redeveloped Pavilion Baltar at the foot of Montmartre.
The space is divided into two galleries, a library, a tea room, ateliers. The galleries are on two levels and have the shape of hexagons. The exhibitions are presented in a very pleasant way: the lighting is very efficient, the presentations are not crowded and have appropriate labelling. A biography of the artist is posted on a big board and can be read at the start and/or the end of the visit.
This is a municipal project to be visited primarily by the locals and the texts are in French only.
The mission of the "Halle Saint-Pierre" is to exhibit: "Art brut, populaire, contemporain".

Roger Chomaux(1907-1999) was an eclectic artist: painter, sculpture, architect, poet, he also raised bees, made a movie. I would call him also a philosopher. He lived like an hermit (but received visitors) in the forest of Fontainebleau where he created a "Village d'Art Preludien".
Here is the site (in French) to read more about his life.

The works presented till March 7Th, 2010 at the Halle Saint-Pierre are worth a visit. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed and the pieces selected on the website are not the most interesting.
The artist was prolific and grew through different styles and use of materials. My preferred creations were made of scrap metal like " Tete Hallucinee" and "Fetiche". The titles are very appropriate. It is a feat to make this material speak with emotion. "Tete Hallucinee" makes me think of a Christ's head. "Fetiche" is more primitive and refers to Voodoo with nails used to define the features of the head made in wood.

The totems from the "Village Preludien" are also very interesting, usually white and black , also made of scrap metal. They are ironical but at the same time inspire respect.
There is a congregation of sculptures representing mutants, chiseled from a soft porous stone. These appear peaceful and detached from the world like Buddhas.
Further, they are works made of chicken wire covered with melted plastic and broken colored tiles glued on it to create the facial expressions of the heads. These are the opposite, full of torments.Numerous paintings are hanging along the walls. I did not much care for these.

Chomo was also a writer, poet using a phonetic writing and I copied this sentence, which for me, resumes his quest: "Moi-crucifie-de-solitude-je-pin-aveqdelarme-un-sourir-de-FAME".
I would translate this as: "Me, crucified with solitude, I paint with tears, a smile of Fame"
He was a loner, but was longing for recognition. He deserves to be better known.

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