Some of you will remember the late lamented Fyfe Robertson, a British TV journalist known for his trenchant views. A somewhat quirky figure himself, with his tweeds and deer-stalker hat, he had his own series, ‘Robbie’, in which he roamed Britain debunking myths and pouring scorn on affectation. In one programme in 1977, he turned the spotlight on aspects of modern art. This was the era of the bricks in the Tate Gallery and other such installations. Robbie labelled these “Phoney Art – or Phart”. So he was in mind when I came up with the title for this post.
I am an art lover, but I’m rather simplistic in my views, in that I like art that looks as if some creativity has gone into it. So, no, the Tate bricks didn’t do it for me. Whenever we visit a place, I seek out the art galleries. However, you don’t always need to go far afield to come across examples of people exercising creativity and imagination.
Something about this area attracts artists. It may be the landscape, the architecture, the light: I’m not sure. But there’s a thriving artistic community, which is showcased by a local art fair in Parisot every year. We also have a centre of contemporary art at the Abbaye de Beaulieu.
To coin a phrase
Despite being somewhat traditionalist in my views, I find rather appealing the idea of installing art in situ, sometimes quite off the beaten track. One stumbles across it almost by accident. This area offers a number of delightful examples, which I have christened “Quirky Quercy Art – or Quart”. Unlike Robbie’s pejorative Phart, my Quart is a stamp of approval.
Quart near Saint-Grat
First off, a walk from the village of Saint-Grat (above) in Aveyron revealed the following metal sculptures, lining the path for more than a kilometre. (Actually, Saint-Grat is in the Rouergue, not Quercy, but don’t let geography get in the way of a good slogan.) There are hundreds of these made from recycled materials, including forks, spades, metal buckets, pipes, ducting and cutlery. But how many people get to see them? Maybe the artist simply created them for his/her own amusement. I think they’re wonderful.
Update August 2021: I think I have discovered the artist. Pierre Prévost, who is appearing at the Parisot art festival this year, lives close by. He makes sculptures from discarded items. These must be his creations. What an imagination!
Quart in Caylus
Next, around Caylus you might come across this wolf (or is it a muzzled dog?) guarding a doorway in the rue Droite. There is a house in the same street called la maison des loups, owing to the stone figures that look like wolves. Perhaps that was the inspiration. A hyena also appears from time to time, outside le Lagardère bar. But it’s also been seen in Espinas and further afield.
Or a small flock of sheep grazing peacefully at the bascule (weighbridge), fortunately far away from the wolf’s/dog’s lair.
Quart in Vidaillac
But my absolute favourite, which I’ve saved till last, are these wall paintings in the small village of Vidaillac, just over the border in the Lot. Most people don’t stop in Vidaillac, which is on the main road to Limogne. Driving through the village, you are completely unaware of these murals, which are situated down a scarcely frequented side street. We were introduced to them on a recent randonnée with our walking group.
They were created by Céline Cazes, the daughter of the owner of the farm, but she’s very modest about them, apparently. She’s clearly a talented artist: old stone walls and corrugated iron don’t make the easiest media for decorative painting.
The murals depict the old way of life in rural France.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trot through Quart with me. I’d be very interested to hear of other examples in this area that merit the Quart mark. There are more of them near the Lot village of Promilhanes, I’m told, and I look forward to exploring those.
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