Rusty art in a local landscape

I am very keen on art, but it has to pass what the SF calls the “charlatan threshold”. The famous pile of bricks in the Tate Gallery (remember those?) or someone’s unmade bed don’t make it as far as the threshold for me. Art is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but that’s my yardstick.

Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate modern and contemporary art when they display some creative talent. I recently took a short course on Russian and French Avant Garde art in the early 20th century, which was fascinating and opened my eyes to the stunning creativity that flourished then.  

However, for me the jury is out on the modern technique of using oxidised steel as a medium. This has made its appearance in several places in our region, to greater or lesser effect.

Musée Soulages

First, le Musée Soulages in Rodez. The museum is dedicated to the abstract artist Pierre Soulages, who was born in Rodez and is now 101. He is noted for his exploration of black, and his works include the stained-glass windows in the abbey church of Sainte-Foy in Conques.

We still haven’t visited the museum yet, so I can’t comment on the artworks or the interior. And this is a stock photo. I’m afraid that to me, the exterior looks like a series of abandoned containers. You might think differently. Presumably Soulages himself approved. I will be interested to see if I change my mind when I see the place for real and in relation to the works housed there.

Musée Soulages, Rodez
Calips, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Croix des Belges

The second example is la croix des Belges in Saujac overlooking the River Lot. Again, I haven’t visited, but you can see a picture of it here.

The original monument commemorated the exodus of Belgian families in May 1940, when German troops occupied Belgium. They travelled to the region and were sheltered by local families. It was vandalised in 2020 and a replacement in oxidised steel was erected earlier this year.

I rather like the simple, streamlined design of the cross, although it has inspired some local controversy. I’m not so sure about the oxidised steel, but it’s not so monolithic as the Musée Soulages.

Monument aux Morts in Parisot

Finally, and closer to home, the Monument aux Morts in Parisot was refurbished a couple of years ago. Originally, the tiny chapel was flanked by plaques listing the names of the war dead. These have now been mounted on the wall near the church at the other end of the village.

Le Monument aux Morts, Parisot. Before.

The plaques are replaced by blades of oxidised steel, created by a young artist, Émilie Prouchet-Dalla Costa, each one representing a dead soldier.

I like this. To my way of thinking, the upright pillars look like blasted trees in the bombarded landscape of the Western Front, and I think the rusty colour of the steel perpetuates that idea. I’m not sure if this is what the artist intended. Eye of the beholder again.   



You can just see the artist’s name on the middle blade

At the foot of each blade, a small plaque shows the name, dates and age of the person represented.

I conclude from this that when oxidised steel is used in a discreet way on fairly streamlined artworks, I find it more to my taste than when it is used extensively so that the work looks like a post-industrial environment.

What do you think? Do you like the use of oxidised steel, or does it depend on the artwork?

In other news…

Last week was quite eventful, at least what passes for eventful here. The technician came and fixed our boiler (touching wood hard here that the repair lasts). He identified a faulty part that the previous réparateur and his charmless assistant hadn’t noticed in their three visits. After 10 days without hot water, luxuriating in a hot bath was a wonderful indulgence.

I went to Nègrepelisse for my second Covid jab and collected my attestation (certificate). I can report no side effects, apart from a slightly sore arm and mild fatigue, which may in fact have been caused by too much gardening.

It’s a pleasant drive to Nègrepelisse across country. You pass through the village of Bioule, on the opposite bank of the Aveyron from Nègrepelisse. It has an interesting château, which we have not yet visited – one for my château series. We are told there is a good restaurant there, too. All good reasons for a return visit, so watch this space.

Finally, it stopped raining for two days at a stretch, so we could get out and bring the garden under control. This is a really lovely time of year here. Everything is flowering and the trees are clothed with that lovely spring green before the summer heat fades them. But it’s all growing at a rate of knots owing to the rain.

You might also like:

Quirky Quercy Art

Abbaye de Beaulieu-en-Rouergue, Centre of Contemporary Art

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2021, all rights reserved.


  1. I like the idea of a “charlatan thereshold” – can I adopt that please?? I’m not that fond of rusty steel, to me it signals neglect and decay, but it can look good if used in the right way and context, like that war memorial. As for Soulages, the Musée Fabre in Montpellier has quite a bit of his paintings – they are interesting to look at but I couldn’t get excited about them…
    Look forward to reading about Bioule!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The SF says you can borrow the charlatan threshold phrase 😉! I agree with you about the use of rusty steel. Now that museums are open again, a visit to the musée Soulages in Rodez is long overdue, but I’m not sure it will convert me to his work.


  2. That is interesting, Vanessa. Last year we spent several weeks travelling in outback Queensland, and we have just returned from a month in country New South Wales. In both cases we came across quite a bit of rusted steel art as well as scrap metal art. In most cases it was used to great effect and we quite like it. It often blends very well with the Australian bush. It is not necessarily modern as it often portrays something of historical interest. In one case, for example, it was at a lookout and was panels of extracts from an explorers’s diary describing the country. Similar to one you showed, we saw a wonderful war memorial.

    When we can finally return to France, who knows when, we will be looking for some rusted steel art!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting point about rusted steel blending with the Australian bush. I think in the right environment, it can look striking. I don’t care for the Musée Soulages, although I say that without having seen it in reality. Some people think it blends well with the reddish stone of Rodez Cathedral. Perhaps I will think differently once I have seen it properly.

      You will probably see plenty of that kind of art when you finally return to France. It seems to be the fashion at the moment!


I'd love to know your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.