This is such a lovely time of year here, especially when the weather is fine, as it generally has been this week. The countryside is bursting with fresh spring green, and the wild flowers are thriving, despite the lack of rain. Cuckoos, golden orioles and nightingales compete for airtime. The sun is warm but not too hot to garden or walk.
I made a little excursion into the Lot one day to visit a friend for a walk and tea. For various reasons – Covid included – this visit had been put off for some time.
“I’ve got something I’d like to show you,” she said.
We put on our walking boots and set off in her car, parking near a restored windmill. We took the path towards the windmill and immediately saw orchids growing in the verges.
This seems to be a good year for orchids, which grow abundantly in certain spots in this region. They are such delicate-looking plants but are surprisingly resilient. They come in various sizes and colours, and it’s always a delight to see them. They grow in our lawn, and I mow around them until they are finished.
My friend is good at spotting the orchids, which is just as well, otherwise I would have trampled some underfoot. Here’s a selection. I wrote a post about them a while back. If you’re interested, the link is at the foot of this post.
The orchids were not the main attraction, however. We walked down ancient paths bordered with crumbling stone walls, a feature of the landscape in the area. Pastel-hued butterflies flitted about, enjoying the fresh flowers. It was very dry underfoot, despite some prolonged rain earlier in the week.
We turned off down a track. All of a sudden, in a field dotted with oak trees, we came across the most amazing metal sculptures mounted on plinths around the grassy area. A sign with a stern “keep out” warning barred the gate. However, my friend knows the artist and has permission to enter the “gallery”.
The sculptor is François Bagioli, who was born in Cahors. He started off working in industry, where he learned about the properties of iron and steel and about metalwork and soldering. He began creating metal sculptures in the 1960s. After a detour into theatre design, he focused on sculpture. He is completely self-taught.
Twenty or so sculptures are arranged around the field. Some are abstract, others are recognisably “something”. Some are deliberately rusted, while others are in stainless steel.
Art appreciation is, of course, a very subjective and personal thing, but I loved these sculptures. To me, they didn’t look out of place or intrusive in their rural environment. In fact, I think they were more interesting for being placed here rather than in the more anodyne setting of a conventional gallery. The natural light enhances features that you might not otherwise notice.
I couldn’t snap them all, but here are a few of my favourites.
Attached to some of the trees are wooden plaques bearing quotations about art from various writers and philosophers.
It’s not uncommon to come across artworks against the backdrop of our rural landscape. I like this idea. Sometimes, you stumble upon them unexpectedly, which makes them all the more delightful. There is no advertising, nothing to alert you to their presence. In fact, because these particular sculptures are located down a side track, you can easily walk close by without realising it. Perhaps the artist intended that they should be seen only by those who venture off the beaten path.
In other news
Today is 8th May, which is the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and a public holiday in France, despite the fact that it is already a Sunday. In 1945, people said never again. The triumph of hope over experience, unfortunately..
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Another lovely post. I agree that natural light and placement among trees and nature does enhance sculpture. Here in Australia, on a recent camping trip, followed a trail of about 100kms which featured large sculptures set in a bush environment with backdrops that reflected the work eg a large welded chain hand holding a waterbird was placed in wetlands by a river.
In 2018 we stayed in the Puy de Dome department and in my research I read about a feature called the Chemin Fais d’Art near the small village of Chapdes Beaufort. This is a sculpture trail in the forest and the large sculptures are made from black volcanic stone. There were few signs, but once we worked out the search was part of the experience, we had a lot of fun wandering about finding them. They were hidden away but creative and interesting.
What a lovely way to spend time- wandering around a field in France seeing some very creative art. I am envious.
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I imagine the Australian outback would be a great place to display sculptures. I must look up the Puy de Dôme chemin. Such a good idea to use the local volcanic stone to create the sculptures. I like the idea of having to hunt for them, too. So many interesting things to see, tucked away.
What a find. I love the idea that maybe the artist wanted these to be seen by people who ventured off the beaten track. So often, when we do this, we find treasures.
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Those are the best treasures to find, the unexpected ones. I was so pleased that my friend showed me. I would never have found the sculptures on my own.
I thoroughly enjoy your posts, Vanessa’
However, on this occasion, I am going to be pedantic. Using your information, I have just enquired of my French grand-daughter whether she is spoiling her mother, my daughter, to be told “No, it’s not until 29th!”
Keep up the delightful posting.
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Oops. You’re absolutely right. I don’t know what made me think it was today. Post-Covid brainstorm. I shall change the post accordingly. Thank you for pointing it out! And thanks for your kind words about my posts.