Gather artists and artisans who are working in a similar stylistic direction.
The peasant or the humble man uses the same kind of wooden bowl throughout the Middle Ages up to the 18th century. Simple, ordinary, utilitarian objects pass through centuries unchanged ; they escape the turnover of styles. They may sometimes be quite beautiful. This popular crafts ware hardly ever comprises any decoration in the 16th century.
Besides, style is a grammar of decoration : no ornaments, no style. The decorative worth of 16th century objects is mainly due to the richness of their decoration. Renaissance abundance of decoration goes past aesthetic considerations and is above all the reflection of a social position. The higher the position, the more the objects used, the clothes worn, or the presents offered are adorned, sometimes even over ornate, with details, delicacies and ornaments. Renaissance is made by and for princes only. In our western European countries objects were probably never as much covered with decoration on all their surfaces available as in the Renaissance. In other words, Renaissance is a renewal of ornamentation in style as well as in its very conception.
Why did I choose the Renaissance period ? Probably not because of an elitist identification to these princes. If the presence of ornament seems to me essential to define a style, my personal taste is not particularly keen on the delirious excesses of overload. I would more likely look for moderation and balance, as I am explaining below. This appeal for the 16th century and the first third of the 17th century seems to respond to an excessively marked long-established personal taste. It is a fact that the objects and buildings that tend to draw my attention usually happen to be datable from the 16th century. In them I can feel a kind of powerful balance, of elegant strength, especially in France, that I find hard to analyse. Culturally - and of course chronologically- speaking, they are closer to me than Greco-roman arts they are issued from, as well as less subject to the precious lines of Louis XVI or less bluntly military than the French Empire, the latter two important styles being both more recent and re-interpreting the classical vocabulary. This is only a question of personal taste and in no way a relation of hierarchy. This balance and this strength that I find in the 16th century give the object a certain authenticity that pertains to the charm of the manor houses of that period. If I am allowed some exaggerated lyricism, I should say that the Renaissance object is not governed by the frame that is imposed to it. It is in itself both frame and ornament, as though swollen from the inside. Its strength comes from its very centre, and the artist is only here to help it to come into existence, to become what it prospectively, virtually already is. During the birth process of the object, the inflation of the square or of the circle let appear the ornaments contained within. These then will people surfaces and angles with a myriad of mascarons, of grimacing faces, of sheep or rams heads, of pagan impudent or insolent figures that constitute a good part of the vocabulary of grotesques.
An advocate of ornamentation ? Indeed I am pleading for the rehabilitation of ornament. I undoubtedly belong to those souls that suffer at the sight of these bare surfaces imposed by 20th century minimalism, the Bauhaus ahead of all. Restore surface decoration, be it drawn, painted, inlaid or damascened, never mind, but could all the things in life created by man, from thimble to building, be the pretext for embellishment by the creation of zones, partial or integral, bearing the refinement and the elegance of selected, lovingly designed motifs, spread with some sense of balance on the surfaces, motifs whose very coherence found a style. And my quest is certainly to find a just balance between the indispensable decorated parts and the plain areas, or between the different zones treated in high or low relief, rich or light, and bare resting areas. Let us restore surface filling, drawn or sculpted, but also structural underlining. For it is true that if the filling in can not only be drawn or painted but also show the liveliness of relief ornamentation, either sculpted in the round, or in high, medium or low relief, its narrative, historiated, figurative, merely floral or abstract contents can also take on a structural turn in the shape of the foundation of plinths, bases and pedestals, of the underlining of mouldings, toruses, astragals, cavettoes, doucines and scotiae, of the rhythm of fluting and gadroons, of the coping of cornices, entablatures, of the toping of pediments and domes… In short, the loss in decoration I am complaining of certainly applies to architecture as well, both influenced by and establishing style. This idea of style implies a close connexion with the history of ornaments : a style must perforce have a strong identity, with powerful roots, unlike those arabesques of feeble curls (perhaps since Matisse) or those large debased flowers that have pervaded today’s design, borrowings from past times that were adulterated to cover shiny black, bright pink, loud orange or - worse – Day-Glo plastic. Yet, to pass from the debased and impoverished to the total suppression of ornament was to be expected. And the loss is such that that search of mine for a certain balance is made impossible since there only remains matter, that is sometimes beautiful, but without culture, an authoritarian, even tyrannical matter which contemporary art is so keen on.
My wish : to create a guild.
Let us revive the Renaissance decorative arts though this extraordinary period is not in fashion today.
These days, ceramics are shown for themselves, separately, in duly organized exhibitions in galleries, contemporary art centres… I would like to mix things up a bit… blend kinds but not styles. Unite my creations to those by someone else in a wish of complementarity. A finely worked pot taken alone, on an art gallery pedestal, is one thing. But it is another conception to know how to put it shrewdly in relation to a creation that is close in style, coming from the hands of some inspired cabinet-maker, and to create a kind of stylistic dialogue without clash or conflict and in which each of the exhibited pieces takes advantage of the presence of its mate.
Curiosity cabinets, textile creations, silver or pewter rare vessels, book binding, all united in a common stylistic desire. Artists using natural or noble period materials : gold, wood, ivory, glass, silk, horn, bone, tortoiseshell, coral… let us forget brushed stainless steel, plastics and printed fabrics… Let us all unite to exhibit together and generate coherent sets and settings.
Let us invent combinations between objects. Let us invent combinations between creators too. Use the skills of each to the benefit of the creation of one object that, alone, requires different building trades. In that case, each piece has a main creator, a unique designer that the others’ contributions are helping. And each designer will in turn be the main designer of a different piece, needing the others’ help, in a kind of amiable subcontracting, for the parts that he cannot make himself alone. All these pieces will necessarily have a same historical reference. They will be original creations, hence contemporary, though of a “non contemporary” style. They will in no way be confused with historical reconstruction, copy, dull plagiarism or the forging of counterfeits.
Thirty years ago, I was discovering the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. These artists, some painters, one sculptor and one poet, touched me by their desire to come back to aesthetic (and literary) values that were then bygone and outdated, in search of a form of beauty that their Victorian England did not provide. After the band parted, the idea was taken up by William Morris and other artists, whose productions did not concern the field of fine arts but that of decorative and applied arts where everything, from furnishing fabrics to earthenware tiles, from wood furniture to the stained glass windows of a house, everything was subject to the obligation of honest usefulness (art for all) and of the use of historically-rooted ornament.
It was the birth of the Arts and Crafts movement. The idea assuredly appealed to me.
They were drawing their inspiration from the Middle Ages and from post-Romantic poetry. My stylistic orientation concerns the 16th century, not the medieval period. But I am certainly feeling a bit lonely on my Renaissance island.
To exhibit or create together, let us CREATE A GUILD.
Contact me so that we can unite our talents.
You can copy down my e-mail address from the “agenda” page of this web-site.
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