what I'm doing, what I'm seeing, what I'm thinking

11/07/2013

Sculpture I liked at the French Mediterranean

Lucky me - last week I spent a few days in the Pyrenees Orientales - the region of France which borders Spain on the Mediterranean coast - a stunning landscape of mountains and ocean.
As usual I was on the look out for sculpture and realized when I looked at my snaps on the plane home that I'd got a pretty diverse and interesting collection - that is if you use a somewhat wide definition of the term 'sculpture'.


These bizarre, rather surreal monuments circled an obelisk in the harbour of Port Vendres.  It's a natural deep water harbour so there's a strange mixture of huge freighters, cruise ships, fishing boats and fancy yachts- all very interesting to look at. It was the main point of embarkation for French troops going to serve in Algeria - Africa is literally just across the water.

Commissioned in 1780 - the four sculptures represent as follows: the newly independent United States of America which France had supported during the American War of Independence; the abolition of serfdom in France; free trade and the strengthened French Navy.  I was fascinated by the strange juxtaposition of imagery but of course had no idea of the back story when looking at the sculptures.  It really reminded me of the reliefs I referenced in my public sculpture commission in Cardiff  (scroll down the link page to see them)

Now I'm having problems working out which sculpture relates to which event!!??
But stone feathers and swags totally up my street.


Here's a view of Port Vendres - just so you know





Really love the turban!  It's weird how the sculptures are only half real figures - i.e. no faces or arms, just bits of bodies with lots of trappings and amalgamation of disparate objects.


I know I know! So idyllic. We took a long cliff top walk with the Med crashing below. But was best not to twist your head to the right - unless  an endless vista of squeezed together tents and caravans is your thing!

Anyway, we happened on this wonderful linear 'sculpture installation' on the cliff path - exquisite.


Our walk led us to Collioure - haunt of Fauves at the beginning of the 20th century - Matisse and Derain to name but two.


This powerful piece of steel sculpture - sorry, I mean - these lethal spikes, were installed at the end of a harbour wall walkway to stop people interfering with the...................


.....................well actually I'm not sure what it is, maybe an ancient beacon at the harbour entrance.  It reminded me of these gorgeous campanile I've previously photographed in France.


Built in the 15 and 16th centuries, the Fort St Elme is a magnificent, monolothic structure standing guard over Collioure, the very essence of solid form.  Viewed from a purely visual point of view, it's interchangeable with abstract sculpture - and even Modernist architecture - of the 50s and 60s. 

A perfect marriage of form and function - where nothing needs to be  added or can be taken away.  Funnily enough - the same equation  applies to the most successful sculptures in the world.


I like the Arab influences in the some of the architecture - and the simple, repetitive, blocky forms of the houses. And wow - the pallette!


Classic French writing - absolutely my favourite. And note how cleverly the sculpture who installed this wall piece played with light and shadow ...........only joking - but really, so much more beautiful than many a piece of public sculpture.


Concrete dice!!! Yes!  previous visitors to my blog may know about my love affair with French concrete dice - I've posted many of them and am always thrilled when I come across a new one for my collection.

So that's my whirlwind visual trip around the Pyrenees Orientales. Sculpture really is wherever you look!  Love it!



1 comment:

  1. The white marble ones I would have thought were by you anyway and the rusty iron spikes must be an undiscovered Chillida masterpiece, and as my email I'm green with envy at you visiting this corner of France!!

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