Toutes & tous les bienvenus à une p’tite expo de ‘peintures fraîches’ à Saint Gratien, près de Paris.
Last year we were asked by this friendly French city near Paris to illustrate Flemish architecture for French children. This year I was even officially appointed ‘artist in residence’ and I committed myself to ‘paint the town’ in 10 giant postcards, slightly inspired by the work of a fine predecessor…
Jacques Villeglé is an – alive & kicking! – intriguing post war French artist who has a history with Saint Gratien and – like me:-) – a special interest in alphabets and all sorts of characters & symbols one can find in the streets. He has made several ‘socio-political’ alphabets, but is probably best known for his early work with ready made collages of ripped street posters. Some English art critic once nicknamed him ‘Jack the Ripper’, but I prefer ‘The Nighttripper’ since he made most of his ‘conquests’ during the night with strictly good intentions, checking the heartbeat of society outside.
So I have been walking the imaginary streets of this French town after working hours for the last 3 months, looking for traces of (art) history in a rather nocturnal mood indigo…
To find my way I used an old, intriguing map of the town and it’s lake (that has been ripped away from poor Saint Gratien around 1850 and given to the then newly created commune of Enghien).
It took me some time to find out I had to hold it upside down to see things in the right perspective;-)
But with a little help from Google Earth (and our youngest more carto- & geographic son), I managed to get a more accurate overview to help me paint this nocturnal ‘map with a legend’.
- the original Saint G is one of Europe’s many martyrs for christianity, a young shepherd executed by the Romans and according to the legend a tree grew out of his shepherd’s hook afterwards -
The actual image is 1m20 – thx to the French we’re all using the metric system on the continent;-) – so this is probably not the best spot to show it, but I hope you get the picture (or check the expo:-))
Here are some more postcards of nightly meetings with people from the past: ‘La Vache Noire’ is a local tabac-lotto-café-restaurant-hotel that has remained open for at least 1 & 1/2 century. Bravo!
And of course there’s a castle! Home to the father-founder of town, Maréchal de Catinat, who retired here from the battlefields after serving the well known French king Louis XIV during many years. (more…)