Now ‘la tempête’ has passed, the sky is a sullen unbroken pewter and I should be shopping for chocolate santas… What better time to check out this hidden gem of contemporary sculpture in the heart of southern Brittany.
I’m beginning to realize that there is a network of cultural roots which spread beneath the surface of this country, which is so new to me. Domaine de Kerguéhennec is an example of that. The Breton department ‘Morbihan’ which we are in, translates almost directly into Welsh: ‘môr bychan’ (Little Sea), which must describe the ocean inlet at Vannes, 20 miles south.
It’s these resonant linguistic threads that reassure this welsh girl abroad. I thought I was in the middle of
nowhere. Turns out I have a 430-acre sculpture park on my doorstep, full of familiar names: Tony Cragg
Ian Hamilton Finlay, Richard Long, …. it’s beginning to feel like home.
Kerguéhennec is fabulously low-impact in terms of publicity and marketing – the official website directs me to an insurance agent, so I can’t give you a direct link here. It seems slightly bizarre that such a well-established contemporary arts centre – one of the largest in Europe – should be so under-represented on the web. It makes finding it all the more pleasing; a grand château, white like wedding cake, sitting in landscaped grounds which form the Parc de Sculptures.
Abstract forms sit within the narrow lake as you walk up the avenue. These organic red pieces by Marta Pan resonate up the length of the lake. It is the juxtaposition of these evidently ‘man-made’ pieces within the natural spread of the landscape that creates visual impact, here in the lake and elsewhere in the grounds. Concrete, fibre-glass, synthetic colours are incongruous in this context and it’s the contrast that makes this place ‘work’. It is very different to the large bronzes within the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, for example.
There’s the harmony of curved wooden forms within massive American redwoods: tall and muscular. Plaques by Ian Hamilton Finlay identify these trees and become part of the landscape. The gardens were laid out ‘in the English style’ in 1872 and are what makes this sculpture park so different from Yorkshire sculpture park, say, or Naoshima.
Surrounding the château is a large courtyard, the low outbuildings now function as artists studios and a contemporary art space. These threads of heritage and landscape I’ve been musing on as I wander about in the rain are picked up here. Paysage(s) (Landscape) features work by eight artists dealing with landscape and metaphor: Nicolas Chatelain, Franck Gerard and Vincent Mauger among others. Ochres, purples and dulled greens echo those in the landscape on this subdued and muted day. The parc is funded by local government, created in 1986 by the Ministry of Culture and FRAC, and boasts some 20 works by major artists, commissioned either by the government of the FRAC, and various pieces on loan.
It’s Christmas. It’s chucking it down. Even the joggers have gone home, Now to check out Lidl’s line in chocolate santas.. .
Merry Christmas, everyone. Nadolig Llawen. Bonnes Fetes!