November 19, 2014

Jeannine Lejeune, Musée art brut et naif/Museum of art brut and naive art

this picture and the next three

Ouffet is is a small community of some 2500 inhabitants, located south of Liège in the east of Belgium

Life and works

At the outskirts of this community, along the Chaussée de Huy, Jeannine Lejeune (b. 1952) in 1994 acquired the stables of a former equestrian center. She went to live there and in the course of the years she transformed the site into an art environment.

the corridor/entrance of the museum

A versatile self-taught artist, Lejeune decorated the walls of the corridors and the interior with her paintings, she made all kinds of assemblages and her mosaic structues and sculptures from polyethurane embellish the interior and the garden outside.

In her paintings on the walls Lejeune, who sometimes calls herself princess Jeannine du Thier del Creux, has evoked dreams she had as a child and she has expressed her passions. 

She has said that her house is a realm of dreams and its interior has been described as "a baroque univers tinged with mysticism".

Deeply religious and endowed with a strong sense of mysticm as she is, Lejeune's scenes on the walls show angels, Adam and Eve in the paradise or depict the seven deadly sins.

The garden has been decorated with mosaic structures and various bric à brac items.

From the outset it was Lejeunes' intention to share her art with the people from the village, especially with the children, so she announced her art environment as a museum, which could be visited during some days of the week.

Lejeune herself however liked to stay at home and she would not frequent Ouffet's public facilities, so as far as I understand her art environment did not enjoy so much the interest of the villagers, but rather was visited by lovers of outsider art from further afield.

Since the most recent digital information about this art environment dates from 2010, I do not know about the site's currrent situation.


November 11, 2014

Sixth anniversary of this blog

Bonjour aux promeneurs, Hello walkers
picture of Chatelain's sculpture 
courtesy of Marcello 13 (Flickr)

On november 11, 2008, I entered the blogosphere by publishing the first entry of a blog I entitled Outsider Environments Europe. 

So today this blog has its sixth anniversary and as in previous years, I will relate here some data (as of november 10) from the weblog statistics as provided the blog's "behind the scenes".

Number of visitors

On november 10, 2013 the all time number of page views was 209550. on november 10, 2014 it was 312596, an increase of 103046 last year, or on the average 282 visitors a day.

All time pageviews by country

As in previous years here is the all time rank of top ten countries as regards page views:

1,  United States 64076 (rank 2013: idem)
2.  Netherlands 43570 (rank 2013: idem)
3.  France 38016 (rank 2013: idem)
4.  United Kingdom 24220 (rank 2013: idem)
5.  Germany 18828 (rank 2013: idem)
6.  Italy 9548 (rank 2013 idem)
7.  Ukraine 8854 (rank 2013: not in top ten)
8,  Spain 8158 (rank 2013: 7th)
9.  Russia 6134 (rank 2013: 9th)
10. Poland 3777 (rank 2013: 8th)

It's interesting to see how the stabilty of the top persists: the first six places are taken by the same six countries, even in the same order.

Spain, Russia and Poland in 2013 already had a place in the top ten. Belgium has left the top ten and Ukraine entered it.

Most viewed sites all time

 1. Robert Garcet, Tour Eben-Ezer 3671
 2. Robert Tatin, Musée 3557
 3. Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, Palais 3432
 4. Bodan Litnianski, Jardin 3152
 5. Chomo, Preludian art 2668
 6. Adolphe-Julien (Abbé) Fouré, Rochers sculptés 2581
 7. Karl Junker, Junkerhaus 2580
 8. Josep Pujiula i Vila, Labyrinth 2512
 9. Willem van Genk, Bus station 2466
10. Yves Floc'h, Girouettes 2426

Although this year I used a different set of data (i.e. the number of times a specific entry has been viewed, updates included), the list shows a rather stable cohort of top sites, formed by Garcet (from Belgium), Tatin, Cheval, Litnianski, Chomo, Abbé Fouré, Floc'h (all from France) and van Genk (Netherlands).

Pujiula (Spain) and Junker (Germany) entered and Mercier left the top ten.

Other creators of sites that rank high in terms of number of times viewed are: Robert Vasseur (2335), Ensio Tuppurainen (1987), Elis Sinistö (1908),  Oreste Fernando Nannetti (1864), Viktor IV (1804), Euclide da Costa (1647),  Raymond Isidore (Picassiette) (1581), Bonaria Manca (1495) and Manfred Gnädinger (1439).

October 28, 2014

Alexander Emelyanov, Naive architecture-sculpture outdoors, frescoes on walls indoors

all pictures courtesy of Alexander Emelyanov

Life and works

Born in 1964 in Tashkent, Russia, Alexander Emelyanov in the nineteen-eighties studied paediatrics, and then settled as a hospital doctor in Samara, a city in the south-eastern part of european Russia on the east banks of the Wolga River. 

An industrial city, Samara is a scientific, educational and cultural center with a number of drama theaters, a ballet theater, an opera house, a philharmonic and various museums and art galleries.

Attracted to the world of art, Emelyanov in the late nineteen-nineties as a self-taught artist began making paintings in a naive style. In the course of the years he has made several hundred paintings (a selection of his paintings can be seen on the ArsenalArt website)


Around 2009 Emelyanov added another approach to his artistic activities by examining what he could create in the field of architecture and sculpting from an art brut point of view. 

The picture below has an early example of this new approach. Entitled Akvaduk 3 it is a sculpture that probably inspired Emelyanov to continue making creations in the context of akvaduktologa, a selfmade term that denotes a special variety of builded structures with uprights and girders. 

Akvaduk 3

So in recent years the garden around his house has undergone a transformation into an art environment by Emelyanov's acquaductologic construction of a huge structure made from used material such as old barrels, pots, parts of a refrigator, and so on, as pictured below.

 Akvaduk Tashkent 13

This impressive, highrising structure of 4 meters wide and 3 meters high (157x118 inches) along the garden's fence, entitled Akvaduk Tashkent 13, when seen as a whole has the potential of a spaceship, and hides in its details various imaginative scenes, such as the medics in below picture.

Akvaduk Tashkent 13, detail

Various other creative elements in the garden

The garden has been filled with various other items, such as puppets, sculptures, decorated walls, panels with texts or inscriptions....

Some totemlike sculpted elements and structures -as in above picture- mark the entrance to the artist's own art gallery, located in a small cottage. 

Frescoes indoors

Indoors Emelyanov has decorated the walls of two rooms with frescoes, executed with oil and acrylic paint.

One frescoe is entitled The temple of the first heaven, the other bears the name Paradise No 2.

Decorating the walls of a house in Russia traditionally is not uncommon, in particular in farmhouses in the countryside. However, Emelyanov's way of painting the frescoes is not traditionally at all. The style of his frescoes may have links with naive art, but then with a lot of references to contemporary ways of expression and themes.

In the same manner, the way Emelyanov has transformed his house and garden into an art environment, in particular his preference to work with cement and iron and with recycled material, is very much in line with other builders of art environments elsewhere in Europe.

With some of these creators, in particular those from Finland, he shares the non-traditional, visionary and often humoristic way of portraying of and commenting upon happenings around.

More pictures
* A selection of Emelyanov's (recent) creative constructions on the ArtMajeur website

Alexander Emelyanov
Naive architecture-sculpture and frescoes
Samara, Russian Federation
visits on appointment only

October 19, 2014

Joaquim Gifreu i Riera, Miniature constructions and scenes

 view from the street

Not what one would expect to see in a decent neighbourhood in the centre of a spanish city, but Figueres (Catalonia, Spain) has it: an art environment with a large number of miniature constructions and scenes located in a small garden in front of a corner house just in the middle of town.

Santa Maria de Cistella (Gifreu's place of birth)
this picture and the next ones: screenprints 
from the video by Serflac (see documentation)

Life and works*

Joaquim Gifreu i Riera (1922-2011), who created this outsider environment, for over thirty years had a job as a gestor, a private functionary who assists citizens when they have to deal with Spain's enormous bureaucracy, such as getting formal permits and settle tax matters.

During most of his life nothing suggested that this respected citizen one day would start making creative constructs and display these around his house in a neat neighbourhood.

the towers of the Sagrada Familia

When Gifreu got retired, he and his wife enjoyed travelling around, in Spain and to foreign countries, where they would visit famous monuments.

After his wife died, Gifreu stayed alone and at the age of 77 he decided he should find a hobby to fill the empty hours. So he tried making small constructions, replica of bridges, churches and monuments, using as examples the documentation he had gathered during his previous trips.

Caixa Forum (Barcelona), Sant Romá (Lloret de Mar) 
and a mill

Untill age 88 Gifreu has been active in making these contructions, all together producing some seventy various creations.

Installed in the small garden in front of his house, this space eventually would be hardly large enough to contain all creations.

The pictures in this post mainly show some churches, but apart from buildings Gifreu also made replica of for example the Pisa Tower, the pyramids in Egypt, bridges in Spain, but also of Dali's sculpture of an elephant with long, thin legs, of the Don Quixote/Sancho Panza couple, and of various other items.

Although every single item in the garden is carefully designed to scale, the proportions are not the same for all creations, so the garden as such is not a miniature ensemble such as made by other outsider artists.

Amidst his own creations Gifrea also displayed sculptures and other decorative garden elements he bought.

Santa Maria de Taüll (Pyrenees)

Garden still extant

Gifreu died in 2011. Currently his son lives in the house. Although some creations have been removed, currently (2014) the site is largely still extant, as Serflac's video demonstrates.

It can be seen from the street.

* The site got a scholarly review in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seatlle (Raw Vision, SPACES, San José State University), 2013. A highly abridged version is on the website of SPACES
* Video by Serflac (2'26", Youtube, uploaded june 2014)

To my knowledge Jo Farb Hernandez is the only one who has published about Gifreu, so I acknowledge with pleasure that this post draws upon Jo's research (interpretations are my responsibility of course)

Joaquim Gifreu i Riera
Miniature constructions and scenes
Corner of the Carrer Ramon LLull/Carre Dr. Rovira
Figueres, ES
can be seen from the street

October 06, 2014

Henri Galtier, Village occitan de Camarière/Occitan village Camarière

this picture and the next one  
from the touristic website Découverte34

Lunas is a small community of some 650 inhabitants located in the Hérault area in southern France.

One of its inhabitants, visual artist Henri Galtier, about whom no biographical data are available, has embellished part of a terraced hill at the outskirts of the village with a miniature village. 

This creative ensemble has some forty items which depict the school, the town hall,  the bar, the butcher, the barber, indeed, all shops and other buildings that used to be present in a small french village, and then the site also displays a variety of personalities that characterise village life, such as people playing pétanque, a shepherdess, a chimney sweeper, a woman hanging laundry, and so on......

picture from the weblog l'Herault insolite

This miniature village is not open for visits by the public. It has been constructed in such a way that it can be seen from the street (chemin de Nize, actually).

Although the people who populate the village are lifesize, best bring binoculars to get a good impression.

view from the road to Nize, at the height of nr 9

Documentation, more pictures
* Website Amis de Lunas, with detailed pictures of all items of the miniature village 
* Website l'Hérault insolite (march 2011)

Henri Galtier
Village occitan de Camarière
Lunas, FR
no visits, can be seen from the chemin de Nize

September 21, 2014

Khadambi Asalache, Decorated interior

view from the street

Hidden behind a big tree, Asalache's house when seen from the outside is an ordinary house in an ordinary South London street. The inside, however, is a little gem of woodcarving.

the entrance

Life and works

Khadambi Asalache (1935-2006) was born in Kaimesie, Kenya. Already as a youngster he showed great interest in literary and artistic aspects of life. So after his primary education he studied architecture in Nairobi and then -in the nineteenfifties- he left for Europe, residing in Rome, Geneva and Vienna, where he studied fine arts.

In 1960 he settled in London, to live there for the rest of his life. 

In London Asalache earned his income by teaching Swahili and working for the BBC Africa service. He also did some architectural and landscaping projects, wrote poetry and worked on a book, that was published in 1967, entitled A Calabash of Life. 

In 1970 he got a masters of philosophy in the field of philosophy of mathematics and he was appointed as a civil servant at the Treasury, the UK department of finance, a job he would perform for many subsequent years.

In 1981 he bought the house on 575 Wandsworth Road in South London, an old house built in 1810, with five rooms, having been squatted and meanwhile in need of repair. 

Asalache did some repair work with old floor boards, but was not happy with the heavy effect, so he decided to add some decorative ornaments. 

This triggered him so, that he decided to make a project of decorating the interior of his house. As is the case with many artists listed in this blog, it became a lifetime project, that Asalache continued for some twenty years, almost untill his death in 2006.

Working in the evening and in his free weekends, he decorated all rooms with fretwork shelves, arches, architraves and friezes, using birds, dancers, flowers, leaves and geometric patterns as motifs.

Beside these decorations, he also embellished the interior with 19th century english pottery he had collected in the course of the years.

Asalache himself has said that he was inspired by the mosque in Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada, doors of houses in Zanzibar, interiors in Damascus and wooden houses in Istanbul.

In his hands the old house has become a beautiful art environment.

The legacy is cared for by the National Trust

Asalache bequeathed his house to the National Trust, which accepted the bequest in 2010. Meanwhile a first part of maintenance work has taken place, but more funds are needed to complete the works.

The house can be visited on appointment, but the size of the house only allows groups of six at a time. 

*  Video by Stories of the World, London (Youtube, uploaded oct 2011, 2´42"')

Khadambi Asalache
Decorated interior
575 Wandsworth Road, South London UK
can be visited on appointment (see website National Trust)
fully booked for 2014

September 11, 2014

Erich Bödeker, Garten mit Skulpturen/Sculpture garden

Life and works

Born in Recklinghausen (Germany) Erich Bödeker (1904-1971), after completing his primary education, at the age of around fourteen went to work in a coal mine, in these days an important industry in the german Ruhr area.

He would continue this job for over forty years, untill in 1959, at age 54, he contracted silicosis and was declared unfit.

From the catalogue of the exposition 
Panorama International de la peinture naive   
organized in 1964 by the 
Mission universitaire et culturelle Française au Maroc 

For Bödeker this was the moment to start a new life. 

Much to the astonishment of his family and friends, he began making sculptures from all types of wastematerial such as old boxes, kitchenware, parts of machines...

After his first experiences with this kind of activity, he continued making sculptures by mainly using wood and concrete, in particular with a focus upon depicting persons and animals  

He covered his sculptures with rain-resistant brightly colored paint (The video listed in the documentation has pics in color; those of the garden, made in the nineteen-sixties, all are in B/W).

this picture and the next two: screenprints
from the Bohnes video (see documentation)

Bödeker displayed his creations in the small garden at his home, which in general contained some hundred items. 

In 1961, fairly soon after he started as a naive artist he met the director of the museum in Recklinghausen, who arranged an exposition of his works in the local town hall. 

Thereafter Bödeker almost every year got expositions (click here for a complete list). In 1970 he participated in the first Triënnale of Naive Art in Bratislava (INSITA) , where he won the first prize for sculptures.

Although his garden became a meeting point of people who were interested in his sculptures, as far as I know, in Germany the site as such never has been seen or described as an art environment.

Probably Bödeker himself used the garden more as a storage area, rather than that he wanted to transform it into an artistic creation as such. But then, Bödeker also had to learn from others, that he happened to be a naive artist... 

Indeed, recognizing and naming art work frequently is dependent upon the point of view and background of the observer. When in France in the nineteen-sixties interest in art environments arose (Ehrmann's Les inspirés et leur demeures, 1962; first research of Bernard Lassus), Germany did not have such a development, perhaps also because these phenomena are rare in that country.

Having been active as a naive artist for some eleven years, in 1971 Bödeker died in his garden in the midst of his sculptures. 

He has made over a thousand sculptures, many of which have been included in museum collections. 

However, I couldn't trace any information about what happened to Bödeker's other artistic legacy and his garden, 

* The Bödeker-Gesellschaft für Naive Kunst deals in-depth with naive art and artists, and has inventarised all works by Bödeker.
* Stefan Schwidder, "Naive Kunst von Erich Bödeker: die Kunstwerke ehemaliger Bergwerkskumpel", in: Deutsches Algemeines Sontagsblatt, July 6th 2000 
* Video uploaded to Vimeo by Jochen Bohnes, a contribution of his father Wilhelm G. Bohnes to a cultural program on ZDF TV (Germany)

Erich Bödeker from Jochen Bohnes on Vimeo.

Erich Bödeker
Garten mit Skulpturen
Recklinghausen, Germany
location unknown