October 05, 2015

Fernand Chapet, Parc des automates/Park of animated creations

The french community of Saint-Coulomb, located along the Baye de Saint Michel in Britanny, has its own attraction park, a rather special site because it has been created from recuperated materials by a local inhabitant,

Life and works

Born in 1929, Fernand Chapet at age 14 went to work. He was active in the car industry and in the marines as an electrician.

Once retired, in the late 1990's he began transforming a meadow-like area near his house into a Champ des attractions, adding various self-constructed items, which are characterized by being able to make movements.

In french such creations are designated as automates, a term that refers to a device mimicking the movements of a living being. In the terminology of this blog they could be designated as animated creations.

Anyhow, in the course of some twenty years Chapet has made around fifty of such creations.

In his early years a cycling enthusiast, Chapet has made various creations in which old bikes  have been processed, as in the picture below.

But Chapet's attention is also paid to local and regional major events, such as the expected opening in 2017 of a high speed train link from Paris to Saint Malo. a train à grande vitesse (TGV).

Maybe that's why the regional train from Saint Malo to Cancale -pictured below- has the abbrevation TPV (train à petite vitesse ?).

In making his creations Chapet devotes most attention to the technical aspects. 

The life-size dolls that depict people, are dressed in discarded clothing and to portray the faces Chapet uses masks, what according to him is the toughest part to do, beacuse where he lives these are not so easy to obtain.


The charm of the site consists in the movements of the creations that populate it, a capacity that has especially been devised by Chapet to amuse people.

Located in a tourist area, especially in summer the Parc des automates attracts numerous visitors indeed.

* Website Les automates de Saint Coulomb by Fernand Chapet (in french)
* Article by Jeanine Rivais on her website (in french)
* Article in regional newspaper Le Télégramme (dec 2014, in french)
* Video by France3 TV (1'48", made 2012, uploaded dec 2014, Youtube)

Fernand Chapet
Parc des automates
Saint-Coulomb, lieu-dit la Ville-es-Treux, Britanny, France
visitors welcome

September 21, 2015

Maria Rodriguez, El jardin/The garden

view from the beach

A house facing the beach in Guainos Bajos, part of Adra, a community of Almería in Andulicía Spain), has a front garden which is fully decorated with structures embellished with seashells, shapely stones, plastic figures and various plates fitted with proverbs.

This is El Jardin, an art environment created by María Rodriguez.

Life and works

Her full name is María Ascensión Rodríguez Rodríguez. She was born in 1936, married in 1956 and had three childeren. All her life she was interested in art, which she gave way by collecting small sculpted items she bought in local shops.

 this picture and the next ones
by Eloy M. Muñoz Suarez

Around age 60, in the 1990's this interest got a new twist when she began adding decorations to her garden, a plot of some 60 m² (646 square feet) that separates the house from the beach.

This garden currently is fully packed with Rodriguez' creations.

People who create shell decorated items in general use a cement mix to secure the shells. Maria Rodriguez prepares the cement herself by using sand from the beach mixed with cement powder and water. 

The base on which the shells and other elements are attached mostly has a pyramidal shape, which gives the collection its own characteristic appearance.

Rodriguez regularly patrols the beach to collect additional decorative material. She does not favor specific shells but just uses what she encounters and what she likes.    

Plates with texts

Apart from a variety of self-collected sea-shells and other found items, Rodriguez` creation is characterized by plates that are provided with texts, such as proverbs, personal messages, warnings and other sayings.

Here are some examples:

No es mas sabio aquel que sabe muchas cosas 
sino aquel que hace muchas cosas con le poco que sabe 
The one who knows many things is not wiser 
then the one who does many things with the little he knows.

The text on the upper plate reads  

Pide a Dios que donde mires veas alegria
lo que toques sea amor
lo que sienta sea paz
y hacia donde camines sea la felicidad
Ask God that wherever you look you see joy
whatever you touch is love
whatever you feel is peace
and wherever you walk is happiness

The lower plate has a text that refers to a seat which is included in the structure: 

El que se siente en este sillon será bendecido por Dios
He who sits on this chair will be blessed by God

And finally this example

Mi felicidad consiste en que se apreciar lo que tengo 
y no deseo en exceso loque no tengo
My happiness is that I know to appreciate what I have 
and that I do not want  too much what I do not have


Maria Rodriguez 
El Jardin
Guainos Bajos, Almería, Andalucía, ES
can be seen from the beach

September 17, 2015

Antoni Maciá Cassany, Espai singular Maciá/Maciá's singular space

view from the road

Formerly known as Zoo Emporda (Zoo of the Emporda region) this art environment currently is named Espai singular Maciá (Maciá's singular space) after its founder Antoni Maciá Cassany (1918-2007), who realized a variety of single-handedly built structures on the property*.

structure on the left side of the entrance
this colored picture and the next ones (spring 2014)
are stills from Serflac's video (see documentation), 
published here in agreement with the author

Life and works

Born in peasant family in Vic, a centuries-old city in Catalonia (Spain), Maciá at age sixteen began working at a local cement factory. Two years later he was enscripted in the army. The Spanish Civil had begun and Maciá had to take part in the fighting.

He was wounded and returned to Vic to recover from the injuries. The city of Vic is a centre of ecclesiastical activities and of producing saint statuettes, and maybe inspired by this activity, the young man became interested in modelling in clay. He succeeded in getting permission to follow art lessons at the local School of Arts without formally registering and soon showed an innate skill in modelling, which made him decide to settle as a sculptor in Barcelona.

Here at first he earned a living for himself and Josefa Rovira Olmo he had married in 1942, by making and selling figurines of clay. Later he got a job as an assistent of a famous sculptor, but gradually getting the feeling that he was hampered in his develeopment as an artist, and fallen into debt because of an exposition of his work at his own expense, in 1955 he moved to Begur a community along the Costa Brava.

It was the era of the initial develeopment of tourism along the Spanish mediterranean coast, as promoted by the government, and Maciá went to work on the construction of hotels.

the "Pajaro", a 6 m (19.5 ft) high bird with a worm in its beak

Creating an art evironment

In 1967 Maciá bought a plot of land of some 17.000 m² (4.2 acres) in the community of Regencós where the family went to live. Although located in the countryside, Maciá probably realised that here he could engage in the various activittes he wanted to pursue in life, acting in his own way and own spirit, integrating gardening, animal husbandry, architecture and sculpture.

the "rotunda", an open aviary, as well as the 
building with the three-pointed roof behind

Step by step animals were added to the site, domestic ones as living on a farm, but also exotic ones, such as monkeys and an emu.

To give shelter to these animals Maciá designed structures in a specific architectonic idiom, which he single-handedly constructed. The structures were made by piling stones masoned with cement into the meant form and then covering the resulting model with a layer of cement, both internally and externally.

In particular in the 1970's Maciá exerted a lot of energy in transforming the site into an art environment/zoo.

left the "Caja de instrumente musical", 
in the middle the "Oruga"

The ensemble of structures on the left side in above picture, the Caja de instrumente musical. is a small and bare version of a never realised larger structure Maciá dreamt about, which should produce musical sounds generated by a machinery activated by streaming water, all items beautifully illuminated.  

The sculpture in the middle of above picture, La Oruga,  is the icon of the site. Its highest point rising some four meters (13 ft) from the ground, the construction was meant to be climbed by visitors so that they could be photographed once above.

a peasant and a mermaid

The site has only a few realistic sculptures of animals or humans. There is a Catalan peasant as in above picture, flanked by a mermaid, an ensemble still present at the premises.

Maciá certainly made such sculptures, but these were primarely intended to sell to visitors or to people who were interested in his artistic work. Since no records were kept, its unknown how many sculptures he sold and where they went. 

a structure meant to house monkeys, but never used a such

In 1980 Maciá suffered from a stroke and although he continued his actvities, he was severely limited in his ability. His son, Antonio, took over the management of the site.

In subsequent years regulations wth regard to zoos became more stringent and especially exotic animals could no longer stay.

Early 2000 the site was temporarely closed and although in later years it reopened occasionaly, it was closed definitely in 2007, the year Antoni Maciá Cassany died. 

Actual situation

From 2007 on the site has remained closed for a number of years. It must have suffered degradation.

However, meanwhile it has reopened as is evident from the video that was made in the spring of 2014, which shows a maintained site. Currently there also is a website that reports about activities which take place in 2015, such as workshops in dance, music and drawing, concerts and dance performances.

* Website Espai singular Maciá (in Spanish, English and French
 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, pp 316-325 (An abridged version is available on the website of SPACES) 
* Video by Serflac (3'20", Youtube, uploaded july 2014)

* to my knowledge the only source about this site in the public domain is the review by Jo Farb Hernandez (see documentation), so I acknowledge that this post relies on Jo's reserach

Antoni Maciá Cassany
Espai singular Maciá (aka Zoo Emporda)
Regencós, Girona, Catalonia, ES
on the road between Regencós and Pals
open to the public (see the site's website)

September 06, 2015

Jean-Pierre Moreau, Récup'art

Insert Récup'art  in a internet search engine and you will get over half a million of hits which mainly refer to activities in France in the field of making artistic creations from recuperated material.

Jean-Pierre Moreau is among the half a million results.

(for privacy reasons private adress and telephone number 
have been removed from this business card)

Life and works

Born in 1941, Jean-Pierre Moreau in his professional life was active in a factory in Limoges as a welder and as operator of a lathe and of a milling machine. In these technical jobs he learned to work with metal and iron and became acquainted with the specific characteristics of this materials.

In 2000, some years before he retired (2004), without any prior artistic training, Moreau began making installations and sculptures from excess iron and other material. He made lifesize items, such as the installation in above picture.and small ones, such as the insect depicted below.

Currently, Moreau has produced some 300 sculptures and installations, which are displayed on a plot of land of 5000 m2 (1.2 acres) he owns, named Récup'art and located near the house where he lives.

Because of the carefully maintained greenery and many trees the site has the allure of a park and Moreau likes to welcome visitors and show them around. Moreau's park is located in the small rural community of Saint-Priest-Taurion (some 2700 inhabitants) near the city of Limoges in the south-west of France.

Visitors will see all kind of real or imaginary animals and monsters, strange machines, robots, and installations like a sailboat or a windturbine, all made from recuperated items. 

They also can meet Don Quichotte (in two versions) and Sancho Panza (one version to date)

As can be seen in above picture, the park also houses a mill. Here Moreau keeps his paintings made in the style of painters he admires, such as Picasso, Dali or Giacometti, 

To date this art environment  hasn't raised much publicity among those interested in outsider art. It is mentioned in some regional touristic websites, a local journal and an occasional weblog. 

Jean Pierre Moreau
Route du barrage de Chauvant 
Saint-Priest-Taurion, Limousin, FR
visitors welcome, especially in summer

August 18, 2015

Roberto Pérez, La finca de las piedras encantadas/The farm of the enchanted stones

 El Mirador, exterior
pictures courtesy of Roberto Pérez

Roberto Pérez, a medical doctor at the Sanidad Exterior in Almería (Andalucia, Spain) in 1988 bought a piece of land of some 2300 m² (0,57 acres) in El Fargue, in the north of the province of Granada, Spain.

It was a fairly cluttered plot and Pérez started off to renovate it, by improving the soil and planting trees.

The site also contained a large number of stones, which Pérez carefully removed and which inspired him to use in constructing "strange things" as he jokingly said himself, or -as he named them more formally- escultecturas margivagantes, after the book about fantastic architecture in Spain edited by Juan Antonio Ramirez, the first Spanish book about art environments with builded structures (published in 2006).

El Mirador, view from the inside

Intially the idea was to use the land for recreation, but one night sitting outside watching a twinkling starry sky, the idea settled that one of these "strange things" could be kind of an "observatory", a fancy building, but one provided with a telescope.

El Mirador, another view from the inside

Accordingly in the 1990's El Mirador came to be created. An artwork made without a pre-conceived plan, built with stones unearthened at the site and with various recycled materials, bearing the same name as the Mayan settlement in Guatemala, discovered in 1926. 

El Mirador, view through the tower

It became a builded structure with curved shapes and artistically designed elements such as semicircular windows, alcoves and kind of an oriel window, all meant to please the eyes, but not yielding a structure fit to live in.

Pérez has embellished the site in various other ways, creating other (smaller) builded structures such as a chapel, making colorful stained glass windows, arranging materials from the dumps and dugged up stones into freestanding artistic elements and making a variety of sculptures. 

Pérez' sculptures may appear as stand alone artworks, often made from white marble, depicting animals or persons, such as the newborn child in the picture below.

The site also has sculptures made by by friends, such as this low relief creation by Gerardo Jofre.

Action to save the site from demolition

As most art evironments all over the world, Pérez site of enchanted stones came into being without a perconceived plan and without a prior building permit.

When Pérez in 2012 approached the authorities about legalizing the builded structures, they reacted formally by banning further construction, charging demolition of what already was built and imposing a fine.

Pérez fought this decision, because the structures are artwork and not buildings to inhabit. In 2015 an action on change.org led to an international petition to the authorities to preserve the site.

* Entry in weblog El Hombre Jazmin (Graciela García) july 17, 2015
* Entry on SPACES website
* Article in Granada Digital march 28, 2015
* Video by Granada Digital (2'14", Youtube, uploaded march 30, 2015)

Roberto Pérez
La finca de las piedras encantadas
El Fargue, Granada, Andalucia, Spain
visits only on appointment

August 09, 2015

José Prades Ceuma, Prades' decorated builded structure

pictures (2015) are screenprints from the video by Serflac
(see documentation), published here in agreement
with the author of the video

Above picture shows a builded structure that can be seen from the road near the community of Gandesa in spanish Alta Terra, the hinterland of Tarragona in the Catalonia region in Spain. The site isn´t identified with a specific name, so in this post I refer to it as Prades' decorated builded structure.

Life and works

José Prades Ceuma (1938-2006) was a farmer who in 1998 began to expand a building on his farmland, transforming it in the course of the following years into an art environment, a builded, decorated structure with a surface of some 45 by 32 m (136x104 ft).

He was born in the community of Gandesa into a religious family convinced of the value of traditional belief systems. His family. other than most people around in Catalonia, supported Francoism. As an adult Prades also honored this ideas, whereby he fell into an isolated position to became a bitter, suspicious man, who nevertheless in a modern way conducted his farm work, for example being the first in his region to buy and use a tractor.

The builded structure Prades began to realise when he was around age sixty, appears to be intended primarily as a carrier of religious testimony, of homages to the old Spain and of personal notes about his life and belief.

Above picture shows the tower and the wall at the northern facade of the building with an inscription saying
La Mare Deo de la Fancalde de Gandesa
José Prades Ceuma
Santa Cristina
Lo Die 24 de Julio 1938
A la pasade del Ebro 65 años

(The Mother of God of the Hot Springs of Gandesa/José Prades Ceuma/Santa Cristina/
The day july 24, 1938/At the passing of the Ebro 65 years).

The small towery structures on top of the wall, consisting of a quadrangular base, a sphere and a cone, together with the triangular shields are the main sculptural elements of this site, which return at various spots. 

The text on above blue shield reads:
En Memori
Del ano 2000
De José
Higo de Dios

(In memoriam/To God/From the year 2000/From José/Son of God)

an overview of the site from the south

When Prades died in 2006, the site was still in full development. In 2006 it mainly consisted of partly painted walls, decorated with flowery motives, inscriptions, pylons or shields. 

The interior space already was divided into several rooms and smaller spaces, but none of the places was covered with a roof, nor was the ground surface provided with floors or pavements.

Prades may have had grand ideas for the further development of the site. For example already manufactured gutters along the roof line of the building indicate possible creation of waterworks (with which Prades in his activities as a farmer already was familiar). 

Prades never married and had no children. He had a brother and a sister, but it is not known if they still were alive when he died and could be his inheritors.

After Prades passed away the site isn't being cared for any more and it is gradually falling into decay. Given Prades' not so positive reputation among people around, it is not likely that residents will take action to preserve this art environment.

* Article by Jo Farb Hernandez on the website of SPACES (an abridged version of her scholarly review of the site in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seatlle (San José State University), 2013, pp. 288-295
* Video by Serflac (uploaded August 3, 2015, Youtube, scenes of the site during the first 1'55")


To my knowledge the only source with respect to José Prades Ceuma is Jo Farb Hernandez (see documentation), so I like to acknowledge that this post draws upon Jo's research 

José Prades Ceuma
Decorated builded structure
Gandesa, Catalonia, Spain
abandoned and in decay, can be seen from the road

July 24, 2015

Salvador Sala Esquius, Torres decoradas / Decorated towers

pictures (2014) are screenprints from the video by Serflac
(see documentation), published here in agreement
with the author of the video

Above picture depicts the towery structures displayed in the backyard of a house in the small community of Serinyà (some 900 inhabitants) in Catalonia, Spain.

Life and work

Born in 1954 in Marensa, a city near Barcelona, Salvador Sala Esquius* at age fourteen moved to Barcelona to take up work there, being mainly employed as a carpenter. 

His mother was artistically engaged in various ways (making paintings and ceramics) and Sala, who shared this affinity with art, apart from being a carpenter also explored what he could achieve in making paintings. It was not a success, his artwork wouldn't sell. 

So he continued his career in carpentry, opening a workshop in 1978, designing and making furniture on commission, but also making more experimental items he presented at artisinal markets.

In 1997, in his early forties, Sala traveled for three months through South America, a trip that made him realise he was a rather self-contained person who could do without a lot of relations. So in 1998 he moved to the small community of Serinyà where he had acquired an old house which was so dilipidated that it cost him litttle.

Living alone and relatively iolated in a small village, in psychological terms he began to see his stay in Serinyà as kind of a naufragio (shipwreck), a concept that inspired him artistically to use physical material (i.e. travertine stones abundantly available in his surroundings) to provide him support and a sense of place.

Collecting these stones, piling them into columns and decorating them with shards of tile and glass (trencadis) gave him a great satisfaction.

detail showing the trencadis

After Sala's mother died (in 2003) he inherited a house which he sold and earned him a sum of money that allowed him to be free of daily work for a considerable time, a timespan he used to continu creating decorated towers.

His first creation of a towery structure is in the interior of the house, a mosaic decorated column that supports the second floor. Inside the house there are also mosaic decorated walls.

Most columns are arranged in the garden directly behind the house, the largest one being the Torre de Babel (Tower of Bable), which rises 7 meters (23 ft) high on a climbable base which is 3 meters (10 ft) high. This artwork not only has mosaics, but it is also decorated with various found objects, including some that he received as gifts from friends.

Another eye-catching construction in the backyard is a grouping of four columns interconnected with decorated benches.

Áll together this art environment has some nine decorated towery structures.

decorated fence along the garden

One of the long sides of the garden is bordered by a 50 meters (154 ft) long fence, which is embellished with some 4500 colorful aluminium cans.

detail of the fence

Currently Sala Esquius has resumed his activities in Barcelona in the area of carpentry. 

* Article by Jo Farb Hernandez on the website of SPACES (an abridged version of her scholarly review of the site in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seatlle (San José State University), 2013, pp. 158 - 163.
* Video by Serflac (Youtube, 2'03", uploaded may 2014)

* note
To my knowledge the only source with respect to Sala Esquis is Jo Farb Hernandez (see documentation), so I like to acknowledge that this post draws upon Jo's research 

Salvador Sala Esquius
Calle Figueres
Catalonia, ES
visits on appointment