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

July 01, 2015

Cuma Altuntaş, Sculpture garden

Located in southwest Turkey, facing the Aegean see, Bodrum is one of the most important holiday resorts in the country. In town it has a mainstream sculpture park, opened in 2012 and out of town there is an outsider art environment, the first in Turkey of which I heard so far. 

Life and works

Born in 1976, Cuma Altuntaş grew up in a Kurdish family in the small community of Kocaoglu Gemerek in the district of Sivas in Turkey. When rather young he already was attracted to making art and at the age of seven he made his first sculpture. 

Making a sculpture already was seen in the community as rather awkward, but then, depictimg humans in an artwork wasn't allowed at all in the religious beliefs of his parents and the other villagers. 

Looking back at his youth, Altuntaş said it wasn't a very happy one, since he felt guilty beacuse of his drive to make sculptures, was rather depressive and had night mares.  

Growing older the conflicts with his family and the community continued. A love affair went wrong.

So at some point he left his place of birth, going westward, earning money by taking care of private gardens and comparable little jobs.

Around 2007 Altuntaş settled in the outskirts  of Bodrum, where he could rent a piece of land of some two hectares, with a cabin where he could stay. 

A young man around age thirty, a self-taught artist with an urge to make sculptures, on this piece of land he began realising his dream.

In an outburst of creativity a multitude of sculptures arose on the site, mostly lifesize, often totemlike, made from treetrunks, wood or concrete, which often depict strange dragon-like creatures, human faces or woman.

Altuntaş also makes smaller creations, working in wood or pumice. These creations often depict all kind of animals.

Currently over some 2000 sculptures are on display on the site.

horned lady

Working with parts of trees Altuntaş sees certain characteristics in the material, which he manipulates and accentuates, in this way expressing it's essence.   

 A recurrent theme in Altuntaş' work is a particular lady, of whom he says that she regularly appears in his dreams, a character that might be connected to the lost love.  

Regional newspapers and local tv have paid attention to Altuntaş' life and work, in general in a sympathetic way. 

The artist will welcome visitors to the garden and he sells sculptures to interested parties.


* Article (in English, april 2015) with a lot of pictures on the weblog of C.M. Kosemen
* Article (in Turkish, aug 2013) in regional newspaper Hürriyet Yazarlar 
* Video by Birdal Gectan (7'16", Youtube, uploaded sep 2012)

Cuma Altuntaş   
Sculpture garden 
along the road from Türkbükü to Gundogan 
Bodrum, Turkey
visitors welcome

June 22, 2015

Julius Klingebiel, Zelle 117/Cell 117

Above picture shows a room in a closed ward, part of a hospital in Göttingen, Germany. In the 1950s the walls of this room have been completely decorated by the inmate who lived there. Only in recent years the existence of this art environment has become known by the general public.

Life and works

Born in Hannover as son of a postal worker, Julius Klingebiel (1904-1965) became a mechanic, a job he held in the German army. He was a member of the Sturmabteilung of the NSDAP (the para-military organization of the national-socialist party).

In 1939, suffering from a psychosis, in a serious outburst of anger he killed his stepson and threatened his wife. Arrested by the police he ended up in psychiatric custody.

Diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, in 1940 Klingebiel was included in the Landesheil- und Pflegeanstalt, a hospital in Göttingen, where he stayed in various departments.

In accordance with national-socialist lawgiving he was forcibly sterilized, but he just escaped the Nazi euthanasia program, in all probability thanks to the then director of the hospital.

In 1951 Julius Klingebiel was transferred to cell number 117 of the hospital's closed ward, a building with all the characteristics of a prison, After the war for unknown reaons his case wasn't reassessed although this was required by law, so he now was forcibly hospitalized without court ruling, a forgotten man, who never had visitors.

Former nursing staff say he was a difficult man, occasionaly excited and confused, withdrawn and sad, but also as original and imaginative.

Rather soon Klingebiel began decorating the cell where he stayed. The story says that one day when outside on the institutions grounds he found a small piece of coal which he used to make a drawing on a wall of his cell.

This apparently struck him, because he continued his creative work, trying out painting small designs with a substance made of toothpaste, coal, wood and stone.

When the nursing staff noticed that this creative activity made him calm, he got real paint and a brush, and thus Klingebiel began making larger paintings.

Klingebiel depicted animals, (military) people and decorations, ships, heraldic motives, all interlacing. He depicted items that refer both to national-socialism and to the roman-catholic church.

If needed he would paint over existing work. No part of the walls remained unused.

In this way his room became an art environment, or Raumkunstwerk as it is called in German.

In later years Klingebiel also made paintings on paper. Currently some thirteen works have been preserved.

watercolor painting, around 1961
picture by Asklepios Fachklinikum Göttingen 

In 1961 Klingebiel was administered a newly available drug. His psychic condition improved and he stopped making paintings and decorating his room. In 1963 he was transferred to another department where he died May 26, 1965.

Actual situation

After Klingebiel was transferred to another department, the institute kept the decorated cellroom as it was. It was used as a storage room and one took care that the curtains remained closed to protect the artwork from daylight.

Just a small group of people knew about its existence. Opening the site to visitors was not possible in this closed ward. There was silence around Klingebiel's artwork.

However, from around 2010 on new developments took place.

The social-psychiatric research group in Göttingen, supported by and cooperating with various partners, began a research project, which resulted in a book edited by Andreas Spengler, Manfred Koller and Dirk Hesse, which was published in 2013 (see documentation).

Then, in 2012 cell 117 was registered as a cultural monument (Denkmalschuss, in german), which implies it has a protected status by law.

Subsequently expositions were organized which made use of the available material and of a walk-in reproduction, first in 2013 in Asklepios Fachklinikum Göttingen (August 14/August 30), then in 2014 in Berlin in the Kleisthaus (October 16/November 21).

In 2015 the Gugging Museum in Austria featured Klingebiel (March 19/October 11) 

Early 2015 it was announced that the hospital would terminate the use of the closed ward, which gave rise to a discussion how to preserve Cell 117 for the future. The best solution would be to maintain this art environment at the current location, while the rest of the building, which is owned by the government of the federal state Niedersachsen, will get a matching destination.

The Sprengel museum in Hannover has announced it's interest in adding Klingebiel's artwork, somehow loosened from its actual location, to its collection, but in general the government of Niedersachsen and the local authorities of Göttingen believe the art environment should remain connected to Göttingen.

Further decisionmaking must be awaited.

* Article in Wikiwand
* Website Elementarkräfte with an entry about Klingebiel
Andreas Spengler, Manfred Koller, Dirk Hesse (Eds),  Die Klingebiel­-Zelle. Leben und künstlerisches Schaffen eines Psychiatriepatienten (Klingebiel's Cell. Life and artistic works of a psychiatric patient), Göttingen (Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), 2013
* Ausbruch in die Kunst. Julius Klingebiel, Zelle Nr 117. Catalogue (available on PDF) of the exposition in Kleisthaus, Berlin, October 16/November 25, 2014
* Ursula Scheer, "Kunst passt in die kleinste Zelle" (Art fits into the smallest cell), article in Frankfurter Allgemeine, june 14, 2015
* Antje Schmidt, "Ausbruch in die Kunst. Die Zelle des Julius Klingebiel" (Outbreak in the Art. Julius Klingebiel's Cell). Documentary movie, 43'52", broadcasted on German TV (NDR), June 14, 2015 (can not be embedded here) 

Julius Klingebiel
Zelle 117
Göttingen, Niedersachsen, DE
not (yet) open to the punlic

June 02, 2015

Cecilio Medrano Mendizábal, El Trujal de Rincón de Soto

pictures are screenprints from the various videos in the 
documentation published here 
in agreement with Miguel Medrano Laperdiza  
above: rear facade of the house, made 2011-2012

In the northern spanish community Rincón de Soto a property has recently been tranfsormed into a trencadis art environment, involving the decoration of its various walls with colorful mosaic.

Life and works 

It is a creation designed by Cecilio Medrano Mendizábal and implemented by his son Miguel Medrano Lapedriza.

Cecilio Medrano was born in Rincón de Soto (november 22, 1949). First he became a farmer, but later he taught himself the skills of forging iron and in 1982 he opened his own blacksmith workshop in town, producing practical materials, such as iron bannisters, balconies, railing, and agricultural implements.

 detail rear facade

However, Medrano when young already showed artistic talents and in 2002 he began crafting design furniture, such as tables, sofos and chairs, but also free standing sculpted creations, made by combining various materials, such as iron, wood, and natural stone. 

The some 150 creations he produced untill now are scattered through his house, but are also displayed on various spots in Rincón de Soto,

A very special item is an enormous pear, La Pera de Rincón, made in 2013 as a homage to the city which is famous because of its production of high quality pears. 

 another detail rear facade

In 2011 the project started to decorate the walls of the property with mosaic. In Spain this style of decoration, used by Gaudi and other Catalan artists, is known as trencadis, in other countries it is alos called pique assiette. 

The first phase (2011-2012) involved decorating the rear facade (pictures above). a surface some ten meters wide and five meters high. The wall has been decorated with colorful surfaces interspersed with more or less realistic images such as a radiant sun below representations of heavenly bodies. 

 high rising rear wall, made 2012

The next phase (2012) involved the high rising rear wall. Once more colorful surfaces, interspersed with semi-realistic images that represents kind of a roofing, a chimney, a mountain....

 terrace at the backside of the house, made 2012

Next the terrace at the house's backside was decorated (2012). This decoration, based upon an earlier drawing by Medrano Sr, shows a gardener watering his garden.

sidewall, made 2013

Decorating the side walls (2013) was the last phase of the project, a difficult one because of the scaffold that had to be used on a sloping roof.

 another view of the sidewal

This part of the art environment is probably the most extensive one in terms of square footage. It once more has a radiant sun and the long part of the wall portrays a road amidst a landscape.

sidewall under construction, detail

It's a quite road, where just one car moves. Medrano's memories of earlier times ? .....

* Weblog La Rioja en mi blog, september 2014, more pictures
* Videos made by Miguel Medrano and downloaded on Youtube which demonstrate the realization of the decorations in its various phases


rear wall, 2012

the terrace, 2012

sidewall, 2013

Cecilio Medrano Mendizábal
El Trujal de Rincón de Soto
37 Calle Cascajuelo
Rincón de Soto, Rioja, ES
visitors welcome

April 29, 2015

Marcel Vinsard, Sculpture garden

pictures are screenprints from the video by Yvan Ducognon
(see documentation)
published here with his permission

Pontcharra is a community of some 6500 inhabitants in the east of France at the foothills of the French Alps, halfway between Chambéry and Grenoble.  Along its Avenue du Granier, on a sidestreet, in recent years an imposing sculpture garden came into being: Marcel Vinsard's art environment.

Life and works

Born in 1930, Vinsard has been a barber throughout his entire working life of more than fifty years. 

Just before he retired, he began in 2001 -in his early seventies- making sculptures, being inspired to do so by a book about the Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti. he had gotten from a friend. 

Vinsard, a self-taught artist who calls himself a bricoleur (handyman, do-it-yourselver), at the outset made his creations from wood and bark. Later he turned to cellular concrete and currently he works with polystyrene.

All other materials he uses consists of discarded objects, mostly from the local dump, which he visits regularly.

Interviewed in 2013 by a local magazine (Pontch Echos, p. 8) Vinsard says:

"My subjects are very diverse: celebrities from the political and the artistic world,  characters I did in the style of famous artists, animals, dreamlike creatures, figurines, totems, compositions of objects. The set is a real museum. I like to give my sculptures bright colors".

Giacometti inspired him indeed. In 2013 Vinsard had made some forty sculptures in the style of this sculptor and on a poster in the garden could be read Le seul en France a faire des copies d'Alfredo Giacometti (the only one in France who makes copies of Alfredo Giacometti)

However, forty is just a small part of his extensive body of work. By 2015 he had made a thousand creations.

They fill not only the porch and the garden of his house, they are also lined up along the sidestreet leading to the house.

And then the interior of the house is also abundantly filled with creations. Vinsard lives alone after his wife sadly died around the time he retired.

To all appearances, Vinsard's work is locally and regionally appreciated. Regional tv in april 2013 had a news item about him, but which is also telling, both town halls of the neighbouring cities Grenoble and Chambéry have a sculpture of Vinsard on display.

Vinsard is a friendly man who is very willing to communicate about his work and when he is at home he will gladly receive visitors.


* Ducognon made earlier video's of Vinsard's art environment, one published january 2013 (27'55") and another one published july 2013 (11'53")

Marcel Vinsard
Sculpture garden
216 avenue du Granier
38530 Pontcharra, dep Isère, FR
when Vinsard is at home he will welcome visitors

April 20, 2015

Gérard Hansotte, Le zoo de la Barguillère/The Barguillère zoo

The house pictured above, located in the small community of Saint-Pierre-de-Rivière -some 700 inhabitants- south of Toulouse, France, was single-handedly built and decorated by its owner.

The house is attractively decorated indeed, but a passer-by could be most most impressed by the garden around, which has a variety of sculpted animals, kind of a zoo, one might say...

People living around named it the Barguillère zoo, after the name of a regional valley through which the river Arget flows.

Life and works

This is Gérard Hansotte's art environment. Born in 1944, he would mainly work as a mason. 

When he retired in 1997, he began making sculptures of animals from concrete and river pebbles, which he painted with colourful, weatherproof paint. Some of these sculptures are really lifesize, as the examples of a three meters high dinosaur, a giraffe and an elephant in below pictures show.

Hansotte made the sculpture of the dinosaur at the request of his grandson, who owned a miniature version.

The garden currently has a large variety of sculptures of animals, such as a mammoth, a crocodile, an ostrich, wild boars, but also dogs, deer, sheep, snakes and other smaller animals.

Hansotte only made two sculptures of people, one that depicts himself, as in the picture below,

and another one, depicting a prehistoric discovery made in 1971 in the french Pyrenees: the Tautavel Man, as in the picture below.

* article in french journal La Dépeche, january 20, 1999

Gérard Hansotte
Le zoo de la Barguillère
lieu-dit Peyrelade
Saint Pierre de Rivière
09000 Ariège, FR
visits on appointment

April 14, 2015

An annotated bibliography added to this blog

This weblog includes a number of pages. A recent addition is a page that lists an annotated bibliography of books about art environments.

It's a selective list, which undoubtedly reflects my personal preferences.

By ordening it chronologicallyit one can see how the attention paid to art environments evolved over the years. It also shows that afer initially interest in art environments was a french affair, gradually also in other countries, such as Finland, Italy and Spain interest in these sites arose.