July 15, 2018

Paul and Réjane Aucordonnier, Jardin décoré/Decorated garden

Verdille is a rather small community with less then 400 inhabitants in the Charente area, France. In this village there is an art environment, which so far has received very little attention on the internet, although it is an interesting site with a large and varied number of creations.

Life and works

This site was created in the garden of their home by Paul Aucordonnier (1934-1997) and his wife Réjane (b. 1934), who both were employed in agriculture. 

It all probably started when in the mid-1960's they built a well in their garden and felt inspired to continue making all kinds of constructions and decorations to beautify their garden. During walks in the area the couple collected stones and other materials, with which they went to work at the weekend.

The garden includes a variety of replicas of famous places and buildings, such as the cave and the Notre Dame in Lourdes, the cathedral in Chartres and the Mont Saint Michel.

Due to the frequent use of pebbles for finishing the exterior of the buildings, the site has been given a specific, realistic appearance.

Besides the replicas of famous buildings, the garden also includes smaller structures, sometimes decorated with sculptures with a classic character or with types derived from fairy tales, as in the above illustrations.

The couple has been active in constructing and maintaining this art environment for about thirty years.

Paul Aucordonnier died in 1997. Currently (2018) Réjane is in her early 80's and she is no longer able to take care of the site. It is not known if there are initiatives to maintain this art environment for the future.

* The only source on the internet about this art environment is Sophie Lepetit's weblog, with articles on May 7, 2018 and May 8, 2018.

Paul and Réjane Aucordonnier
Jardin décoré
16140 Verdille, Charente, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
can be seen from the road

July 08, 2018

Raimo Flink, Keksintöjen puutarha/Garden of inventions

picture from website Keksinnöt

Located in a protected area near Lempäälä, Finland, this fairly recently created art environment is characterized by an approach that includes both creative expression and research into new, sustainable lifestyle and methods of production.

Life and works

Born in 1940 in Pukkila, Raimo Flink after his primary education, went to the Technical School in Helsinki. Graduated in 1965, he had various jobs and then went to work for many years at the telecommunications company in Tampere, not far from Pukkila.

In the many years he had this job Flink wrote various manuals on technical subjects. Due to a restructuring of the company in 1993 he was fired, after which as an independent entrepreneur he started several projects.

In 1998, for example, he set up an environmental science park connected to the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, that became a beloved destination, visited by many school classes and their teachers

overview (2003) of the park (from ekoinfo website)

Due to a heart attack he had in 2003, Flink left this project in 2005, to focus on writing books, both novels and non-fiction in the field of ecological lifestyle and ways of production .

Over the years Raimo had developed interest in ecology, which he expressed by conducting research into practical tools and materials, but also by making a variety of inventions in this field.

Some of those inventions are very suitable for use in gardening. In this regard Raimo points in particular to an installation for the purity of domestic waste water and to niksibetoni, as it is called in Finnish, a specific mixture of water, cement powder and mechanical shredded textiles.

In the garden of Raiko's summer house in Lempäälä various items demonstrate the practical application ofniksibetoni as regards paths, bridges or edges of flower beds. In 2014, to share his experiences with the items he had invented and had used in the garden, he published a book entitled Keksintöjen Puutarha (Garden of inventions).

Apart from practical items Raimo also made some special creations from niksibetoni he installed in the garden, which in this way was transformed into an art environment.

cactus garden (from ekoinfo website)

The cactus garden is an ensemble inspired by a journey which had conducted Raimo to Mexico. It consists of a collection of different cacti, performed in niksibetoni.  One of these cacti, partly visible on the right site of above photo, is about 5,5 meters high.

picture courtesy of Sophie Lepetit 

Completed in January 2017, the mammoth of some 4.5 meters high is a most impressive creation.

Constructing this homage to an extinct animal took up a couple of months and hundreds of bags of niksibetoni, but it was not necessary to use molds or reinforcement.To do the casting sheet metal was used. The sculpture is hollow inside and there is a bench to sit on for those who enter through a ladder.

picture from website Keksinnöt

The high rising palm tree, left on above picture, was completed summer 2017. It is a tribute to people who have died of cancer and with this sculpture Raimo wants to warn people who are engaged in making constructions to use safe and non-toxic materials. A special feature of this palm tree is it's ability to blow out vapor.

Apart from the above-mentioned creations, there are other, smaller sculptures, some depicting animals or human characters. and there is also a construction which is related to the cultivation of strawberries.

* Flink's website Eko Info
* Article (July 2017) by Lauri Seppä  on website ITE Pirkanmaala
* Article (January 2017) in newspaper Aamuleehti with pictures of the site in wintertime and of the interior of the mammoth

* Video (June 2018)  by Maaseudun Sivistysliito (Association for Rural Education) (You Tube, 8'30")

* Video Betonimammuttimies by Yle Areena (2017) published on Facebook

Raimo Flink
Garden of inventions
Lempäälä, Pirkanmaa, Central and Western Finland, Finland
to visit the site consult website Ekoinfo

June 24, 2018

Vladimir Nikolaevich Zaznobin, Скульптуры в саду/Sculptures in garden

picture by unknown photographer

Occasionally it happens that a folk art artist makes a number of life-sized creations which he by way of storage places in his garden, thus inadvertently transforming the garden into an art environment ¹.

This could also be the case with regard to the Russian folk artist Vladimir Zaznobin (1900-1981).

Life and works

Zaznobin was born in the small community of Sudenets in the Russian region Pereslavl. 

He became a carpenter and settled in neighbouring Pereslavl-Zalessky, a town of some 43.000 inhabitants,140 km north-east of Moscow.

As a carpenter Zaznobin was involved in the construction of farms and houses, and on the right bank of the river Trubezh, that runs through the city, he also built his own house, where he settled with his wife Evdokia Vassilyevna.

picture by unkown photographer

In the 1940's Zaznobin began making wooden toys, but as a folk artist he started only at an older age. As a seventy-year-old, using a knife and an axe, quite unexpectedly he started making wooden sculptures, making as he said  ".... windmills and birdhouses with funny little men and little animals that I had seen as a young boy from old village carpenters".

In addition to these creations marked by mobility, Zaznobin made a variety of predominantly small-scale sculptures with as main themes peasant life and fairy tales He also made a series of works dedicated to Alexander Pushkin.

The expressiveness of Zaznobin's sculptures apparently touched some sensitive strings in people's souls, and soon newspapers began to write about him and he became invited to participate in expositions.

picture from the website of the Bogemskaia-Turchin collection.

The reviews of Zaznobin's art, as far as available on the internet, almost all discuss the sculptures as such. There is only one publication available on internet that incidentally reveals something about a configuration of artworks in the artist's garden. 

In that publication is said that among apple trees wooden figures and windmills on high poles reach out to heaven. 

Probably not so intended by Zaznobin and in any case hardly noticed by his reviewers, with the series of life-size sculptures under a canopy, as in the first image, together with those poles capped with small creations, the garden could have become kind of a sculpture garden, or art environment in current terminology.

In 1981, shortly before Zaznobin died, part of his sculptures was bought by and transferred to the All-Russian Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Art (Moscow).

It is unclear whether something in or around the house currently (2018) reminds of Zaznobin.

* Article on the website Russian naive and outsider art (Bogemskaia-Turchin collection)
* Article on the website of the Museum of Russian lubok and naive art
* Article (april 2013) on the website Заявления о художниках (Statements about artists)
* Article on the website about Russian museums

¹  For example Erich Bödeker (1904-1971) from Germany

Vladimir Nikolaevich Zaznobin
Sculptures in a garden
Pereslavl-Zalessky, Yaroslavl region, Russia
all sculptures probably have been removed 

June 21, 2018

Veikko Koukonen, Puinen eläintarha/Wooden zoo

pictures are screen prints from the video
referred to in the documentation

Visible from the road, a 4.75 m high sculpture of an adult giraffe accompanied by a young, makes it clear to eventual visitors that the garden full of wooden sculptures of animals in Pieksämäki, Finland, is near.

Life and works

This sculpture garden, also referred to as a zoo, is a creation of Veikko Koukonen (born 1924 or 1925).

He had his own company in wood and metalworking and when retired, probably in the early 1990's, he wanted to continue applying his skills in woodworking, but now in a creative way.

It became a project that would keep him and his wife busy for many years and which resulted in a  garden with a large collection of wooden sculptures of all kinds of animals that in Europe usually can be found in a zoo. 

So one can see a cheetah, crocodiles and giraffes, as in above pictures, but also a kangaroo, a deer, horses and a variety of other animals, altogether some sixty items

Leila and Veikko Koukonen's house is situated in the outside area of Pieksämäki and the garden covers a fairly large area and so small groups of animals can have their own corner.

In addition to the sculptures of animals displayed in the garden, Koukonen also made two-dimensional wooden creations of animals, trees and the like, which are attached to a stone wall of the house.

And then, he also has made various pieces of furniture for indoors.

Currently in his early nineties, Koukonen is still active in taking care of the sculpture garden.

In the summer of 2017 the site was open for visitors as part of the ITE Samaai project aimed at tracking autodidact artists in Finland's Southern Savonia region.

In the context of this project the site will be open for visitors in the summer of 2018 too. 

* Article (august 2016) in newspaper Iltalehti (includes video)
* Article (july 2016) in newspaper Yle Uutiset
* Article on the website of the community of Jappilä (some 20 km east of Pieksämäki, to which it belongs administratively)

Veikko Koukonen
Lampipolku 1,
Pieksämäki, Southern Savonia, Eastern Finland
in 2018 open in summer months
in the context of the ITE Saimaalla project

June 17, 2018

Emilio Padovani, Parco di dinosauri di sasso/Park of stone dinosaurs

pictures from Padovani's website and social media sites

Borgo Tossignano is a community of some 3300 inhabitants, located in the Emilio-Romagna region, some 30 km south-east of Bologna.

In the outskirts of the small village of Codrignano, which belongs to Borgo Tossignano, there is a garden with a large amount of creations made of stacked or otherwise bundled stones. These creations mainly represent dinosaurs, so this note is about the park of the Dinosauri di sasso


Life and works

This art environment was created by Emilio Padovani, who was born in 1948 or 1949 and had a job as a driver at a large regional institution in the field of health care.

Inspired by the Stephen Spielberg movie Jurassic Park (1993) he began creating dinosaurs he installed in his rather large garden. These creations have as a specific characteristic that they are made of stones he collected himself.

Manufacturing the creations Padovani used a variety of stones. Small and light ones he collected himself in the region. Large and heavy ones up to thousands of kilograms, obtained from quarries, had to be transported by car.

this sculpture weighs 2000 kilograms

When travelling, for example to Split in Croatia where he originally came from, he also looked for stones he could use. And then there is a nice story that he also found a suitable stone in Paris at the foot of the Eiffel tower.


Reports say that the Dinosauri di sasso garden includes some hundred sculptures of prehistoric animals, among which a Stegosaurus, a Triceratops, a Brontosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, all quite big appearances.

But Padovani also has also made smaller creations, including funny characters as shown in the accompanying series of images.

Meanwhile retired, Padovani currently (2018) still takes care of the garden. 

Although it has been reported that he welcomes and entertains school classes in his garden and he also is on Facebook and has a website where he talks about the site, there is no information available regarding the exact location of this art environment or about opportunities to visit it.

a map of Italy in stones

* Emilio Padovani's website
* Article (march 2012) on news website Romagna Noi
* Article (june 2012) on news website Il resto del Carlino
* Pictures on the website of Italian photographer Francesco Galli

* Video by OfficineMedia (2'23", You Tube, october 2017, Teaser 2, I Babelici)

Emilio Padovani
Parco di Dinosauri di sasso
Codrignano (Borgo Tossignano), Emilio Romagna region, Italy
address or information about opportunities to visit the site not available

June 08, 2018

Maria Shishkin and family, Детская игровая площадка/ Children’s playground

picture from website omutninsky news

Along the main road from Nolinsk to Kirov in Russia, in the village of Vostrizhan'ye, some 16 km north east of Nolinsk, one comes across an art environment in the capacity of a children's 

The site is close to the road and motorists often stop to take a look, if it does not happen that accompanying children want to get out of the car to visit the site.

Life and works

Maria Alekseevna Shishkin, the inhabitant of the property where this art environment is situated, was born in 1931 or 1932. In 1959 she settled in Vostrizhan'ye. She got a daughter, Alevtina Gennadyevna Makarova, and a son, Boris Gennadievich Shishkin. The available documentation has no information about a spouse.

When Maria Alekseevna went to live in the village, most of the houses were still inhabited, but gradually the residents moved to neighboring towns and in any case from 2011 she was the only inhabitant. Many houses in the village are now used as a dacha, a holiday home.

this picture and the next one screen prints 
from the video in the documentation

When a grandchild was born -at the end of the 1990's or early years of the 21st century- Maria Alekseevna and her son and daughter came up with the idea of making a playground in the garden of Maria's house. That plan took shape and the first attributes were a playhouse, a sandbox and a swing,

But unlike most families, it did not stay there. As is usually the case with people who create an art environment, it became a project that would keep the family actively involved for many years..

All kinds of creations were added, such as small animals, cars, planes, mushrooms, fairy-tale characters and the house of Baba Yaga, who is in Slavic mythology a kind of witch.

All attributes were made by hand, mostly of surplus material, embellished old car tires, multicolored empty bottles and other wooden and plastic items. 

Daughter Alevtina Gennadyevna mostly provided the ideas and son Boris Gennadievich was, especially in the winter months, active in the manufacture of new parts of the site.

Around 2010 the site must have reached the large size as shown in the images. From 2011, the site became known in the region and it got some publicity in regional news media. Boris Gennadievich hasn't experienced this development anymore, he died in 2012.

In its appearance and use of material, this art environment has many similarities with creations known in Russia (and some countries of the former USSR) as ZHEK art, a qualification of creations of surplus material made to provide playground for children and/or decorate spaces located between flats in new urban housing estates. However, unlike art environments created by ordinary people who will be active for many years, sometimes for life, ZHEK art usually involves one-off, short-lived activities of apartment residents.

* Article (sept 2011) on website of newspaper Notinskogo
* Article (july 2012) o website of newspaper Omutninsky News
* Article (march 2014) on website ProGorod
* Article (dec 2017) by news site Rupor, with pictures of the site in winter time
* Video (may 2014) by Natalia Kopylova (0'25",You Tube)

Maria Alekseevna Shishkin and family
Children's playground
Vostrizhan'ye, Kirov region, Russia
can be seen from the road
streetview (2015)

June 04, 2018

Charles Roux and Alain Martineau, Le petit train de Palavas/The little train of Palavas

the station in Lattes
all pictures courtesy of Dominique Clément

Above pictures depicts the small station in Lattes, a stop in the train connection that existed for almost 100 years (1872-1968) between Montpellier in the south of France and the seaside resort of Palavas-les-Flots. The scene is part of a large elongated fresco from mosaic on a wall in Lattes,  a decoration dedicated to the historic train connection, created by Charles Roux and Alain Martineau.

This art environment has only recently become known after Dominique Clément discovered it by accident and devoted an article to it in his weblog Hérault Insolite of May 30, 2018.

Currently, no factual data are available on the history of this creation. Also little is known about the makers, except that Charles Roux is a widower at age and that Alain Martineau is a family member.

The pictures show different parts of the creation on the wall which in reality is a whole that extends over the entire elongated wall.

The wagons of the train carry numerous cheerful passengers, mostly on their way to the beach of Palavas-les-Flots, with the former French president Hollande in the  first class carriage .

There are also many scenes from daily life in earlier times, with the Sunday lunch in the garden, campers in a tent at a meadow with grazing cattle, but also a flight of flamingos, someone who has lost his money in the casino and swarms of mosquitoes.

In addition to the large creation that represents the train connection with the surrounding landscape, the art environment also includes smaller, self-contained creations, as shown in the image below.

There are also some sculptures, standing alone or in groups.

Charles Roux and Alain Martineau
The little train of Palavas
Lattes, Occitanie region, France
exact location unknown