September 23, 2017

Vitaliy Nikolaevich Cherepanov, Усадьба Черепанова/Cherepanov Manor

wooden ladies and the artist (2017)

Three wooden sculptures of well-dressed ladies welcome visitors at Cherepanov's art environment which he began to create in 2001 when he got retired and settled with his wife in the community of Visim (Sverdlovsk region, Russia).

Life and works

Born in the late 1930's or early 1940's in Ilyinka in the Kirov region, Vitaliy Nikolaevich Cherepanov already at a young age showed a talent for creative as well as technical activities. Growing up in a rural environment in difficult times, as a young boy he for example made his own wooden toys.

As a young man he got a job as a tractor driver and mechanic in the agricultural sector, working there until he was conscripted in the military and for some four years was encamped in Kamchatka in the far east of Russia, where he was a mechanic on a submarine.

After military service Cherepanov settled in the 1960's in the city of Nizhny Tagil, an industrial center in the Middle Urals in the Sverdlovsk region. Here he got a job in the field of ferrous metallurgy.

And here he also met his future wife, Nina Mihailovna, who had an artistic talent in embroidery.

In his free time he made wooden sculptures, paintings and decorations for the interior of his house and he also got some local fame by converting a normal Russian car (a Zaporozehets ) in a semi-sporty car of fairly modern design.

After Cherepanov got retired from work, the couple preferred to change the busy city for a more rural environment. So in 2001 they moved to the small community of Visim, some 50 kms from Nizhny Tagil (of which the village also is an administrative part).

Here Cherepanov found both the time and the space to fully express his creative talent. 

this picture and the next two from touristic website Go To Ural

He decorated the roof of the living house with a large frescoe in pastel colors, depicting a rural landscape.

He created a variety of sculpted woodwork which was added to the exterior walls of the house.

One can see two warriors or guards with swords, a portrait of a couple in high relief enjoying a drink and all kinds of decorations with geometric patterns.

a firebird

When making his creations Cherepanov often derives his inpiration from in Russia beloved fairytales, such as those about the firebird, which often have to do with a hero leaving for a difficult quest after finding a beatiful feather of a bird.

this picture and the next two: edited screen prints
from the second video referred to in the documentaton

The life size wooden sculptures in Cherapanov's art environment, as such a rather specific phenomenon in the field of art environments in Europe, partly also refer to fairy tales or children books, such as above pictured Pinocchio, originally a character in a book for children by the Italian author Carlo Collodi, published in 1883, later a character in a Walt Disney movie. 

The crocodile with an accordeon probably refers to a fairy tale by Korei Chukovsky, published in Russia in 1919 with the title Приключения Крокодила Крокодиловича (The adventures of crocodile Crocodile)

Cherepanov's wooden personalites also include characters from daily life, such as in above picture, which might depict the local postman on his daily round.

The site attracts a lot of interested visitors, both from Russia and abroad.

A museum ?

The village of Visim has touristic potential because of its history and various sights. It already has a house-museum, the house where the Russian author Dmitriy Mamin-Sibiryak lived. Local authorities have approached Cherepanov with the idea to give his art environment an official predicate as a local museum, but Cherepanov feared that this would cost him and his wife too much time, so the couple did not accept the proposal.

* Article (november 2016) on touristic website Nash Ural

Vitaly Nikolaevich Cherepanov
Cherepanov Manor
Kalinina Street 64
Visim, Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk region, Russia
visitors are welcome
link to Google Maps

September 19, 2017

Abel Malgouyres, Monuments à petite echelle/Small scale monuments

view from the road (around 2013)

Driving in the Aveyron area in France on the departmental road D285 from Belcastel  to Mayran, after some 2.5 km one sees at the right side of the road above pictured scene, with small scale replicas of monumental structures.

It's not difficult to recognise the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Tromphe. Left of the Arc is the Pyramid of Cheops.

Life and works

These buildings form part of an art environment created by Abel Malgouyres, about whom the internet has no biographical information. Pictures show him like a man of age. A visitor of the site says he is a very nice person, who is delighted when people are interested in his creations.

The site contains in particular a number of replicas, partly of world-famous structures, partly of regional ones.

So there is the replica of the Eiffel Tower, but also (below, to the right) the tower of Ruffepeyre in nearby Mayran, which forms part of a monastery barn that belonged to the Bonnecombe Abbey in the community of Comps-la-Grand-Ville, some 40 km south-east of this art environment.

Apart from making replicas of towers and monumental buildings, Malgouyres also made replicas of a couple of bridges.

Pictured below is a bridge which as the accompanying plate says is le pont de la rivière Kwai (the bridge on the river Kwai). Based upon a French book by Pierre Boulle published in 1952, the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai appeared on screen in 1957 and became a great succes (If Malgouyres has seen the film as a young man, he now must be in his late seventies).

Malgouyres' chef d'oeuvre is the six meters long replica pictured below of the bridge over the Aveyron river in Belcastel, in reality a 57 meters long structure,  which was built in the 15th century and currently is classified as a historical monument.

Pictured below is an ensemble referred to as Les quatre tours, conisting of a small bridge and four small-scale towers.

Malgouyres' art environment also includes a number of creations that depict small-scale scenes with an anecdotical or humouristic character.

Here are some examples:

le Bao Bar....

......with an accordeon player

a guitar player next to two very small turrets

As self-taught artists who create art environments in France sometimes are referred to as les inspirés du bord des routes (the inspired of the roadsides), Malgouyres certainly belongs to this group, all the more now his creation extends along the departmental road and can be observed from that road


Abel Malgouyres
Small scale monuments
Le Bruel
12390 Mayran, Aveyron, Occitanie region,
can be seen from the road

September 12, 2017

Evelyne Dantel, Les petits jardins d'Eve/The small gardens of Eve

view of the garden from the house
pictures courtesy of Evelyne Dantel and.Sophie Lepetit

The field of art environments in France has an interesting history with regard to self-taught artists who decorate their house and garden with mosaic.

It's a history that involves various generations.

Before the second world war Ismaël and Guy Villéger were at its beginning when in 1937 they began decorating the exterior of their restaurant. They were followed by Raymond Isidore (aka Picassiette) who in 1938 began decorating his house.

After the war and in the 1950's a postwar generation appeared with M. Dulong (1945 >), François Portrat (1945 >), Aldo Gandini (1950 >), Robert Vasseur (1952 >), Leopold Truc (1955 >) and Euclide da Costa Ferreira (1955 >).

The 1980's, 1990's and the early years 2000 saw another generation with Renée Bodin (aka Hurfane) (1980 >), Jean-Michel Chesné (1997 >) and Catherine Moreno (2002 >)

This post introduces Evelyne Dantel, who represents the contemporary generation.

Life and works

Born in 1964 in Nevers, France, Evelyne Dantel after primary education studied psychology at the Faculté de Dyon, in the Bourgogne region

She got a job as a clinical psychologist at a specialized hospital in La Charité-sur-Loire, a historical town of some 5000 inhabitants situated along the Loire river in Burgundy, France.
Living in a small community in the rural area around La Charité, Evelyne's house has a fairly large garden. Around 2011 she began transforming house and garden into an art environment, both by adding mosaics to the various walls of the house and by embellishing the garden with a variety of sculptures, installations and other creative elements.

These creations were situated in various compartments of the garden which can be distinguished as petit jardins (small gardens), each with an own character.

the "jardin des têtes" (garden of the heads)
So at the left behind side of the garden one finds the jardin des têtes (the garden of the heads), a circular arrangement of heads, which was finished around august 2016.

garden gate

Another element is the garden gate with sides formed by wheels previously used in agriculture, all single-handedly welded together. This gate was finished may 2016.

On the picture on top of this post one also sees a couple of multicolored, winding snakes, which approach a blue wall, the mur aux seins (the breast wall), created in earlier years.

Decorated walls

The walls of the living house have been decorated with colorful mosaic, such as above artwork situated along a staircase on a corner of the building. The small pictures below show some details

These mosaics are made with pieces of tiles, broken crockery, shells, pebbles, pearls or buttons.

A dragon in a blue context on a wall is an impressive appearance.

Recent additions to this art environment include the couple of  horses shown in the picture above, and the tree below, which was finished early september 2017.

Evelyne Dantel's art environment has gradually become known via Facebook and in june 2016 and june 2017 the garden was open to the public on the occasion of a national open day of cultural sites organized by the French Ministry of Culture.

recently created sculptures shed a glance over the breast wall

* Evelyne Dantel on Facebook
* Articles in Sophie Lepetit's weblog of may 31, 2017 and june 2, 2017 (details)

Evelyne Dantel
Les petits jardins d’Eve
165 chemin des grands prés
58400 Chazué/Raveau, region Bourgogne/Franche-Comté, France
can be visited on open days

September 08, 2017

Парк Живых и Мёртвых/Park of the living and the dead

In the Ukrainian city Dnipropetrovsk an area that for some 200 years was used as a graveyard, in 1970 was transformed into a public parc. Denoted by the name Amurskiy Park, it is generally known as Park of the living and the dead.

The site has an eventful history. During World War II the graveyard was used as a place to perform excecutions, with victims among hostages and Jewish and Roma families. It has been said it was another Babi Yar ¹.

In the 1990's the site became a place where people dumped their waste, which was not or insufficiently countered by the authorities. The site probably hasn't an official status as a city park.

From the perspective of this weblog it is special that from 2003 on a large collection of sculptures made by self-taught artists was added to the park's grounds.

This was done by members of the local Roma community Tarna Egor, led by Raisa Ivanovna Kuznetsova, who in an interview (2009) with Dmitry Desyaterik explains that the group first had to clean the area, where meanwhile large quantities of waste had been deposited and where it smelled terribly.

Then they placed benches and tables and planted flowers and bushes.

The stand alone sculptures and ensembles were made by indvidual self-taught artists, who used a common technical approach of applying cement or clay on an iron or wooden frame.

It became a project of some ten years, which ultimately resulted in a collection of some 200 sculptures, partly rather varied with respect to what was represented, for another part also sculptures  reflecting a specific theme.

Thematic approaches

One of this themes concerns memories to the second world war, with sculptures of soldiers with machine guns, a soldier sleeping forever in the grass, or nurses helping the injured.

The pictures above, a limited selection of what is drawn up in the park, give an idea of the realistic character of the sculptures dealing with the war.

Another theme that can be distinguished, concerns a series of sculptures with a religious connotation
The scene in the picture above, depicting Holy Mary grieving for the dead Christ, is situated in a central spot of the park, as can be seen in the picture on top of this post, which also shows that Maria is flanked by a couple of angels kneeling and praying.

Another scene, in the picture below, depicts Maria Magdalena and a roman soldier

Furthermore there are numerous sculptures in the park that depict biblical scenes such as the worship of the wise. A 3.5 m high sculpture depicts archangel Gabriel.

Органный зал (Organ Hall)

Another interesting creation in this category is the Organ Hall pictured above, which on its interior walls has a large painting that depicts Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper. The depicted characters are some 2.5 meters high (see pictures on a weblog on

A variety of other sculptures

Apart from the sculptures related to a specific theme, the park includes sculptures with folkloristic scenes, scenes related to fairy tales or scenes depicting well-known social or historical happenings.

a flying saucer indeed, about 3 meters high

The sculptures are falling in decline

Raisa Ivanovna Kuznetsova, who had the leadership of the project for about ten years, passed away in December 2012.

Hereafter the project ended and in the course of time the collection of sculptures began to decay, partly due to the vulnerability of the sculptures and the lack of maintenance, but also because of deliberate destruction and the fact that some residents began to re-use the place as a landfill for waste.

Active groups of citizens in recent years have set up actions to jointly clean the park. However, if the local authorities take no action to protect the artworks, there will be no hope of maintaining the collection in the long run.

According to an article in (march 2016) the city has budgeted resources for improving the parks, but then the park of the living and the dead first has to get the formal status of a city park.

*A richly illustrated article in two parts (2009) on website part 1 and part 2

¹ Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where during WWII massacres took place carried out by German forces and Ukrainian collaborators.

Park of the living and the dead
Vitchyznyana Street
Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine
link to Google maps

August 26, 2017

Ben Vautier, Façade décorée/Decorated facade

picture (2012) from the website
La Lézardière (rentals of holiday locations)

On august 25, 2017, the French visual artist generally known as "Ben" published the following message on his newsletter
In english: I would not say NO if my house tomorrow was put on the route list of singular art houses in France for a group interested in singularity.

A nice challenge indeed for this blog to realize this listing on august 26, 2017.

Athough the decorated facade undoubtedly fits in this blog and Ben from origin is an autodidact artist, he does not belong to the category of non-mainstream artists on which this blog mainly focuses.  But sometimes it's a matter of making an exception, also because there is some relationship indeed between Ben and those artists who as "outsiders" created artworks which remain predominantly unnoticed by the art world.

Life and works

Born in 1935 in Naples, his parents divorced in 1939, during and after World War II young Benjamin Vautier stayed with his mother in various countries, such as Turkey and Egypt, to settle in 1949 in Nice in the south of France. The young boy visited some schools, got a job at the bookshop Le Nain Bleu and then became the owner of a book and stationery shop his mother had bought him.

Already in the early 1950's the young man attempted to make his first artworks.

In the late 1950's Vautier sold this shop to buy another shop in Nice, where he sold used grammophone records. He managed this shop from 1958 until 1973.

Located at 2 rue Tonduti de l’Escarène, not far from the (former) Art Academy, the Dépôt would soon become a meeting place for students of the academy, Nice's avant garde and other people interested in visual arts. The artist in Vautier woke up, he made his first creations, held his first exhibition (Rien et tout, 1960) and drew the attention of the inhabitants of Nice by adorning the facade of the shop with decorations.

life-size replica of "le Dépôt", constructed by Ben,
currently in the collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris

From 1962 to 1979 Ben was active in the Fluxus movement, where art is not limited to what an artist does in a studio, but is associated with a much more diverse set of actions, such as, for example, Ben's marriage in 1964 could become an artistic gesture.

Related to this approach is the idea to appropriate all kind of items in the world as art by signing these if this comes to mind as an artistic act. So in 1965, he signed his own daughter Eva, three months old at that time.

Another aspect of Bens oeuvre concerns what in French is named écritures (in english scriptures), paintings consisting of (short) texts, mainly in white characters on a black surface.

Through these écritures, which cover a variety of themes in postmodern art, philosopy and everyday life, Ben has become known to the French general public.

Decorating the facade of the house in Saint Pancrace

In 1975 Ben and his wife moved to Saint Pancrace. one of the 41 quartiers of Nice, where they obtained a dispatche house.

At some moment, undocumented on the internet, Ben began decorating the facade of the house using a variety of items, as is usual in the field of art environments.

Comparing above picture of the facade made in 2009, with the first picture made in 2012, it can be observed that decorating the house was an ungoing process, the later decorations being more varied and merged than the earlier ones.

Other than with respect to Ben's other artwork, the internet has little or no information about the manner in which this art environment came into being,

To my knowledge the usual French sources in the field of art environments do not mention it.

Ben and the Palais Idéal

In 2016, from may until august, Ben arranged an exposition on behalf of Le Palais Idéal, the famous french art environment created by Joseph Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924). Located in the Hauterives Castle near the Palais and entitled Le Palais idéal des ego étranges (The ideal palace of strange ego), the exposition presented Ben’s artwork and works by forty other invited artists.

artwork by Ben
J’ai un Palais Idéal dans mon cerveau
(I have an Ideal Palace in my brain)

Marie-José Georges, the director of the Palais Idéal, thinks that Ben in fact has plenty of ties with Facteur Cheval, such as the notion of embezzlement and the relationship to scriptures.

A retrospective exposition at the Musée Maillol

From september 14 2016 until junary 15 2017 the Musée Maillol in Paris had an exposition of Ben's artwork. Entitled Tout est art? (All is art?) the exposition both was a retrospective of Ben's artwork made between 1958 and 1978 and a presentation of new artwork added by Ben on the spot.

The trailer of the exposition has actual pictures of the decorated facade.

In an article in Hyperallergic (november 4, 2016, in english) Joseph Nechvatel discusses the implications of the concept Tout est art (All is art)

* Article about Ben in website ArtsHebdo/Médias
* Video by Andrea Contin (july 2010, You Tube, 13'43")

Ben Vautier
Façade décorée
103, route de Saint-Pancrace
06000 Saint-Pancrace, Nice, France
no visits, decorations can be seen from the road

August 15, 2017

Deva Manfredo, La selva di sogno/Dreamwoods

screenprint from the video shot by drone

Mainly composed of single-handedly arranged stones, Dreamwoods, located in a forest in northern Italy, is one of the few sites in the field of European art environments made almost exclusively from a large variety of stones ¹.

Life and works

The self-taught artist who created this artwork was born in 1949 in Duderstadt, Germany as Manfred Flucke. After primary education, he went to Hamburg to study sociology and history, after which he for some years wandered around making paintings and drawings, until he in 1977 felt inspired by meditation.

He joined Osho's movement and renamed Deva Manfredo around 1980 he moved to Italy where he went to live in Osho Miasto, the biggest Osho center in Italy, located in a beautiful area in Tuscany, not far from Sienna. He would reside there for some 25 years, working as a graphic designer, photographer and barkeeper.

a decorated tree
(this picture and the next four {2017} courtesy of Boris van Es)
In an interview Manfredo said:  "Since I was a child I was fascinated by the beauty and form of stones, particularly the ones which have been polished to perfection by the to and fro of the ocean waves".  He especially likes the immobility, timelessness and eternity of this material.

When one day around 1980 he just by chance was busy with some stones and felt that by arranging them he had created something beautiful, he got inspired to make a number of such creations and install these in a natural  area.

So soon after Manfredo had settled in the Osho center, he began to consider setting up an outer space with a specific collection of stones. He was aware of a place in an extensive oakwood near the center where he lived and in 1981 he installed there his first stone works.


The forest was not his property, maybe it belonged to the commune, but anyhow initially there was no question of appropriation, because the site remained without a fence and the stones Manfredo used for his compositions were laid loose on the ground or on another.

Currently, some 35 years later, the land is rented long-term from the owner of the grounds, the site has some 200 creations, some quite a size, there is a gift shop at the entrance and paths run through the forest, but there still is no fence and the animals of the forest have free access.

a large mandala of colored stones

Sorted into a large compartmentalized storage box, Manfredo has a large stock of stones in many colors, an item already intrusive as such and rather useful to make multi colored planar structures.

From his passion for meditation it is obvious that among the creations in Dreamwoods one finds a number of mandalas, circular geometric patterns of Hinduistic origin that symbolically depict the cosmos. The figure picture above shows that such a mandala can have a rather large size.

a mosaic

But there are also less esoteric mosaics, often performed in squares or rectangles and located on the ground.

rising structures

The site also includes a large number of vertical structures made of stacked stones, some standing on their own, others standing in a smaller or larger combinations.

Piling the stones into stacks, Manfredo uses no glue or cement. The stones are just hold together by gravity.

a citiscape
(this picture and the next one {2016) courtesy of Manfred Lucke)

Some of these combinations of stone piles are grouped in such a way that one gets the impression to look at an impressive citiscape with a variety of high and low elements,  some rising up to five meters.

In some of his recent artworks characterised by rising stone piles Manfredo also processes glass, plastic and marble.

At a later moment in his artistic development, Manfredo also began making anthropomorphic characters. An observer of these creations said: "... I have the impression that they do not seem to have been ‘put’ there, rather it is as if the stones had decided one early morning to arrange themselves into these forms".

anthropomorphic figure
(picture {2017) courtesy of Boris van Es)

Visitors can follow a specified trail along the artworks in the forest. They are advised to make the walk in silence.

this picture and the next one {2016} courtesy of Manfred Flucke

Around 2006 Manfredo left the Miasto commune. He has kept "Manfredo" as his artist name and currently lives in a Tuscan village.

The site in the forest is closed from november until end march and during these months Manfredo may make trips abroad, visiting family members and old friends in his hometown Duderstadt or collecting stones from beaches or rivers all over Europe.

* Video by Start Production (8'40", You Tube, uploaded feb 2014)

* Video (2016) by Sebastian Lecca and Tomaso Orio Manfred Lucke, La selva di sogno, published on Facebook

* View of the site by drone (dec 2016), by Manfred Flucke, published on Facebook

¹ Italians who, each with a specific approach, collected and displayed stones:
- Pasquale Paolucci, Museo di pietras
In Spain Manfred Gnädinger's Museo has sculptures made from stones found at the beach

Deva Manfredo (Manfred Flucke)
Selva di sogno (Dreamwoods)
Località San Giorgio,
Chiusdino, region Toscane, Italy
open from end march until early november
Tuesday- and Friday in the afternoon 14-18.30 
Saturday and Sunday 10-18.30
telephone: +39 333 433 0183