August 21, 2019

Václav Tomášek, Kaplica Czaszek/Skull chapel

the interior of the chapel seen towards the altar
picture from Wikimedia Commons 

Among the various ossuaries that Europe knows, there are some with such an arrangement of skulls and bones that one can speak of an art environment. This weblog already has a post about the ossuary in Sedlec, Czech Republic, a site that could rank as the most decorative in its genre

The following post is dedicated to the ossuary in Czermna, which was originally on Czech territory, but -due to border corrections- is now in Poland.

exterior of the chapel
this picture (by Merlin) also from Wikimedia Commons

Eighteen years of creative labor by a priest and a grave digger

When in the mid 1770's Bohemian local parish priest Václav Tomášek (? - 1804) made a walk in the fields around Czermna on some spot he stumbled upon the bones of a buried person and he found out that this spot contained a mass grave. 

And this was not the only one in the area. Wars had raged there, such as the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) and three Silesian Wars (1740–1763). The fallen soldiers were buried collectively in mass graves, as well as victims of cholera epidemics and massive food shortages among the local population.

Priest Tomášek came up with the idea that the remains should be cleared and housed in an ossuary in a small chapel to be built between the existing St Bartholomew's village church and the tower standing apart from it.

With the financial support of the local benefactor Leopold von Leslie, the chapel could be built. In 1776 the building was ready and Tomášek, together with grave digger J. Langer. started the design of the ossuary. a project that would last until 1794.

this picture and the next one by the 
Polish department of foreign affairs

The decorative aspects of this ossuary are much less pronounced than those of the site in Sedlec, but it can be recognized that Tomášek has tried to make specific decorative arrangements when adding the around 3000 skulls to the ossuary.

As can be seen in the first picture of this post, the standing wall behind the altar is largely filled with skulls in a coherent uniform whole. This picture also shows that the top of the display of skeleton parts almost exclusively consists of an arrangement of crossing bones. The picture below shows the crossing bones in more detail.

A skull with two long bones crossed below it manifests a typical symbol of death (and can have a strong warning character, as in a pirate flag). Unlike the ossuary in Sedlec, the photos of the ossuary in Czaszek.hardly show this arrangement.

Along the walls the skulls predominantly have been placed in horizontal rows amidst larger rows consisting of smaller parts of the skeletons.

In all arrangements the repetitive aspect is clearly present, and for the rest the total presentation is mainly characterized by simplicity, which can also be an aversion to excess.

This simplicity also applies to the other elements in the interior. There is a simple altar, with some skulls on it, including that of Václav Tomášek. There are also two wooden sculptures of angels, one with the Latin inscription Arise from the dead, the other with the inscription Go to the judgment.

In addition to the 3000 skulls and associated bones that have been incorporated into the interior, a room beneath the chapel accommodates 21000 other remains.

Once a year, at midnight from 14 to 15 August, a mass is served in the chapel for those whose remains have found their last rest in this chapel.

* A lot of websites approach the chapel from a touristic point of view and mostly repeat the same texts, so here are just some informative sources:
* Article on Wikipedia
* Article on the website Henryk Tramp
* Article on the website Agaunews
* Video by geobeats (1'18", November 2013, You Tube)

* Video by Radio Wroclaw (4'28". June 2019, You Tube)

Václav Tomášek 
Chapel of Skulls 
Czermna, Kłodzko County, Lower Silesia, Poland
can be visited

August 16, 2019

Sean McKeown, Fairytale Houses Littleworld

 this picture and the next three courtesy of
La Valise, Galerie Ambulante

In the summer of 2019 when traveling through Northern Ireland with his galerie ambulante in the context of his project Grande Bretagne Insolite ¹, the Frenchman known as Tiramisu Bootfighter unexpectedly encountered an art environment in the capacity of an ensemble of life-size fairytale houses.

Life and works

This site, which taps into Ireland's heritage of myths and legends, was installed by Sean McKeown in the backyard of his house in the village of  Newtown-Crommelin, which is part of the Borough of Ballymena in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. 

McKeown was a bricklayer, who in 2015, at that time being unemployed, stumbled upon a large tree stump in his garden and felt inspired to pick up his tools to turn that stump into something magical and fairytale-like. 

He constructed a large scale fairytale house and liked doing this so much that he began a project that would keep him busy the following years and that resulted in the transformation of his backyard of about six and a half acres (some 20.000 m²) into an art environment with a series of wooden fairytale houses. 

He named his garden with fairytale houses Littleworld, opened it to the public, got publicity and soon the site became known as an attraction for school classes, families with children, tourists and other interested people.

McKeown in front of a full-sized fairytale house

The largest fairytale house, sometimes considered as the largest in the world, was made from a Red Sequoia tree. It has a little rounded door and small, quaint windows. Inside four adults can stay.

Using tree stumps from oak, beech or silver birch and unused remains of woodworking companies, up till now (2019) McKeown has constructed houses with a height of 9 to 15 feet (2,7 - 4,5 meters)

These fairytale houses are designed in such a way and provided with such small details that on the spot a fairytale-like atmosphere is evoked that appeals to the imagination, just as also often appears in the illustrations of fairytale books, for example as in the work of the english illustrator Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).


The pictures left and right above and especially the details in the picture below give an an idea of McKeon's working method to express the specific fairytale atmosphere.

this picture and the next two from Facebook
click to enlarge

McKeown is full of ideas, like at the time this post was published  (summer 2019) he is working out a plan to add a tunnel that starts at the main fairytale house plus some three more, one for each season, an arrangement that would become kind of a Disney World underground.

His plans include that the underground complex also has a sensory tunnel for disabled children and all together the new complex of  fairytale tunnels should rank as the largest in the whole of Ireland.

McKeown also manufactures miniature fairytale houses that visitors to the site can purchase, an offer that some visitors enthusiastically use to come into possession of a handmade fairytale house to decorate their own house or garden.

* Littleworld on Facebook
* Regional journal Irish News (October 2016) with an article and separate a series of pictures
* Video (October 2016) by Irish News on Instagram
* Video (2'54", July 2019) by Brilliant Trails (a Northern Irish company designing clue based walking trails) and BBC Northern Ireland

¹ reports of the trip are published on Facebook, while photos taken during the trip can be found on Instagram via #grandebretagneinsolite 

Sean McKeown 
Fairytale Houses Littleworld
25 Old Cushendun Road
Ballymena BT43 6RJ, Antrim County, Northern Ireland, UK
visitors welcome

August 11, 2019

Johannes Ivakko, Veistoksia Radiomäen puistossa/Sculptures at Radiomäki Park

unless otherwise indicated 
pictures are courtesy of Raija Kallioinen

In the field of art environments it is not uncommon that after the death of the creator of a site, the creations get lost due to neglect of the site or sale of the property that houses it.

But luckily there are  exceptions. Art environments can retain their appearance in various ways, sometimes in part, as is apparent from the way Johannes Ivakko’s sculptures have been saved.

Life and works

Born in 1914 in Salmi on the Lunkula Island in the area of the Gulf of Finland, Johannes Ivakko as a young man became a fisherman who lived in Lunkula, a small village located in the north of the Lunkula Island.

In the 1930s there was much disagreement between Finland and the USSR over the course of the border between the two countries and at the beginning of 1939 the situation was so tense that Finand started building defenses in the area of the Gulf and evacuated residents of some islands, also the one where Ivakko lived.

On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union did invade Finland indeed. In the following Winter War the Finns offered much resistance. but in March 1940 they had to surrender. The island where Ivakko lived would eventually become part of the Soviet Union.

Johannes Ivakko belonged to the evacuees who established themselves in the Päijät-Häme region. He settled in Lahti, a city some 100 km north of Helsinki. Here he would live for the rest of his life, working in various jobs, such as carrying out work for New Valamo monastery, working as a repair/service man, taking care of the maintenance of forests, doing the management of a campsite, and then he was also active as a fishing man.

a miniature wooden ensemble (Instagram)

In Lahti he also became active as a self-taught artist. First of all, he focused on making miniature wooden sculptures depicting objects, personalities and activities that reminded him of the Lunkula Isle where he was born and raised, for example a scene of a family seated around a table or a series of boats, both small ones and large fishing boats.

A selection of these creations has been exposed in 2005 in the Kiasma museum in Helsinki at the exposition In another world, the first major exposition of outsider art in Finland. Recently (in 2018) these small sculptures could be seen during an exposition at the Kokkola outsider art museum.

In 2013 a book has been published about the miniature sculptures: Niilo Kuikka, Kui ennen elettih Salmis, Johannes Ivakon pienoisteistokset kertovat (The way people used to live in Salmi, Johannes Ivakko's mini-sculptures tell).

the cover of Kuikka's book (Värtsi website)

Lifesize sculptures from concrete

Later Ivakko also began making lifesize sculptures from concrete, mainly portraying animals and personalities.

He had a workplace near his house in Myllypohja, one of Lahti’s neighbourhoods. The sculptures, once finished, would be displayed in the yard of the house.

It also has been reported on the internet that some of Ivakko’s sculptures have been displayed on several locations in the public area, like spots on the roadside and in markets. And some sculptures have got a place in the courtyard of the New Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi.

But currently the most important location, where the majority of Ivakko’s legacy of sculptures has been displayed, is the Radiomäki Park in Lahti.

It is a green, partly wooded area in the city where a sports accommodation is located, but also buildings and installations that traditionally are related to Finnish radio and television, such as the radio and television museum and a yard with a hill where dishes for telecommunications are installed.

At the foot of that hill a variety of Ivakko’s concrete sculptures has been exposed, as the photos in this post show.

One can see life- size sculptures of cows, horses, reindeer, elk, but also of smaller animals such as a dog, a fox or a cock.

There are also sculptures that depict personalities such as the farmer couple (close ups above) and a hunter confronting a bear and the farmers couple (pictures below).

When after Ivakko’s death it was not possible to preserve the arrangement of stone sculptures around Ivakko's house, the Lahti City Museum (which also has a lot of Ivakko’s mini-sculptures in their collection) took care of the concrete sculptures and found an excellent solution to expose them at the grounds of the Radiomäki Park, which can serve as an example for other communities in Europe.

* Entry on Facebook (#visitlahti)
* Pictures on Instagram (#johannesivakko)
* Article (November 2017) in weblog Tellun Tuulet
* Article (March 2014) on website Värtsi by Jouko Varonen about the book by Niilo Kuikka

Johannes Ivakko
Sculptures at Radiomäki Park
Radiomäenkatu 43
15100 Lahti, Päijät-Häme region, Southern Finland, Finland
can be visited

August 03, 2019

René Morice, Alignements des structures en pierre/Alignments of stone structures

picture (2017) courtesy of Sophie Lepetit
from her weblog

The above pictured structure of stacked stones, a creation by René Morice, is part of a large series of built stone structures, predominantly situated in roadside alignments.  

The following screenprints (via streetview, 2013) give an impression of the specific lay out of the component parts of this art environment, that is located in Kerbescond, part of the community of Pommerit-le-Vicomte in Brittany, France.

Taking the first road left on the road from Pommerit-le-Vicomte to Saint-Gilles-les-Bis (D65), one soon arrives at a first triangular part of the line-up, left from the road just before a junction.

Going left at the junction one passes by Morice's farm on the right, with an arrangement of stone structures at the front of the living house, and also ....

..... at the left of the road, opposite the living house,  another triangular arrangement of structures ....

......and then past the farm the next parts of this art environment are located left and right of the road, with the alignment on the left side of the road extending approximately 200 meters. 

Life and works

Born in 1930 René Morice became a farmer living in the outskirts of Pommerit-le-Vicomte, a small community of some 1800 inhabitants near Guingamp in the Breton department Côtes-d’Armor

Once retired, probably around the turn of the century, he experienced that he had little left to do and so in 2005 he started cleaning up the space around the farm where he lived. In the process, he began to tidy up a fountain in front of the farm, leaving a pile of stones that somehow put him in a creative mood

one of the numerous stone structures
this picture and the next two (2017) courtesy of Sophie Lepetit

So Morice started to put bricks together, using cement, forming structures that sometimes depict a certain character, and sometimes only have a spatial shape. He made single, stand-alone structures, but usually he assembled a number of structures into ensembles, sometimes using iron as a connecting material. 

 A number of ensembles and stand-alone structure are arranged in more or less triangular spaces near the farm, but it is a special feature of this art environment that most stone structure are arranged along the road in alignments.

This can of course be related to the space that Morice had at his disposal, but it is also tempting to see a relationship with the alignments of neolithic stones that form a characteristic (and famous) spatial element in Brittany.

Other observers, watching the creations in line, got an association with a crowd, gathered at the edge of the road, waiting for the passage of any event. 

But perhaps this is all too far gone, given Morice's statement in an interview: J’ai fait ça grossièrement, sans trop m’appliquer ! Si j’avais su que cela attirerait les regards, je me serai appliqué un peu plus (I did this roughly, without applying too much! If I had known that it would attract attention, I would have applied a little more).

Morice gave this interview in 2017. At that time he was 87 years old and he had worked for about twelve years on the art environment, which since the start in 2005 had got a large size, with its alignments with a length of over 200 meters. 

So in his late eighties Morice decided to end the further expansion of the site, partly because of his age, but also because the company where he bought the cement was closed.

* A large collection of pictures in the weblog of Sophie Lepetit (June/July 2017), alignmentsa first series of structures and a second series of structures
* Article (January 2017) in regional journal Ouest-France
* Article (January 2017) in Actu France

René Morice
Alignments of stone structures
Kerbescond (part of Pommerit-le-Vicomte), dept Côtes-d’Armor, region Brittany, France
can be seen from the road

July 17, 2019

Carmelo Librizzi, Parco d’Arte Bum Bum Gà/ Art park Bum Bum Gà

this picture from Facebook

The art park of Carmelo Librizzi located in Montevarchi, Italy, not yet known in the field of art environments, has recently been spotted by Francesco Galli and described on his website.

Life and works

Carmelo Librizzi was born in 1949 in Petralia Sottana, Sicily. In the 1950's the family migrated northward to Tuscany, where they settled in Montevarchi, a city of around 24.000 inhabitants, located some 50 kms south-east of Florence.

this picture and the next one: screenprints 
from the video by Roberto Polimeno in the documentation

Librizzi grew up in a very musical family, so already as a child music got his great interest and he started making music. playing a clarinet in particular. Living in Montevarchi, he was able to further develop his musical qualities by playing in the Corpo Musicale “G. Puccini". This popular local orchestra, in the period 1946-1963 conducted by Maestro Ugo Canocchi, also includes a music school where youngsters can study music.

In later decades Librizzi, who meanwhile had exchanged the clarinet for a saxophone, participated in various Italian bands. He was very interested in free jazz and experimental music and also acted as an arranger.

Librizzi had a wide interest in art. He also loved poetry and sculpture and after studying precision mechanics he also studied processing metal, stone and wood. Along this way he came to actually making sculptures himself.

this picture and the next three 
courtesy of  Francesco Galli

His sculptures, in wood, stone and metal, partly have a reminiscence with an "archaic" way of working and partly have a modern, conceptual and recycling-based approach.

In 1979, when he was around thirty years old, Librizzi came up with the idea of opening an art park where he could not only display the sculptures he meanwhile had created, but where also artistic happenings could take place, such as exhibitions and music performances. 

The park was realized on a plot of land of some 10.000 m² outside of Montevarchi. Librizzi planted trees that became large oaks, he sawed pine nuts that currently are big pines, and there are fruit trees.

The site got a name Librizzi loved because of its attractive rhythmic connotation: Bum Bum Gà, derived from the name of a small railway station in Austalia as present in a 1972 movie by Alberto Sordi.

In addition to the large size of Librizzi's artistic work, the arrangement of the works in this art environment also shows its diversity, both in terms of the varied use of materials, the style of work and the themes. He expresses himself equally easily in a figurative, realistic as in a conceptual way, and the visitor sometimes has to give an interpretation of the artwork himself.

For example, the heap of old bicycles maybe expresses Librizzi's message about the need of recycling and may invite to think about our modern lifestyle and the world in which we live, but at the same time it can been seen as a tribute to the cycling sport and evoke thoughts to the famous Italian rival cyclists Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi.

Initially, the public expressed little interest in the art park, although Librizzi tried to involve the residents in the area with flyers and leaflets, but over the years, especially in the summer months, the site became a lively meeting place, with exposition, theatrical performances, concerts of groups of young people, meetings of owners of vintage cars, and so on.

40th anniversary of the Art Park

In 2019 Librizi's Art Park existed for forty years, which was celebrated in July with a festive gathering.

The video below (from Facebook) shows a moment of musical pleasure


* The Parco d'Arte Bum Bum Gá on Facebook
Antonella Fineschi & Carmelo Librizzi,  "Ma quanto costa il pane? ("But How Much is the Bread?"), biography of Carmelo Librizzi (available at the Park)
Maria Giovanna Cutini article (April 2013) in Top Life Magazine
* Interview with Librizzi (June 2016) in Italian webzine Backstage Press
* Francesco Galli, "Bum Bum Gà, La passione del fare", article (July 2019) with photos on his website
In addition to the videos presented below, You Tube also has a video made in 2012 in which Librizzi  talks about his work (in Italian)
* Video by Roberto Polimeno (September 2011, 1'52", You Tube)

* Video by Claudia Maffei (February 2012, 10'03", You Tube)   

Carmelo Librizzi
Parco d'Arte Bum Bum Gà
Via Borrolungo Campagna
52025 Montevarchi, province of Arezzo, region Tuscany, Italy
can be visited all year, 9-18 hrs

July 11, 2019

Väinö Ylén,Taidekoti Ylén/Art House Ylén

all photos courtesy of Elina Vuorimaa

The community of Kodishoki in southwestern Finland, not far from the coast, was an independent municipality for many years, one of the smallest in Finland with a few hundred inhabitants, until in 2007 the village became part of the city of Rauma..

Along the provincial road no. 2052, a few kilometers north-west of the center of Kodisjoki, one can visit the house museum of Väinö Ylen with a large collection of sculptures.

Life and works

For many years of the 20th century this museum was the residence of Väinö Ylén (1908-2000) and his wife Hilma (1911-1991).

Väinö Ylén was born in Kodisjoki on June 8, 1908 and after his primary school started working as a bricklayer and also as a part-time farmer. He married and with his own hands he built the house where the couple would live for many years 

No facts have been reported about the lives of Váinö and Hilma, and there are no reports about certain events that could indicate Ylén's talent for creative activities. It is probably only after his retirement (probably in the late 1960s) that his artistic talent began to manifest.

At a course offered by a civic education institute, he learned to work with plaster, but Ylén soon switched to cement, for him a more familiar material, while he also thought that working with cement was less messy. 

Indeed, the photos of Ylén's cement sculptures show that their appearance is far from messy, rather they make a polished, smoothed impression, as if he has applied the surface of the sculptures by hand. By the way, I have not been able to find any data about the technical aspects of his way of working.

Started around 1971, Ylén made more than 500 cement sculptures in the last decades of the 20th century, mainly depicting human characters engaged in all kinds of activities.

Almost Ylén's entire oeuvre has been preserved on site and this collection is currently exposed in the home museum, both arranged in a shed and in the space around the house

We see famous athletes and well known politicians, but also a ladies' choir, villagers doing all kinds of daily jobs, scenes from ordinary life such as a family at the table, in short, a cross-section of daily life, sports competitions and political developments in the 1970's and 1980's.

Ylén and his wife hadn't a television set in their home and in those years there also was no internet. But through newspapers and magazines he remained well informed of political and social developments, and so various of his sculptures also show events, including political ones, from the last decades of the 20th century.

The house where Vainö and Hilda Ylén lived can also be visited, which in itself is an attraction, because the interior has remained as it was during the couple's life. and so it is also an example of the design of interiors in the post-war decades.

Väinö and Hilma Ylén had no children, so Ylén, who was very religious, left the house and the collection of sculptures to (an association affiliated with) the church to which he belonged. In this way after his death in 2000 the site with the house and the collection, currently managed by the Kodisjoki Art Association, has been preserved.

* Art House Ylén on Facebook 
Website of Art House Ylén
* Article on website Matkalla Kotimaassa
* Erja Hyytiäinen, article (July 2006) on website Turun Sanomat
* Article (july 2018) in regional newspaper Raumalainen (also about other sights in Kodisjoki)
* Hanna Lensu, article (Sept 2018) on website Maaseudun Tulevaisuus
* Video (18'51", You Tube, February 2012) by Laitilan Television

Väinö Ylén
Home museum with sculptures
Kodisjoentie 1535
27310 Kodisjoki, Western Finland, Finland
can be visited (open in July and first week of August on Wed Thu Sat and Sun from 12-16 )
view of the location

July 02, 2019

Joseph Seiller, Jardin de sculptures/Sculpture garden

front view of the house
(all pictures thanks to Sophie Lepetit)

Kilstett is a community of some 2500 inhabitants in the extreme northwest of France, some 15 kilometers to the north of Strasbourg. Here, for over fifty years a charming sculpture garden is located, the life work of Joseph Seiler.

Life and works

Joseph Seiler was born in 1933 in Kilstett in a family that had a farming business  In 1939, at the start of World War II, when Joseph was six years old, his father was taken away by the Germans. never to return and probably shot dead along the river Rhine.

Partly because of this, Seiler at a young age already had to work in the farm.

the postman at the letterbox 
next to the entrance to the front garden

In 1965 Seiller, who had continued his work in the farm and was now in his early thirties, began to make sculptures to beautify the garden around his house.

His first work -made by applying cement to a model of iron wickerwork- was a life-size sculpture of a horse, accurately depicted, as can be seen in the picture below.

Seiler then made more sculptures, both a series of animals and a series of people. 

The series of animals includes around twenty mostly life-sized creations of among others a horse with a rider, a bear, a donkey, a peacock, a kangaroo with a baby in its pouch, rabbits standing on their hind legs, dogs and deer.

The series of twelve sculptures of human characters includes the sculpture of Christ who, as can be seen in the top image, has been given a place of honor on a console at the facade of the living house, a Saint Nicholas (also in the top image), a rider on a horse and a postman.

Joseph Seiller's art environment is part of the creations that came about in France in the 1960s and 1970s and gained some fame among the general public due to the 1978 exhibition Les singuliers de l'art (Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris).

In 1990 the site was visited and photographed by Francis David, whose archive is now partly held by the Lille Art Museum. In the current century, the site was somewhat forgotten, apart from a single publication in a regional newspaper.

Recently this art environment, which still exists and is well maintained, has received attention again thanks to a review (2017) in Les gazouillis des éléphants by Bruno Montpied, a report (2019) by Sophie Lepetit in her weblog and  an article in the website of SPACES (see the documentation)

* Website Habitants-paysagistes (published by the Lille Art Museum),  entry about Joseph Seiler with pictures (1990) by Francis David
* Review of the site in Bruno Montpied, Les gazouillis des éléphants. Paris (Ed du Sandre), 2017
* Article with a variety of pictures (April 13 and 14, 2019) in the weblog of Sophie Lepetit, here and here
* Article (2019) in the website of SPACES

Joseph Seiller
Sculpture garden
1 rue du Chemin de Fer
67840 Kilstett, dept Bas Rhin, region Grand Est, France
can be seen from the road
streetview (2012)