February 06, 2019

John and Jo Mew, Braylsham Castle


picture from website Unique Property Bulletin

Heathfield is a community of some 8000 inhabitants, located in the county East Sussex in South East England, some 77 km south-east of London.

In the rural area in the northeast of the town is a single-handedly built singular architecture named Braylsham Castle. which has the look of a fortified medieval manor, reinforced by both a round and a rectangular tower. However, the building is not medieval, it was constructed in the last decade of the 20th century.

Life and works

In 1990 John Mew, who was born in 1928 and had become an orthodontist by profession, together with his wife Jo, whom he had married in the early 1950's, bought an old ruined cottage with about 10 acres of associated land that connected to a site with a small lake partly already in their possession.

There was already a permit to restore the cottage, but John and Jo got the idea to demolish the old building and to use the demolition material to single-handedly build kind of a castle, inspired by the original Braylsham Castle (dating from about 1260), but then preferably on a location near the small lake.

It took more than a year to get permission to realise such a building, but after Mew had sent a watercolor impression of the intended building to all members of the planning committee, a tight majority of the committee decided to grant the building permit. 

signpost along Potttens Mill Lane

The construction project started in 1991 and after ten years, in 2001, the new building was ready.

John combined building activities with his work as an orthodontist and his wife, an adult daughter and two adult sons were also involved in the project, which -apart from building a castle- also included deepening and enlarging the lake, constructing a dam, forming an island on which the structure would rise and building an access bridge.

impression of the stained glass windows
picture from website Homebuilding and Renovating

The most striking parts of the structure are the two towers and a large hall. The two towers have been made of stones reclaimed from the demolished cottage, which greatly contributes to their authentic appearance.

The small round tower has battlements at the top, a dungeon in its basement and some five bedrooms in between. The large square tower has a spiral staircase, a master bedroom, a bath room and a dressing room. 

The large hall has an exceptionally large fireplace underneath an impressive chimney, the whole made of about 13,000 bricks, placed by a professional bricklayer.

Another professional stonemason helped with placing gothic stained glass windows and windows from demolished churches in Carmarthenshire. in south west Wales

As the picture below shows once again, the result of ten years of single-handed building is an edifice in medieval style with -from the outside- a sober appearance without frills.


undated picture from Wikipedia

This relative sobriety fits well in the English building tradition, but is also present in art environments on the European mainland, such as the Olt Stoutenburght Castle by Gregorius Halman (Netherlands), the Eben-Ezer Tower by Robert Garcet (Belgium), the Tarodi Castle by Stephen Tarodi (Hungary), the Donjon by Didier Lobert de Bouillon Viéville (France) or the Castillo de las Cuevas by Serafin Villarán (Spain)

Documentation
* Clive Fewines, "A Self Build Medieval Manor", article (October 2008) on website Homebuilding & Renovating
* Referral on website Unique Property Bulletin  (2015) showing that the site is available for weekend stays
* Some more photos (to order) on the website Country Life Picture Gallery 

John and Jo Mew
Braylsham Castle
Pottens Mill Lane
Broad Oak, Heathfield  TN21 8TY, South East England, UK
can be seen from the road, no public visits

February 01, 2019

Mikhail Semenov, Музей русских суеверий/Museum of Russian Superstitions,


the housing of the museum
photo from the website of the nature park

The Russian region of Kaliningrad, in the northwest of the country, has an inland sea called Curonian Lagoon. A small strip of sandy land, almost 100 km long, separates the lagoon from the Baltic Sea.

This is the Curonian Spit. The strip became a nature park in 1987 and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.

view from the air on the Curonian Spit
this picture and the next ones screen shots from the video by Voddann

On the grounds of the visitors' center of the park, apart from the usual facilities and a museum about the nature around, there is an art environment in the capacity of a special museum with wooden sculptures depicting spirits, demons and fairy-tale characters in Russia and other Slavic countries.


Life and works

The large collection of wooden sculptures exhibited by the Museum of Russian Superstitions  has been created bij self taught artist Mikhail Alekseevich Semenov, who in 1951 was born in the city of Kaliningrad.

Semenov became a television presenter, he wrote songs and published books. He has said that from his father, who died when Mikhail was ten years old, he inherited the talent for seeing beauty in ordinary things and a vivid outlook on life.

In 1982 Semenov visited the National Art Museum MK Ciurlionis in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he saw an exhibition about devils. This led him to study books about superstition. which showed him that the world of folklore and superstition knows dozens of ghosts and other characters.


Although he did not have any training in sculpting, in 1985 he started making wooden sculptures of a few characters he had come to know through this study. This became a real passion and around 2000 he had created such a large number of sculptures that in 2002 a small museum could be set up on the grounds of the visitor center of the nature park.

Semenov himself became the director of the museum, where he also installed his workshop and, together with his wife Irina Semenova, received visitors, took care of the interior of the museum and kept making sculptures.


From the opening the museum attracted many visitors, not just those who visited the nature park, but also holidaymakers from the nearby seaside resort Zelenogradsk, located on the Baltic coast.

Since Semenov had founded the museum without any expectation and partly as a joke, he probably did not expect this success. Managing the museum came as an unexpected but welcome change of his life.














Due to a disagreement with the owner of the building, in 2008 the museum moved to the neighboring community of Yantarny, where it was housed in the museum at Amber Castlea building dating back to the 14th century, which was commissioned in 1995 as a museum on local history, in particular the gathering of amber.

However, in 2012 the museum returned to its original location at the visitors centre of the nature park at Curonian Spit.


The approach of the museum is not aimed at glorifying the devilish, it mainly seeks to present the collection in the context of folklore and tradition.

So already at the outside of the museum visitors will see the cabin of Baba Yaga (picture below), a famous character of Slavic folklore.


Inside one can see the wooden sculptures, generally executed in small format. In Slavic mythology there are some eighty spirits known that could help or harm people. These spirits had their own habitat, there were forest spirits, water spirits, ghosts of the night, of the field, of the road or of the house.

In the museum, in general, every type of spirit has its own sculpture, accompanied by an explanation in Russian and in German.


Spirits depicted in sculptures in the museum are for example:
-Bolotnyanik, the spirit of the swamp,
-Leshy, the protective spirit of the forest,
-Basilisk, a mythological character that comes from a cock and has a deadly gaze that changes everything that lives in stone and dies himself when he sees his reflection in the mirror,
-Babai, an evil spirit, walking around like an old man in the night with a big bag in which he would take on naughty children,
-Vostrukha, a spirit who stays in a house behind the stove, watches thieves and ensures that nothing will be lost in the house.

A more detailed overview, with many images, is included in an article in Life Journal



Countrymen

Semenov has also began making a series of wood and ceramic sculptures representing people who lived in the Kaliningrad region and who in some way made a mark on its history  from the thirteenth century on. The new collection is entitled Countrymen and it is kind of a portrait gallery.

This series, nowadays comprising about 40 items, can be viewed on the second floor of the museum. Short annotations indicate when the persons lived and at which events they were involved.

Documentation

* Article  about the museum on the website of the National Park
* Article on the website Slavyanskaya Kultura
* Article on website Veni Vidi (november 2009
* On Live Journal a large series of pictures of te sculptures and a description of a variety of spirits
Videos
*Video by VESTI Kailiningrad (2'30", You Tube, November 2016)



Video by Voddann (6'30", You Tube, October 2013)



Mikhail Semenov
Museum of Russian superstition
on the road from Zelenogradsk to Klaipeda
Curonian Spit, region Kaliningrad, Russian Federation
entrance tickets can be bought at the entrance of the nature park

January 14, 2019

Camille Jamain, Musée des Curiosités/Museum of Curiosities


the central driveway leading to the museum
Camille Jamain can be seen standing on the right 
behind the pedestal with a white ornament 

Some French art environments are almost exclusively known because of postcards dating from the beginning of the 20th century ¹. This also applies to a site that has existed in the small municipality of La Croix-en-Touraine, located along the river Cher in the Loire Valley, near the famous Chenonceau castle.

Camille Jamain is known as the creator of this art environment which has as its central element a richly decorated building that houses a Museum of Curiosities. 


On the postcards Jamain is presented as a painter. The internet has no biographical information about him, and it also is not known when the Museum was decorated, what kind of curiosities were exhibited inside, when the other parts of the art environment came into being and when the site ceased to exist.


Those other parts of the site were also rather curious. The second photo from above shows an entrance to a passage of the moon and the photo above is the pavilion of the lotteries and souvenirs.


The picture above shows the Facade of the castle and the one below shows the Aquarium.

The castle could be the structure that is visible next to the standing person on the right of the picture. This structure seems to be decorated with rocaille. It includes some sculptures and at the bottom there is a shrine (with a Maria statue ?). 

In the photo below there appears to be a small aquarium indeed and the person sitting at the table on the left could be Camille Jamain himself.


Considering that in the early years of the 20th century when the photos were made, people usually had to pose, the postcards show a lively and cozy atmosphere, so we could assume that this site was kind of a small-scale amusement park. That Jamain himself was the publisher of a number of postcards, that he was promoting his site as très curieux à visiter (very curious to visit) and that there was a buvette (beverage buffet), points out that Jamain had the intention to attract and entertain visitors.

On the postcards the site is mentioned as Robinson 1000 mottes, a name I did not use in the title of this post, because I have no idea how to denote that naming and it is also unclear to me what -in the context of  this art environment- a correct English translation would be for the french term motte ².

Documentation
* Website Bléré-Val de Cher has a short referral to the site and a series of seven postcards
* Short referral and two postcards on website Drolatique Touraine
* Series of postcards on weblog Amboise et Touraine - Balades

notes
¹ For example the Palais artistique by Pierre Dange
² In english motte is clod, a small piece of compact earth, as one can find in a garden for example, so the name of the site might refer to an area with a large quantity of clods

Camille Jamain
Robinson 1000 mottes
La Croix-en-Touraine, dept Indre-et-Loire, region Centre-Val de Loire, France
site doesn't exist anymore


December 31, 2018

Yuri Dunaev, Памятники из железного лома/Monuments of iron scrap


monument marking the 180ᐤ  meridian
all pictures courtesy of Andrey Shapran ¹
(click to enlarge)

This blog understands Europe in a geographical sense and so it includes the land mass west of the Urals. However, the art environment presented here is located east of the Urals, in the extreme north-west of Arctic Russia, in the district of Chukotka, an area with a harsh climate, bisected by the 180ᐤ meridian. 

Presenting here these monuments of iron scrap that together form the art environment, is not only due to their impressive appearance, but can also be based upon the various honoring references these sculptures include to European explorers and other courageous people of both Russian and Western origin

 Monument in honor of James Cook 

Life and works

The iron sculptures presented here have been created by Yuri Alexandrovich Dunaev who grew up in Tajikistan and at a young age already dreamed of becoming a pilot. He tried to enter a school for aviation to become a pilot, but could not afford the registration fee. So in Uzbekistan he did a study for air traffic controller. During his military service he was a radio-operator.

Around 1977 he became air traffic controller at Cape Schmidt airport in the Chukotka district in the far north west of Russia, a job he currently -after over forty years- still fulfills. He lives in an apartment in the small community of Ryrkaypiy, not far from the airport.

 the monument for James Cook in front of 
apartment buildings in the community of Cape Smith

When James Cook -on discovery voyage in 1778- for the first time in western history sailed past the coast of Chukotka, he named the area Cape North. 

In 1934 the area was renamed Cape Schmidt in honor of Otto Yulyevich Schmidt (1891-1956), in the Soviet Union a famous scientist and leader of expeditions, such as the North Pole expedition in 1933-1934 with the steamer Chelyuskin  (the ship crashed after being stuck in the ice for five months, after which the passengers stayed in makeshift huts, to be rescued eventually by many flights of aircraft).

In the 1980's Dunaev began making sculptures, mainly using iron scrap he collected at the local dump.  The local authorities gave him a permit to search for useful items at the dump, friends helped him to transport large material, and it also happened that he got help from the army, for example by making a crane available to install a high rising monument.

the monument "The spit of two pilots"
located near the community of Cape Smith

Over the years, Dunaev has created some twelve large-scale monuments, which are interconnected by an overarching theme, that includes remembering specific characteristics and (sometimes dramatic) events of the area of Cape Schmidt and honoring those involved in these events.

One such characteristic is that the 180ᐤ  meridian runs over land in this area. And its special that there are the only two spots in the world where this meridian goes over land, namely Cape Schmidt and the Fiji Islands Otherwise the meridian runs over the oceans.The monument was erected in September 1980 and is 12 m high. The numbers 1, 8 and 0 are executed in triplicate, each set forming a triangle, with each triangle painted in its own color, white, blue and red.

The monument for James Cook  (1728-1779), honors the British explorer who in 1778 was the first European to map the North Cape. It is three meters high and it was installed in 1998 in the community of Cape Smith, which is some six km from Ryrkaypiy, where Dunaev lives.. The guns left and right, which rest on aircraft landing gear, initially could fire salvos during festivities, but because of safety that capacity has been removed.

The Spit of two pilots, installed in 1987, is a monument in honor of the American pilots Ben Eyelson en Earl Borland, who in 1929 crashed with their plane while rescuing cargo from a ship stuck in the ice. It is located near the community of Cape Smith.

The sculpture is decorated with a propeller of an airplane and an image of a flag that combines the flags of Russia and the United States. At the top of the creation an iron flame includes a bell that rings when the wind rises, a quality that can serve as a beacon for ships in fog.

Monument  Ilyushin IL 14 

The plane pictured above is an Ilyushin Il 14, in service from 1954 on in civil and military aviation. It was installed in 1991 as a Monument in honor of civil aviation  It was donated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation with thanks for Dunaev's perseverance in creating kind of a museum and preserving the memory of civil aviation

 Monument in memory of an accident 
during an international expedition in 1993


The monument pictured above was created in memory of an accident during an international expedition  in Chucotka in 1993. when a helicopter with French researchers on board crashed, which resulted in the death of eight people.

Installed in 1995 the monument includes eight polished semi-precious stones behind an armored windscreen of a TU-16 plane.

Pictured below is the monument in honor of  Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld  (1832-1901), who was a geologist and Arctic explorer. He was born in Finland but spent a large part of his life in Sweden. He became known from his expeditions to Greenland and Spitsbergen,1872-1873 and the expedition of 1878-1879 when he was the first to discover and sail the Northeast Passage.

Near the North Cape the ship was caught in ice that drifted away. Only later, when the ice became thinner, the ship was released.

The monument, surrounded with anchors, includes a globe that shows the continents, the various seas and the Arctic area with the trajectory of the Northern Sea Route. Nowadays, because of the changes in the climate, the northern route is a large part of the year free of ice, so it becomes more attractive for commercial shipping.

 Monument in honor of Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld

Currently Dunayev still is considering plans to expand the acreage of monuments and he also active in the maintenance of the current monuments.

Documentation
* Andrey Shapran, "Duneav. History of the Arctic air traffic controller-sculptor", article (July 2018) on website LES Alpha (with photographs by the author)
* Evgeny Basov, "Cape Otto Schmidt.The man who erects monuments", article (November 2017) on website Live Journal
* Odynokiy, "Autodidact sculptor from Cape Schmidt ...", article (July 2016) in Life Journal
* An article (July 2016) in Life Journal about the crash of the two American pilots in 1929, the search for their bodies and their funeral
* Article on the website of a Chukotka travel agency about travelling to and in Chukotka

note
¹ Andrey Shapran is a well known photographer in Russia. To get an impression of some specific aspects of the area where Dunaev's monuments are located, take a look at his series photos Cape North (2015, about living conditions in Cape North) and First Uranium (2015, about a remote penal camp (1950-1953) where prisoners worked on the extraction of uranium)

Yuri Dunaev
Monuments of iron scrap
Cape Schmidt (Ryrkaypiy), Chukotka district, Russia
monuments situated in the open air

December 24, 2018

Alphonso Calleja, Bestiaire de ciment/Bestiary from concrete


pictures (1990) courtesy of photographer 
© Francis David and the © Lille Art Museum

In the field of french art environments it was assumed that the creation Bestiaire de ciment (Bestiary from concrete) had been completely lost after the death of its maker, Alphonso Calleja.

Indeed, the sculpture garden as such doesn't exist anymore, but in 2018 reports have appeared which show that a large number of works have been preserved.


Life and works

Alphonso Calleja (1915 - ?) was born in Santiago du Chili, the capital of Chile, South America. In 1920 he moved with his family to France, where as an adult he worked in the paper mill Cellulose de Pin in Biganos, while he lived in the nearby community Gujan-Mestras.

These places are located along the Bassin d'Arcachon, a bay connected to the Atlantic Ocean, about 50 km south-west of Bordeaux. The bay is well-known because of its oyster culture and its surrounding area welcomes many holidaymakers.


As the pictures show, Calleja's house, Villa Soleviento, had a fairly large garden.

In 1969, when Calleja was age 54, he started to decorate the garden with sculptures made of concrete, especially depicting animals, but also certain personalities, such as Charlie Chaplin.

The depicted animals are mainly of African origin, such as zebras, tigers, a panther, a rhinoceros, or a springbok. but Calleja also depicted some prehistoric animals.


The pictures show how the garden looked around 1990. These photos were taken by Francis David, a lover of art environments who between 1978 and 1992 traveled France several weeks a year to photograph these sites. Part of his large collection was published in march 2018 in the documentary website Habitants-Paysagistes edited by the Lille Art Museum.

During the years Calleja actively worked on the production of his bestiary, namely the last decades of the 20th century, the site received little publicity in what was then the literature of researchers of art environments. And when around 2008 writers about these sites became active on the internet, Calleja's sculpture garden already had ceased to exist.

In which year this happened, it was unclear for a long time, but it has recently become known that in 2008 the antiquarian Georges Schellinger, who is established in the region, bought Calleja's collection of sculptures. This sale undoubtedly took place because Calleja was deceased (in which year is not known) and the house probably was sold by the heir(s).

some smaller sculptures

In 2010 antiquarian Schellinger sold the collection of sculptures to an inhabitant of Lège Cap-Ferret, another community located along the Bassin of Arcachon.

When in 2015 the new owner sold his house, Schellinger bought the collection back. It is now located on the densely wooded grounds around the branch office of the antiquarian on the avenue de la Vigne in Lège Cap-Ferret, where it can't be visited.

Documentation
* "Monsieur Calleja" in: Bulletin de l’Association Les Amis de François Ozenda, n°45, 1992.
* Series of pictures by Francis David on website Habitants-Paysagistes. Cartographie des jardins et maisons singuliers (edited by Lille Art Museum, France)
* Article in regional newspaper La Dépêche du Bassin, nr 1160, August 2018, p. 10 (This publication has been reported by Bruno Montpied in his weblog of December 11, 2018)

Alphonso Calleja
Bestiaire de ciment
(until 2008) 33470 Gujan-Mestras, dept Gironde, region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
(currently) avenue de la Vigne, 
33970 Lège Cap-Ferret, dept Gironde, region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
no public visits

December 20, 2018

Roger Petit, Jardin avec des installations de fer/Garden with iron installations


pictures (2017) courtesy of Sophie Lepetit
.
The picture above shows a backyard located along a street in the community of Couture d'Argenson in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in France. It's a small community with some 400 inhabitants ¹.

Life and works

This.backyard, which is mainly decorated with a variety of items and installations made from discarded ironware, is a creation of Roger Petit, about whom not much biographical data are known.


He was born in may 1951, was enlisted with the French Foreign Legion and joined the French Marine, Never married, he has no children.

Since French soldiers after about 25 years of service may retire when they are in their mid-forties, it is very well possible that Petit in the middle or late 1990's got retired and then settled in Couture d'Argenson. 


And maybe once settled or some years later, he also began decorating the backyard of his house, that is located on a corner, the front side facing a main street while the backyard is adjacent to a side street, separated from that street by a somewhat messy built-up brick wall.

Some stones in this wall are marked with inscriptions, such as le triple fer (the triple iron), la commanderie (the commandery), la plantation (the planting), cedre (cedar) or rouge (red), while there also is a marble nameplate with the name of the resident/creator of the site.


The wall at the rear of the house (actually an assembly of the main building and an adjoining smaller building) is decorated by three large-scale compositions of iron elements.  The picture below shows one of these creations,  a more or less haphazard combination of all kinds of iron rings, rods and objects. probably just meant as a creation with a decorative function.

Incidentally, the wall also contains smaller items, sometimes textual in nature, but mostly with a decorative character.

Most of the iron items that Petit uses in his installations come from the dump, although he also buys these nowadays.


In the back of the garden there is an installation consisting of an accumulation of both large and smaller iron items such as corrugated iron, fences, rings and a street sign, a constellation that a lot of people will not regard as a creative construction. 

Indeed, the local authorities are not so happy with the site, but Petit has a good relationship with the local residents.


Documentation
* Entry (march 2018) on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit
* Two pictures (2014) on the weblog Pedalons
Video
Video by Bogey Bogey (1'43", You Tube, nov 2016)


Note
¹ I like to acknowledge that this post is based on an article in the weblog of Sophie Lepetit, which as far as I know is the only available source on the internet discussing this site.

Roger Petit
Jardin avec des installations de fer
2 route Gours
79110 Couture d'Argenson, dept Deux-Sèvres, region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
can be seen from the road

December 06, 2018

Timo Teittinen, Veistoksia talon ympärillä/Sculptures around the house


this picture and the next four (2018)
courtesy of Kimmo Heikkillä

Kuosmala is a small community in the Southern Savonia region in Eastern Finland.

Life and works

It is also the place where Timo Teittinen, born in August 1964, is so active in the production of wooden sculptures, that it can be said there is an art environment in development. 

Creating wooden sculptures with the help of a chainsaw for Teittinen is an adventure that he has started only relatively recently.

Initially he worked as a farmer, especially in the livestock sector, but at a certain point this business was only profitable with further expansion of the livestock, a development Teittinen did not opt for. 

So probably around 2015 he chose another professional activity, which he found in timber construction. among other things the construction of log cabins.

On You Tube one can find a video from early 2016 that shows Teittinen active in building such as log cabin, with a lifting device, a chainsaw, a ruler, a spirit level and a hammer as the only tools.

Around the same time he also began making wooden sculptures with a chainsaw. It has been reported that especially in winter 2016/2017 he worked with a big commitment.

 

In Finland people love to decorate the garden or driveway of their house with a wooden bear and Teittinen obviously creates bears (also on order), but the remarkable thing about his creativity is that he also depicts other ("non-commercial") characters in wood. These creations have a specific expressiveness, which testifies to an expert signature, sometimes with references to old sagas and legends.

Although Teittinen is only relatively briefly active as a self-taught artist, he has already produced a relatively extensive collection, which is displayed near his house, an art environment in an early phase.

this picture (2017) from newspaper Länsi-Savo

Teittinen now already participates in an exhibition, an overview of ITE art in Southern Savonia, which can be seen in the Finnish Forest Museum in Lustå in Punkaharju (April 27, 2018 - January 6, 2019)

Documentation
* Article (July 2017) in regional newspaper Lansi-Savo
* Article (August 2018) by Minna Tuuva and Kimmo Heikkilä on ITE Kartoitukset weblog
 (This article also appears in the book ITE Samaalla, a report of the Rural Education Association about its research of outsider art (ITE art) in the Southern Savonian region, published december 1st, 2018) 

Video
* Video (2'10", August 2018, You Tube) by Maaseudun Sivistysliito (series of photos by Kimmo Heikkilä)

 

Timo Teittinen
Sculptures around the house
Penttiläntie 36
51780 Kuosmala, Southern Savonia region, Eastern Finland
visitors welcome