June 17, 2021

Danuta Szudzińska, Dom z freskami wewnątrz i na zewnątrz / House with frescoes internally and externally

above picture has a view of the frontside of the house
via streetview; the other pictures are screenprints 
from the video referred to in the documentation

The picture above shows the frontside of a house in the small community of Łanięta -some 600 inhabitants- located in the centre of Poland.

This is the house where until recently Danuta Szudzińska (1946-2021) lived, a self-taught artist who has become known because of the fresco decorations she added both to the exterior and the interior walls of the house.
.
Although the very first image is not very clear, one can see that next to and below the windows on the left, geometric decorations have been applied, while under the decorated balcony at the right a scene with a person on horseback is situated. 

The two images above show some details of the scenes on the facade, left a fresco of a man and a woman, situated on the balcony behind the TV-receiving dish. 

The image on the right shows a scene with a man on horseback, followed by a woman, both dressed in an oriental manner, perhaps depicting Mary and Joseph's flight into Egypt. The image under the balcony itself, apart from this couple, also has two giraffes on the left and on the right a large animal standing on its hind legs, perhaps a bear.

The image above, made in May 2020, portrays Danuta Szudzińska in her mid seventies. Little or no information can be found on the internet about her life and work.  

Radek Labarzewski, who made he video referred to below and visited her in May 2020, said that she created  for herself and her loved ones. He noted that Danuta Szudzińska wasn't hurt by criticism, but that she was happy when someone appreciated her creations.

Because there is virtually no information available about her, comments and explanations on the frescoes she made, are also lacking in the public sphere.

So although the following images give a good impression of Danuta Szudzińska's way of paining the frescoes on the indoor walls, the accompanying texts contain a lot of assumptions.

Above a scene of probably a father with his daughters. The father, perhaps in a peasant smock, stands in the center, holding hands with two girls to the left and right, and these three stand in front of a portrait of two more girls.


The scene depicted above shows a winter landscape with a man in a sleigh, pulled by a horse, with farmhouses in the background.

 

The scene above, on the wall behind the ascending staircase, shows two people in a pleasant encounter, with a tree on the left and a structure that resembles a mill on the right.

Other women who decorated their interior with frescoes

In the field of art environments in Europe, there are some more examples of somewhat older women who added frescoes to the interior walls of their house, such as Polina Rayko (1928-2004) from Ukraine, Enni Id (1904-1992) from Finland and Bonaria Manca (1925-2020) from Italy. With regard to all three artists, after their deaths or prior to that, activities have been undertaken to give their house, including the works of art therein, a protected status, this in order to preserve the site for the future.

As for Danuta Szudzińska's art environment, it has been reported that the family is of the opinion that the decorations should be preserved for the future.

Documentation
No articles about Danuta Szudzinska's work or similar resources have been found on the internet

Video
* Video on Facebook (0'.14") compiled in June 2021 with photos taken in May 2020 by Radek Labarzewski 


Danuta Szudzińska
Łanięta, Lodz region, Poland
no information available about visits by he public
some decorations can be seen from the street
 

June 12, 2021

Fer Geerts, Santorini in miniatuur / Santorini in miniature


this picture and the next four courtesy of
Fer Geerts, from his website

Bergen op Zoom is a municipality of about 66,000 inhabitants, located in the Dutch province of North-Brabant. 

Fer Geerts, a resident of this city has graced his garden with an extensive structure comprising miniature scenes inspired by the architecture of the Greek island of Santorini.

Geerts was born in the early 1950s and in the 1980s he and his wife passed various holidays in Greece. Inspired by the atmosphere of  the Greek islands, in 1987 he started building the model, an activity he shared with a lot of other activities. 

So all together, it would take him some thirty years to reach the magnitude the creation has today.


The image above gives an overall picture of the creation, which has a size of 2x4.5 meters. The entire structure stands on a platform composed of a number of separate modules, each of which can be moved independently. The interconnections of these modules, however, are hardly noticeable when looking at the creation.  

Within the creation different heights occur and the buildings as present in the model slope upwards, as is also the case in Santorini's architecture.

Fer Geerts mainly used polystyrene for the construction of the buildings, generally carried out on a scale of 1:70. For the additional elements, such as canopies on the houses, shutters on the windows, chairs and tables on the balconies, deck chairs on the roofs, sails on the windmills and the like, all kinds of suitable bits of material were used, such as reed mats, pieces of wood or cardboard. 

These additional elements have been manufactured with great care and this contributes greatly to the fidelity of the image conveyed by the creation.

This is further enhanced by the use of the colors blue and white, which are characteristic of the architecture of the Greek islands in the Cyclades archipelago. 

This use of colors was also very decisive for Fer Geerts, as he said in an interview

That's the real Greek atmosphere you often see in pictures. The white houses and blue roofs were the inspiration for me.

Indeed, in this art environment the architectural atmosphere of Santorini is unmistakable.

Incidentally, the creation as a whole is not really a replica. This only applies to a number of structures that have been precisely counterfeited. Other parts are based on fantasy.

As mentioned, the creation consists of a number of modules. There are now 37 blocks, which fit together. This makes it easy to store the art environment, for example during the winter, or expose it partly in a room in the house.

The compartmentalization also offers the possibility to easily transport the creation to a temporarily exhibition, such as at a holiday fair or in the window of a shop.

The site is not open to the public.


Documentation
* Website about the model, by Fer Geerts, with a page with referrals to a variety of media that paid attention to the model
Here is a small selection: 
* Article (June 1, 2020) on the website of Omroep Brabant (Broadcasting Brabant)
* Article (May 4, 2021) in newspaper Greek Reporter

Video
* Video (1'10", May 2020, YouTube) by Omroep Brabant (Broadcasting Brabant)


Fer Geerts
Santorini in miniature
Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands
no public visits

June 05, 2021

Agnès et Nicholas Brückin, Structures en pierre du jardin des Sambucs / Stone structures of the Sambucs garden

all pictures (May 2021) courtesy of
Claire Schneider

Located on a slope in a valley in the Cévennes National Park in the south of France, surrounded by tree-filled hills and enriched with creative stone structures, the Jardin des Sambucs is not only an attractive garden with flowers, ponds and nice trails, but it's also an art environment worth visiting. 

The name of the site is Occitan for the plant scientifically named Sambucus, in English commonly referred to as elderberry.

In the context of the development of the garden in general, this post will focus in particular on the stone structures and other creations that give the site such a special character.

Creating the garden started in 1994

A young couple, Agnès and Nicholas Brückin, started in 1994 with the creation of the 5000 hectare garden. After eight years, in 2002, the site was opened for the public. Currently the garden, which has many attractive aspects, has become a beloved spot to visit.

Agnès comes from the Cévennes. She is a farmer's daughter and is self-taught when it comes to gardening. In her design of the garden she follows the concept of the moving garden, an approach by the gardener Gilles Clément to grow plants in a natural way from fallow land, an approach that includes that the gardener knows the properties of different plants and better understand species and their behaviors, this in order to better exploit their natural capacities.

Nicholas grew up in England, Germany and Switzerland. He worked as a machinist on a road roller in the construction and maintenance of roads made of pebbles. 

From his grandfather he inherited a special sensitivity to stones and fossils and he is particularly interested in the structure of the garden, which he wants to accentuate with stone structures, often in the form of towering structures, but also in other forms, such as half or double spheres, walls and sets of steps. With regard to producing artworks he is also self-taught.


A variety of towering stone structures

In particular when seen from a little further away from the garden, a number of  high rising towering creations, as depicted in the images above, form a distinctly defining element of the site.

These creations are made of white and sand colored pebbles, joined with cement in horizontal circles, stacked in such a way as to form tapering towers. 

These high-rising structures may be capped at the top with a small number of gray tinted stacked stones. But here are also smaller tower-like structures, as in the two images above left and right, which are capped with brown vase-shaped structures. 


Or, as in the images above and below, these smaller towery structures have blue or brown saucer-shaped structures in which stone birds can nest and amusing characters make a dance or otherwise demand attention.


It appears that these tower-like creations, also the high-rising ones, have exclusively been made with pebbles and no supporting internal infrastructure has been used. 

This also applies to a number of creations, not depicted here,  that are formed exclusively by stacking mostly gray-colored stones.

The sturdiness of the structures, especially the towering ones, testifies to the craftsmanship with which Nicholas made the creations.


Other stone-built structures

The garden also has a variety of other stone-built structures.

For example, the image above shows a spherical structure made of stacked stones, a kind of cave that can be entered by visitors and in which they eventually can retreat for a while to absorb in all tranquility the impressions of the garden.

There is also a spot in the garden that refers to Venus. It's a spot with two man-sized vertically standing shells facing each other. Venus, a goddess of classical antiquity, was born from sea foam and reached shore sailing on a large shell, later named after her as the Venus shell.

And then there are benches available for visitors to rest or muse for a while. These benches, often quite large in size, are made of stones and pebbles and equipped with colorful and comfortable cushions.


Also within the site's grounds is a structure that includes a number of shelves filled with books for visitors to consult. The walls of this library have been decorated with mosaics.

Other walls in the garden also feature mosaic decorations, often in bold colours.


The garden has a small café. There also is a restaurant where (by appointment) meals are served, made from products from the garden.

Those visitors who want to stay longer in the area can stay overnight in a guest house or in a gite, 


The owners of the garden have signed the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism and they are members of the Ecotourism Association of the Cévennes. The garden is recommended by the National Park of the Cévennes and in 2013 it received an award as "favorite of the year" from the French association of  garden journalists.


In 2020, like most musea and other public facilities in France, the garden was closed to the public. During the closure, various new elements were added to the garden. The site reopened to the public in May 2021. 

An exhibition of works by visual artist Alain Kieffer was also opened at that time

Documentation
* Website of the Jardin des Sambucs (also available in English)
* Facebook page of the garden
* On Google Maps a large series of pictures of the creations, including an number of small-scale items
* Website French Gardens (in English). Most websites that review the site have a touristic approach.  

Video
* Video by Christian Segonne (2010, 4'52"); embedding the video here has been disabled by the owner, so take a look at YouTube)

Agnès et Nicholas Brückin
Jardin des Sambucs
Hameau Le Villaret
30570 Saint André de Majencoules, dept Gard, region Occitanie, France
can be visited, see the website of the garden for info about opening hours etc

May 28, 2021

Stevo Selak, Ansambl skulptura u prirodnoj veličini/Ensemble of life-size sculptures

picture (around 2018) from Facebook Watch,

see link in the documentation


The ensemble of sculptures in the image above is located in the backyard of a house in Banja Luka, a town of almost 200.000 inhabitants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Life and works

This collection, which has emerged in recent years, is a creation of Stevo Selak, who lives in the house near the site. He studied at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Banja Luka and currently has a job with an insurance company.

In his life Selak had three clinical death experiences, two times as a child. He has come out with these experiences, most recently in a video of more than an hour on YouTube (October 2020), in which  -according to the caption at the video- he saw heaven and hell and discovered amazing things.

Selak has also become known for books he wrote, such as Life of Jovanov, a book about his father's experiences in World War II and the struggles after the break-up of Yugoslavia.

this picture is a screenshot from the video
of an interview in 2016

Selak already earlier talked publicly about his experiences with recovery from clinical death, as in the summer of 2016 when he was interviewed by Mondo BiH. The picture above, a still from the video with the interview, shows how Selak while talking leans on the shoulder of a sculpture that portrays Russian president Vladimir Putin.  

This sculpture of Putin is the very first sculpture that Selak made, indeed in 2016 or slightly before. It took 200 kilos of clay to make it. At a later stage the sculpture was plasticized and painted in a chrome color.

a picture of Putin (2016), from Selak's 
account on Facebook

For several years, Vladimir Putin was flanked by Donald Trump, President of the United States (2017-2021). A sculpture of his wife Melanie was also added. 

When a violent storm raged in Banja Luka in December 2017, Trump's clay sculpture was blown over and fell apart in so many pieces that it was beyond repair. 

Melanie's sculpture was saved. A new sculpture of Trump has been made, but then with an iron infrastructure.

picture from Facebook

The sculpture collection also includes a self-portrait of Selak, as can be seen in the image above, where he poses in identical clothing and in the same posture next to the (well-resembling) sculpture.

The site also has a sculpture of Selak's son Matthew and furthermore it includes portrayals of Jesus Christ and Socrates (at the right in the image above), the American actor Chuck Norris (at the left in the image above), the Swedish princess Victoria (the lady in the red robe in the very first image), while not long ago also Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea since 2011, was added.

The site, which up to now is the only art environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina,  can be seen from the street, but an address is not available.

Documentation
* Article (March 2020) in newspaper Dnevni Avaz about some recent additions to the site
* Article (January 2018) in newspaper Blic about some of Selak's books
* Article (June 2017) in British newspaper the Mirror 

Videos
* video of the ensemble is available on Facebook Watch, take a look via this link  
* Video the making of Putin (around 2017)



Stevo Selak
Ensemble of life-size sculptures 
Banja Luka, suburb Paprikovac, Bosnia and Herzegovina
sculptures can be seen from the street

May 21, 2021

Dominique Plancolaine, La belle roche / The beautiful rock

picture (2009) by lapin88
licensed under Wikimedia Commons

One of the art environments created by non-professionals in France, well known to the general public, is the complex of sculpted rocks in Rothéneuf, Brittany, created by Adolphe-Julien Fouré (1839-1910).

On the other side of France, in the Vosges, there is a small community 
with about 200  inhabitants, named Relanges, which like Rothéneuf is located at 48 degrees north latitude. 

Both places can boast of a collection of rock sculptures in their vicinity, and on top of that, these are -so far- the only two places in France with art environments in the quality of rock sculptures.

Compared with Fouré's art environment the one in Relanges is much smaller in size, because housed in one large piece of rock. It's also much lesser known than Abbé Fouré's creation. Both artworks were  made in earlier times, and somehow have stood the test of time. 

That is to say, the sculptures in Rothéneuf can still be visited, the creations are still present, although they have lost color and much of their shape due to coastal wind and rain. From the site in Relanges a number of sculptures has disappeared, probably stolen, but the remaining ones still look good, this also because in recent years some maintenance has been carried out, probably thanks to the municipality.

picture (January 2016) by Syrdon licensed under 
Wikimedia Commons

Relanges' large sandstone rock with small-scale sculptures is located in a forest north of the community and the sculptures were made in the 1790s by Dominique Plancolaine (1745-1804). Except that he was a local stonemason from the neighbouring village of Thuillères, there are no biographic data about this self-taught artist available. 

The site is known as la Belle Roche (the beautiful rock). but also as la Roche des 12 apôtres (the rock of the 12 apostles).

The front of the rock, parallel to the forest road, covers a plane 6.5 m long and 2.5 m high. The side of the rock, on the right-hand side as seen from the road, is 6 m long and descends from a height of 6 m to 0.5 m.

The panel at the front side has a number of niches, some of which are still filled with sculptures, some of which are empty. The side panel mainly has sculptures in high relief.

picture (October 2014) by Espirat
licensed under Wikimedia Commons

The theme of the sculptures is the life of Christ, especially the Passion.

The picture below has a number of scenes that depict moments from the Passion, such as Christ carrying the cross, the entombment and the resurrection.

On the front of the rock, parallel to the road, at the right side of the plane there is a scene in high relief with Roman soldiers nailing Christ to the cross, and more to the left there is, also in high relief, a sculpture depicting Christ on the cross with some grieving persons underneath.

In this front plane there are also a number of niches, which are partly empty because the sculptures have been stolen, and partly have scenes which probably portray some apostles, as can be seen in the image at the bottom. 

picture (October 2014) by Espirat
licensed under Wikimedia Commons

The field of art environments in Europe has only a few sites with sculpted rocks. In addition to the two sites in France, there are seven similar sites elsewhere in Europe.. That is to say, as far as is known today.

Czechia tops the list with four sites, those of Vojtech Kopic, Václav Levý, Stanislav Rolinek and Ernst Wahr. Spain has two sites, those of Mariano Ros Martinez and Longino Ayuso. And finally, there is Italy with the creation of Domenico Mengozzi.

picture (October 2014) by Espirat
licensed under Wikimedia Commons

Documentation
* A tourist website about Relanges includes a page with a number of photos of the sculptures in the rocks
* Review of the site (with pictures) on the website Lieux insolites, which also has a review and pictures of the ruins of the former Bonneval priory, located not far from the Belle Roche
* Review of the site (with pictures) on the website Lunetoile

Dominique Plancolaine
La belle roche
Relanges, dept Vosges, region Grand Est
located along the walking path GR7,  
that runs north-west of the village through 
the forest, to follow for about a kilometer.

May 17, 2021

Map of outsider environments in France

This map, prepared by Jon von Zelowitz, presents French art environments made by non-professionals that can be seen from the street or can be visited.

How to use the map

Scroll the map, click on an arrow and the details of the relevant site will appear (such as name of the creator, visiting options and a link to the review of the site in this weblog). 

Or click on the arrow left of the caption "Outsider Environments France" and an alphabetic list with names of artists appears, where you can select the site you would like to activate.

Then click on the arrow at the right side of the name of the artist in the red area, top left, and Google maps will appear with an indication of the site on the map. Activating streetview on that indication (a black spot) will give you a view from the street of the site or the area near the site, since not all sites can be seen from the street.

There are also options to activate a route to the site if you have added a point of departure..

Another option

You can also immediately click on the square at the top right. Then the map with arrows appears, and also a dynamic list of the art environments included in the map.

May 13, 2021

Viktor Golovnya, Дом украшен остатками вещей / House decorated with leftover stuff

view of the front of the house
this picture and the next ones: screenprints
from the video by KerchnetTV 

Located in the extreme east of the Crimean peninsula, the city of Kerch is dominated by a 90 meter high legendary hill called Mithridates. At the foot of that hill, in Rybakova Street, was a building with remarkable decorations, the house of Viktor Fedorovych Golovnya, who was born in the mid 1940s.

It is very unfortunate that this article about the site has to be written in the past tense. This because in December 2020 the house was badly damaged by fire. This happened just two and a half years after the site in May 2018 -probably for the first time- was reviewed in the local press and featured in a video.

Luckily Golovnya survived the fire. But it is not clear where he lives, now that the house has become uninhabitable.

the side of the house, decorated with rims of car wheels
Life and works

Probably retired, Golovnya when he was interviewed in 2018 lived alone in the house. His three daughters already had left home and his wife probably had passed away, in any case she was not present at the interview.

In his working life Golovnya kept sheep, which he let roam on a part of the Mithridates hill behind his house. When he wanted to expand his sheep farm and build new stables, he did not get permission from the authorities that managed the hill. 

On the contrary, to protect the classic allure of Mithridates, by court order he had to end the sheep farming and he was only allowed to use the house and keep a small number of sheep in a stable.

composition on the roof

The now burned-down house was built by Golovnya himself.

Self-building is often a labor-intensive affair and especially now that the house was quite large and, for example, also included bedrooms for each of the three daughters, constructing he house must have taken a considerable part of Golovnya's time.

In addition, Golovnya tried as much as possible to acquire material for construction that was left unused elsewhere, which als included visiting garbage dumps.

Some neighbors have referred to Golovnya as being an eccentric because of this way of working, but probably it is rather so, that he was someone with limited financial means, who in this way could build and decorate his house with simple, cheap things, a pattern not unknown in the field of art environments.

another composition on the roof

This way of obtaining and using scraps of building material led to the appearance of the house being somewhat untidy, as depicted in the very first photo. 

At the same time, this form of collecting material gave Golovnya the opportunity to find things to use for making exterior an interior decorations. 

Exterior decorations 

So the second photo from above shows the side of the house with a structure that is unclear in terms of function, situated behind grilles, with decorations such as car wheel rims, bells and other things.

The third photo from above was a composition that probably also was added to the roof, although pictures do not confirm this. It's a colorful fantasy character, possibly part of a children's bicycle, with a base of three metal hemispheres.

Another composition on the roof is depicted above. It's a weather vane composed of metal basins, flanked by a number of spiral items.

decorations on an interior wall

Interior decorations

As far as the interior is concerned, the photos above and below only to a limited extent give an impression of the lavishness of the decorations. In this respect the video referred to in the documentation, is more informative.

A wall with many photos and portraits documented Golovnya's family history. There were pictures of his daughters and there was a painting that portrays his grandfather, Mikhail Ivanovich Bondarenko, and another one of his father who, as told by Golovnya, was in the Russian army, fighting against the Germans in 1942 near Kerch.


However, the family photos were just a small part of the many, many items that decorate the floor, the ceiling, the tables and cabinets, but especially the interior walls.

There were carpets on the floor, canvases on the ceiling and walls filled with a multitude of paintings and photos, cabinets covered with teapots, a variety of pendant lamps, thermos jugs ..... an extensive and at first sight disordered combination of all kinds of items. together however making an overwhelming visual impression.



Not all items displayed in the interior were collected by Golovnya himself. Neighbors and friends also came along with remnants. 

Some of those donors assumed aloud that the decorated interior for Golovnya was kind of a paradise, but he himself said that his house was more of a barn. This may indicate that he was not so much characterized by an inner urge to transform the living room of his house into a kind of an artistic collection, but rather that he was not able to stop collecting things.

A good look at the types of items that made up the collection (as shown in the images in this post) reveals that these are items that are typically found in living rooms in European countries, such as paintings, photos, clocks, lamps, bottles, curtains. Other items from the dump, such as old clothing, parts of old bicycles, garden equipment and the like, are missing in the items exposed in the interior.

So the peculiarity of the interior was not primarily in the type of decorations. The impressive, even alienating effect of the collection had mainly to do with it's large size, which in turn is related to the fact that Golovnya could hardly stop collecting and displaying leftover stuff, a characteristic that is encountered in many people who create an art environment.

The size of the collection, in conjunction with Golovnya's passion for collecting, contributes to the conclusion that the now-burnt items on the roof and the interior collection of leftover stuff could be viewed as a modest art environment in the capacity of a decorated interior and exterior.


Documentation
* Article (May 2018) on the website of local newspaper Kerch.com
* Article (December 2020) on the same website with a report about the fire

Video
* Video (May 2018) by KerchNET TV  (4'25", YouTube)


thanks to Alexander Emelyanov, who not only drew my attention to this art environment, but also helped to make accessible the Russian spoken in the videos 

Viktor Golovnya
House decorated with leftover stuff
Rybakova Street
Kerch, Crimea, Russia
site destroyed by fire