September 23, 2023

Christian Fournier, Studio troglodyte décoré / Decorated troglodyte studio

this image (July 2023) from Google Streetview

Passing from the west the location sign of the French municipality of La Roche-Guyon along the departmental road D913, one will see at the right the valley where the Seine River flows and on the left a large rock formation with several troglodyte houses. 

One of these is the troglodyte studio of Christian Fournier, as depicted above. Behind the front there is a carved out space of 80 m².

this picture and the next ones courtesy
of  Jean-Pierre Simonin

Life and works

Fournier, who was born in 1953, at age 43 experienced a very special personal transformation in the mid 1990s. In brief: the personality he had until then disappeared and a new one emerged. 

On the facade of his troglodyte studio this transformation is described as ma MORT ma deuxième Naissance (my death my second birth).

Before his transformation Fournier was a designer in an urban planning workshop, living in the municipality of Rueil-Malmaison, a suburb of Paris, located like La Roche-Guyon along the Seine River.

Being reborn, he had a studio in Rueil-Malmaison and when this studio in 2005 was no longer available, he found a new one, the troglodyte studio, in La Roche-Guyon, some 60 kilometers west. In 2019 the community had 479 inhabitants.

For Christian Fournier creating has become an existential element  of life. In an interview he has said that he always feared falling into madness, that he constantly had to try to stay on his feet and that creating helps him in this regard.

His troglodyte studio should be a place dedicated to creation in the broadest sense, a refuge open to all arts, a place where visiting artists gets inspired to shape what he or she has in mind. In short, an art environment that helps Fournier to create and also inspires others to do so.

Whether what is created should be something that is generally regarded as art is probably irrelevant to Fournier. His creative work always introduces a shift in reality and in this regard, he has the same attitude as the French painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968).  

Duchamp from 1913 turned the art world upside down with his bicycle wheel on a stool and later ready-mades, such as his well-known urinal. His name appears on the left side of the entrance to his studio, where an inscription says; Duchamp a tué sa mort  (Duchamp has killed his death), a remarkable text, which could figuratively mean that Duchamp's death did not imply that he became unknown.            

Apart from the many textual inscriptions that characterize this art environment and are mentioned in this article where appropriate, the main feature that distinguishes this art environment from others, is a large collection of books, many of which are used to decorate the walls of the studio and others are stored, sometimes in a specific manner. 

Books as a decorative element

Fournier has understood that there are cultures where surplus books are not destroyed but buried. 

The latter appeals to him very much and he has given the walls of his cave the status of a literary cemetery. Most books he collects by regularly going to a recycling center are hung there.

The arrangement of the books on the walls is based upon the author's nationality and faith. Symbols are used: a cross for Christianity, a Star of David for the Jewish faith and a crescent for Islam.

However, the books are not only preserved by attaching them to the walls, there are also other forms, such as the large box on the floor in a specific part of the studio that will be transformed into a chapel.

Iron objects

In addition to the books that are used as decoration, there are various iron creations that decorate the studio.

Collecting iron objects started when Fournier in his mid-40s picked up a piece of old iron from the street. With this gesture a new period in his life began: he started to collect all kinds of iron items, which he used as such as a decorative element, like the iron bench in the photo above, or transformed into something decorative as the same photo also shows.

The balustrade outside, above the entrance, has a variety of iron creations. One of these items is a radiant sun with a fan of gold-colored rays. Above the balustrade on the right there is a brown sign with the text: Maudits soient ceux qui s'assoient au banc des Rieurs (Cursed are those who sit among the laughers).

On the left side of the balustrade, on the white outer wall, difficult to distinguish in the image, there are two brown metal houses, which may have been intended as birdhouses.

Fournier also has acquired a second-hand fence decorated with Stars of David, which has been placed in his troglodyte studio, in addition to a variety of other iron items that decorate it's interior..


The chapel project 

This project, which is under construction, started when Fournier managed to acquire a quantity of stones that were part of a former abbey. One of these stone elements has an inscription that reads Nous allons même quand mouvant vers la vie (We go even when moving towards life)

The stone elements are connected by a decorated iron fence, and behind the fence there is a large wooden box on the ground, which functions as a cemetery for a large number of books. On the short side of the box, farthest from the fence, there is behind a display of candles and similar attributes that are used in daily life to adorn a gravestone,  the inscription La Littérature tue La Mort  (Literature kills Death).

There is a space of a psychiatric nature with works by Freud, Jung and the like, and the intention is to arrange an installation in the form of a spiral staircase populated with persons such as Kafka and Nietzsche, who proclaim the Last Judgment.

It's the intention to illuminate the whole arrangement by a large sun, which can be compared with the sun that decorates the balustrade at the outside of the house.

The future of the site

To conclude this article, quoted below is the answer Fournier gave in the interview mentioned in the documentation when asked what will happen to the site when his project is completed. Referring to Paleolithic French cave paintings, he says: After me, I would like this house to become a place dedicated to creation of any kind. A refuge open to all arts, so that the guest artist can shape whatever he has in mind.


* Article (undated) by Jean-Pierre Simonin, with a series of photos

* Article (May 2020) by Ariane Asaé on her weblog, with an interview with Christian Fournier

* Article (August 2020) about living and working in caves, including Fournier's, in Reporterre magazine


* Video (2021, YouTube, 8'59") with Nanette, Odette and Valentina visiting the studio

Christian Fournier
Decorated troglodyte studio  
rue de Gasny
La Roche-Guyon, dept Val-d’Oise, region ÎIe-de-France, France
visitors welcome

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