An Atelier in Andlau (Alsace) (Dennis Aubrey)


Note: This is a repost of an article we did about two years ago. PJ and I were looking through Facebook and saw pictures of our friends Valérie, Patrick, and their beautiful daughter Zoélie. Valérie’s artwork is spectacular and I only wish that I could post a link to her more recent creations. And I wish I could post a picture of Zoélie and what a lovely young woman she has become.

One of the joys of our travel in France is meeting and connecting with the people of that great country. In Andlau, visiting the church Église Saint Pierre et Saint Paul, we saw a small studio with some interesting looking metal sculptures. Closed for lunch, we assumed, we went to the church and shot for a couple of hours. Afterward, while shooting the exterior, I noticed a group of three people leaving the studio. It turned out that they were the owners; Valérie Christmann and Patrick Chemin, with their daughter Zoélie, and they were willing to show us their studio. Inside, PJ and I found an entire world of fanciful and striking sculpture.

An angel

With Valérie as the artist and Patrick the builder, they team to create powerful images. In the main display gallery there was an exhibit of “The Deep”, “La Profondeur“. Using found objects, these large metal sculptures of a great toothed fish and storm-tossed boat with an angel overhead dominate the small gallery.

The deep

The fish has an array of arcane mechanical devices that operate the fins. With the great spiked teeth, these gears give the impression of a feeding machine preying on the creatures of an under-world.

The storm-tossed ship

PJ and I were totally captivated by the art, and even more so by Valérie, Patrick and Zoélie themselves. They were kind enough to show us around their studio and their work areas, and to explain how and why they create their remarkable sculptures. Since the studio faces on the great Andlau church of Saints Peter and Paul, the church Curé was at first very concerned that the work harmonize with the church. After seeing what they produced, he has supported their work ever since.

The locust

We asked about the possibility of purchasing some of the work and Valérie shyly said that she has not been able to sell yet. She has image of the work as being part of the space in which they live and work, and her impetus is to create for that world, and not to sell to someone else. This completely refreshing attitude coupled with their charming, open personalities made a striking impression on both PJ and myself.

Valérie, Zoélie, Patrick, and PJ in Andlau in 2010

We think of Valérie, Patrick and Zoélie as friends we have made in our travels, and spirits we admire in our special world of France Romanesque. So, to you, our friends in Andlau, salut!

Update: we keep in touch with Valérie, Patrick and Zoélie on Facebook and must say as an update – Zoélie has grown up to be a beautiful young woman. We look forward to seeing them again soon at their atelier in Andlau!

3 responses to “An Atelier in Andlau (Alsace) (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Nice break from Romanesque architecture, into modern intimate individualistic art… Expanding on this would you agree that Roman art was anything but personal, the way a modern artist like Valerie or Patrick would express their own personal feeling or sensations, while a medieval artist would instead express a message from a religious group’s point of view, like a collective feeling subjected to an accepted social (religious) philosophy.

    I feel like the medieval artist was sending a collective message to a group of people, he felt that he was the instrument of a superior understanding – above the level of his own modest existence- , and was in that sense opposite to the modern artist, who is consistently expressing the truth of the subjective individual…

    • Joel, overall we’d have to agree that the medieval artists (is we can use that word in a general sense) were more intent on expressing an ideal based on their religious beliefs, but people are people. We have seen so many examples where the individual was able to express on a more personal level. Certainly a mason with a block of stone, intent on telling a story, could make thousands of individual choices that expressed nuances that sprang from something other than a pedagogical intent.

      That being said, it was still the opposite of the modern artist who believes that the subjective truth is the proper subject of art.

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