The beautiful, haunting accompaniment to the above video is Rob Stevens’ The Celestial Celebration, from his album Project One.
The pagoda (in French pavillon chinois) which inspired these artworks, is situated in the French town of L’Isle-Adam, situated 20 miles or so by car from the centre of Paris, in the Val d’Oise department of the Ile de France. I’ve taken many a walk in the forest which surrounds the town. The walks inspired me to produce a book of my own photographic images and an essay about the history of the town and forest.
The Bergerets, a family of Receivers General (of finances) to the king, from 1687 and stretching across four generations, was the most important landowner in L’Isle-Adam after the princes of Conti. (The Conti were a younger branch of the royal Bourbon family and owners of the forest and domain of L’Isle-Adam until come the French Revolution). On the 1st March 1778, the last of the Bergeret line, Pierre-Jacques Bergeret, bought the domain (within the town) of Châteaupré from his cousin, Alexandre-Pierre-Nicolas de Cassan. Pierre-Jacques had in the course of travels in Italy 1773-74 discovered Italy’s Anglo-Chinese gardens and set about transforming Châteaupré similarly. It was between 1780-90 that the Pavillon Chinois was constructed in the park of his chateau, the Chateau de Cassan.
The pagoda is said to have been designed by the French painter Fragonard, who had accompanied Pierre-Jacques on his travels into Italy. It is built on an octagonal plan and its double, pagoda-style roof is supported by eight wooden pillars. The structure eventually fell into ruin and has been restored twice, once in 1975 and again in 2008, the latter under the direction of Pierre Andre Lablaude, Chief Architect of France’s historic monuments.
The pond that stands in front of the pagoda is overhung by large trees and on a windy day the reflections of the trees in the water become a show of ever-changing images. Their largely black and white qualities, their environment, reminded me of the tradition of Chinese landscape painting, of the economy of haiku poetry. This is my inspiration for the artworks represented in the slideshow, which are derived from some of the photos I took of the wind-disturbed reflections in the pond.
Except, curiously, for this black and white image. This is a mixed media digitally-fused frottage/collage/monoprint I made some years earlier to my discovery of the pagoda in L’Isle-Adam.
I was always puzzled about my urge to include in the monoprint, the cross within a circle. It appears twice in fact, once in purple at the top left and again, blurred and attempting to be – pinky-red – on the bottom right. Despite much reflection and research, I could find no good reason for this symbol to be included.
This picture, of the entrance doors of the pagoda, are decorated and reinforced with pink-red crosses within circles. I was instantly reminded of my monoprint and I decided to include it in the works that have become my series of silk prints.
In the fused black and white work above it has transformed itself into a rather ghostly form (middle left).
Can the ghostly nature of the motif in the print be read as an overlayering of the future onto the present? If so, why? As a signal, to demonstrate that the past and the future are not as fixed in time as we are led to believe? Or is it ‘just coincidence?’
Pagoda continues as a project. I’ve produced a limited edition series (100) fine art prints on silk. The prints are small (5 x 7 inches) and so I am able to offer these for sale at only £60 each. Here’s what three of them look like combined in a frame.PRINT SILKS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
The proceeds of all sales will be donated to the charity International Animal Rescue, through my page for the charity on the web site Just Giving.