Two bronzes and 16 stained-glass windows in Belgian Luxembourg
Jean-Michel Folon was born in Uccle, in Walloon Brabant. This Belgian artist is renowned worldwide. He has touched many things with talent : painting, water-colours engraving, sculpture, ceramics. He associated with remarkable craftsmen to create tapestries, stained-glass windows, bronzes.
His universe in inhabited by simple images that become universal signs, understood by all whatever their origin or age or social statute. One could talk of ideograms that are perceived intuitively. His pictures express the poetry, the affection or on the contrary the anguish of the contemporary world.
In Belgian Luxembourg, you can discover 2 sculptures and 16 church-windows by this touching and renowned artist. Paul Klee said « Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible ».
The meeting between contemporary and Romanesque art
The story of Saint Etienne (Saint Stephen)
Let’s first discover Folon’s stained-glass windows. They were created for a small 11th century Romanesque church, listed as Major Heritage of Wallonia. A dedicatory stone that you can see inside the sanctuary, confirms its consecration by Théoduin, Bishop of Liège from 1048 to 1075. Before passing the porch, a several hundred years old linden tree provides shade to a stone sculpture by another artist, Josia Gozdz. This sculpture represents a praying monk, dressed in his frock, in a position of meditation.
Let’s come back to the church-windows that tell the story of Saint Etienne’s martyr, patron saint of the parish. The life of Etienne is mentioned in the act of the apostles, he would be the first Christian martyr. From the story of his life, Folon has retained six themes :
• suckling of the child Etienne by a white doe
• Etienne’s condemnation
• Etienne assisted by the Holy Ghost
• his stoning : shower of stones felt as snow flocks
• the crown that refers to his Greek name : « Stephanos »
• the discovery of the three chalices.
This last image refers to the tradition according to which three gold vases were found in the saint martyr’s tomb. One with red roses to authenticate his burial place. (stained-glass windows 1,2,3,4 : Church of Waha)
The artist associated with master glass-makers of Chartres, the Loire family workshop in Lèves, to make these stained-glass windows. His talent as a watercolourist, subtly using transparency and harmony of colours, is enhanced in these church-windows. The Loire workshop is a reference in these matters and is called upon by numerous places in France and abroad.
The bird, symbol Folon is fond of
Ten other stained-glass windows representing the famous birds of Folon flying in the blue sky. «Had I not been a man, I would have liked to be a bird » he often admitted. The bird is a symbol of liberty, an incentive to travel and is also a messenger. With Folon, man often changes into a bird.
Everyone remembers the man dressed in a long coat and wearing a hat that will be made popular by the credits of French television, Antenne 2. Another great artist, poet and musician, Yves Duteil, mentioned Folon’s drawings in a song. In the church of Waha, an audio-visual montage presents Folon’s explanations that mention the close collaboration between artist and craftsman in this creation.
The « Maître de Waha » (the Master of Waha)
A short documentary evokes the furniture of the Romanesque church of which the sculptures of polychrome wood are attributed to the « Maître de Waha ». To obtain more explanations about this mysterious 16th century artist, you should go to the Musée de la Famenne in Marche. There you’ll also see a fine collection of Merovingian artefacts found in Wellin or Hamoir.
The museum also plunges us into the everyday life of the inhabitants of the Famenne region, during their days of glory or misery. A model on a scale of 1/300th shows the town of Marche around 1.600. More information on www.musee.marche.be.
Folon’s sculptures in the province
Two bronze sculptures by Folon are also to be seen in Marche and in Neufchâteau. Jean-Michel Folon entered the third dimension around 1990, using found objects. He became imbued by the arts of Asia or Central America. He sculpts snakes, birds, bird-woman in wooden beams. But he realises that these totems do not resist the bad weather.
Then, on his friends advise, the sculptor César, he turns to bronze that he patinates to resemble the wood fibres. Furthermore, the light and its reflection on the sculpture is essential to the artist because « to sculpt, is to set traps for the light » as he said, or « outdoors, sculptures live…a free life and people fill them with intentions…thoughts ».
Folon prefers that his works be seen in the nature, where as seasons go by, they start their own life. A life enriched by the look of all. In Marche, rue Neuve, his « homme au chapeau » is named« Loin » (“far away”). This figure is an emblem of Folon’s work.
Folon goes to the town of Neufchâteau in 1988, at the request of a local Unicef comity that is about to organize a large event named « les 1000 jardins du désert ». ( The desert’s 1000 gardens). Folon is a defender of altruistic causes : he proclaims human rights, minorities, environment. The « desert’s 1000 gardens » project is to gather funds to implant oases in the Chad desert. .
In memory of this fine organization, remains a fountain-statue acquired by the town and named « La fontaine aux poissons » (the fountain of the fish). Folon’s sculptures often dialogue with water. He creates fountains to quench the thirst of birds, water umbrellas that protect from the rain. The « fontaine aux poissons » nicely implanted in a garden of the lake valley, refers to childhood, to the artist’s days of fishing with his brother Christian.
Another project, the creation of an experimental orchard for the conservation of native fruit species in Tronquoy, was also elaborated in the framework of the UNICEF day of 11 September 1988 in Neufchâteau. This orchard is didactic, don’t miss visiting it, you’ll learn a lot about fruit growing, from the planting, the pruning, the grafting, the diseases, the resistant varieties…A bee hive has been set up for an optimal fecundation. Infos : www.foret-anlier-tourisme.be
A book published by the province of Luxembourg will help you to meet the contemporary artists and their works implanted in the parks, on the squares and roundabouts of Belgian Luxembourg. Infos : firstname.lastname@example.org, 063/21 27 15