THE STATUES OF PÈRE LACHAISE
The project ‘Mon Ami’ whilst created in a graveyard is not about a graveyard.
It’s more symbolic of a spirit, friendships including that of strangers.
Paris attracts me and fascinates me. A city where the souls of strangers I can only dream of as being ‘friends’ rest.
In the empty streets of Atget’s early twentieth century Paris there’s a spirit of life, yet his pictures were often void of people.
A time past still recent enough for me to picture in my mind’s eye what the city must have looked like. Some first hand remnants still remain in the form of cobbled streets, bridges, trees and buildings. Yet the period was long enough forgotten for me to never know anything real of the day to day people who lived and breathed then.
Sometime prior to this project I was gifted a book by a friend, JP Mascalet.
The book was created, edited and contained the work of his grandfather, the photographer Daniel Mascalet. The book equally celebrated works from Daniel Mascalet’s circle of friends, the Montparnasse crowd of the late 1920’s early 1930’s. Titled ‘NUS’ this precious gift had been cellophane air sealed in 1933 when it first was published and remained sealed since. Eighty-five years later opening it, I drifted to another time for I could smell the air of Paris being released. Whilst I couldn't see this aroma, it still existed, and touched me with a sense of then.
How precious such little fleeting moments are, before becoming a memory and thereafter of what we hope to remember it to be in our imagination.
Père Lachaise in Paris was chosen as the visual representation of a spirit, a soul friend or even a stranger. A quiet contemplative place I feel to an extent found me.
The Mascalet family kindly allowed me to stay in their family apartment at Quai de Bourbon on Îsle Saint-Louis, the home Daniel and his wife…….bought in 192????. Much of the furniture was as it would have been then and the view over the Seine directly below carried still the essence and spirit of daily life just in another time.
When I arrived that first day I made a phone snap of the staircase that led to the apartment and sent it to my friend. He replied by sending me a photograph made by Atget of the very same staircase, from almost the same spot, all these years before. I previously wasn’t aware of this Atget’s image.
During this project I also made a portrait of my friend and fellow artist, Douglas Gordon. Douglas brought some bread and we toasted Getrude Stein and the many others who surrounded us. Respectfully, fondly and always in appreciation of an artists voice. We spent a pleasant couple of hours that day discovering links we previously never knew existed between family members. Life’s web of coincidence.
These statues are symbols of existence. Erected by or installed as memories by strangers hoping to give others a mark of respect, memory, a mark of respect, a broken heart or for some a measure of their own ego. They only exist because of the past yet always hoping to be part of the future.
‘Mon Ami’ is the physical representation of a spirit, energy or connection with the unseen. It is beyond memories yet cannot exist or survive without them. It is offered as a comment of both those we meet briefly in this life and equally as a respectful thought to those we wish we had in another life, strangers.
What other passing minds have looked upon these cold granite, stone or slate statements with private thoughts, asked their questions or sought answers. Hopes of a greater belief or imagined conversations. They ask little of us as good friends do.
Mon Ami is offered as a memory and all we can ever wish for of a friendship. Created from the earth, sculpted to a deathly tribute yet somehow warm, wise and reassuring.
Père Lachaise I do beleive found me, and friends helped lead me there.
When we ask questions we often find the answer come from within and when we know what we hope for others forces often smile fondly, some of who perhaps we can never meet.
We all will one day be part of yesterday, never knowing when that day will embrace us… but sure it will and come that day let’s hope our friends will smile fondly.