What was I supposed to be doing today? Mounting my Christmas cards. What did I end up doing? Spending an inordinate amount of time browsing Pinterest in a class A act of procrastination.
It didn’t get light here properly all day, the weather continuing dismal and stormy in turns. It was just too dark to do anything constructive in the insufficient light of energy-saving lightbulbs. Then my cosily-lit iPad screen cut through the murk and came forth with these beautiful sculptures. Joy to the soul!
They are by Haitian artist Georges Liautaud (1899-1991) ...
Georges Liautaud is hailed as the leader and founder of the fè dekoupe movement, and is widely recognized as the “master of Haitian metal sculpture.” Liautaud was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, a town just north of Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince. He developed his fè dekoupe technique creating ornate crosses for a local cemetery, and was noticed by Dewitt Peters, the founder of the Centre D’Art Haitien. Peters commissioned Liautaud to begin a new series of sculptures which developed the artist’s signature depiction of Vodou symbols and the birth of a new genre. Liautaud’s studio in Croix-des-Bouquets became the basis for the fè dekoupe “school.”
Vodou is the artistic expression of the religion of Vodou, building on elements from both African and European religious traditions. Liautaud’s fer découpé proved a perfect medium for his vision. Fer découpé (French) or fè dekoupe (Creole) means “forged” or “wrought iron.” Haitian artists had begun to refashion discarded steel oil drums to create two-dimensional pieces in the mid-20th century by hammering, forging, and chiseling flattened iron sheets obtained from discarded steel oil drums; a vernacular, recycled art, portraying a spirited and vivid vision.
I struggled when I was at art school because I just couldn’t get the same passion for ‘proper’ art the same way as I did for folk art. I felt guilty, but couldn’t stop myself borrowing every book on folk art I could get my hands on from the libraries I frequented. It is something which has persisted, and I just accept it as the person I am these days: I love folk art and aim to get the same unaffected joy of creation and honesty into my own work one day.
Meanwhile, I’m off to watch the Turner Prize on TV now …
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Heather Eliza Walker
Artist in Edinburgh, Scotland