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Jan Ernst revitalises the Bordeaux landscape into a high relief sculpture
High Relief sculpture by Jan Ernst
Image: Courtesy of Jan Ernst

Jan Ernst revitalises the Bordeaux landscape into a high relief sculpture

The abstract interpretation of the French landscape was conceived by Ernst during a ten-week residency with Galerie Revel in Bordeaux.

by Jan Ernst
Published on : Jul 27, 2022

Paul Cézanne once said, "The clear French landscape is as pure as a verse of Racine." Bordeaux in France is nothing less than a beautifully painted picture that offers a view of the breathtaking contours, the river Garonne and the vibrant landscapes of Southern France. As an initiative by Galerie Revel, Jan Ernst spent ten weeks between the months of May, June and July 2022, studying the topography of the French city and drawing comparisons between Bordeaux and Cape Town.

The multidisciplinary artist from Cape Town is often recognised for his beautiful functional objects and profound sculptural art inspired by different elements of nature. While his 'Womb' lamp collection translates the concept of life and birth in its design, his 'Forest Candelabra' collection includes candleholders associated with daily narratives and spatial design. During his residency, the South African artist gathered a better understanding of the shifting Bordeaux landscapes by studying old maps, ranging from the middle ages to the present day, resonating with the historical offerings of the place, commonalities with Cape Town as a wine city, impact of the carbon footprint and underlining the unique topography of the natural landscape. The result is a beautiful wall sculpture that carries Ernst’s artistic oeuvre and ability to create organic designs. 

Almost one and a half meters long, the High Relief sculpture was created by Jan Ernst using recycled ceramic. With the sculpture, the sculpture artist created an abstract interpretation of distinct elements of the Bordeaux landscape including the Garonne River, the dunes, pine forests and the vineyards. The high relief displays distinct complexities of structure and texture, the core of which is the river that runs through the landscape, in line with the spirit of artist Jan Ernst's work which is a dialect that transcribes the forms, textures, and sensations of the natural world. The sculptural river is then supported with contoured elements of ceramic nature depicting Bordeaux’s natural crests and troughs. Another crucial component is the LED light that flows down the ceramic river and illuminates the work's architectural aspect.

Jan Ernst and the gallery's curator and co-founder Prince Malik Jewiti used recordings to capture each phase of the procedure over the course of 10 weeks. Once completed, the high relief sculptures were placed in a documentary shot on the remains of an ancient commandery an hour's drive from Bordeaux. Responding to modern realities of carbon footprint reduction, the artist's residency enabled him to work locally with recycled ceramic, to work and live in the region, and so to reject the paradigm of global transportation of artworks. Unquestionably a work inscribed in the southern French area.

Founded in 2021, Galerie Revel holds a banner of many established as well as emerging artists, designers and architects including Zimbabwean ceramic sculptor Xanthe Somers and the South African artist and designer Jan Ernst. The gallery works towards celebrating art and design through different mediums including functional, sculptural and ceramic art by designers that are often invisibilised. As a collaborative platform, the gallery highlights different artists whose work oscillates between art and design with a strong link to material, process and stories. 

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