mountaincutters and Éric Astoul



Over time, body to body contact

Over the course of the residence of mountaincutters1 and Éric Astoul, two notions emerge, the concepts of relationships to bodies and to time

For mountaincutters, the relationship to the body is one involving accidents and linked to prostheses, as if chaos had reigned there and we were witnessing a more or less fragmented re-construction. The duo generally conceives their work in situ, in terms of its relationship to the place in which it will evolve. At La Borne, and particularly with the work of Éric Astoul, the relationship to the body is all-pervasive. When he throws large jars on a wheel; when he manipulates his pieces when he is loading them into the kiln; when he prepares, fuels, and follows the firing process….

At first, mountaincutters thought that they would work starting from “the void, with the clay around it”, presenting a transitional situation, furniture reinterpreted with its incomplete forms: a seat that raises questions about how it should be used. Éric Astoul’s attentions focus on the useful and the useless. His interest in materials and his desire to retain the raw appearance of his pieces resemble the ideas of mountaincutters.

Reflecting on the hollow space enclosed by clay, and shapes that more or less correspond to the body shape, Éric Astoul immediately thought of Jean Girault’s hoof bathtub2. He threw a jar and, assisted by Mélanie Mingues, took two mouldings from it. Mountaincutters made slightly offset spheres with blistered joints by assembling either two moulds of the lower part or two moulds of the upper part. The duo then worked on these shapes by pushing material in or removing material. Cracks and holes are punctured, revealing the void enclosed by these “bellies”. We have seen (above) that mountaincutters often produce elements that can be compared to prostheses. This is also true here, with these spherical volumes which, due to their size, need two arms to carry them, held tight directly against the belly. But the body to body contact began long before. Firstly when the pot was thrown, then when the work on the surface and the material was continued, then when the pieces had to be placed and installed in and then removed from the Anagama kiln, which has a low ceiling. Here, each person’s actions play an important role, as they leave traces of their experience.

When you discover one of the jars made by Eric Astoul, who has incorporated pieces of fired clay into the shaped raw clay, it is as a belly, even a carapace. The result brings together Astoul’s thinking with the ideas of mountaincutters. The fragility of the piece is proof of its uneven and transient appearance. This assemblage is laden with memories and re-traces the lived experiences of each part.

This residence is also about time – the time that stretches with the flow of interactions between mountaincutters and Eric Astoul. The duo’s visits to La Borne are punctuated by drawings or photos. The project evolves over time and through encounters with the ceramists’ friends taking part in the search for the glaze that best suits the project.

This is how Bernard Leach’s 3 celadon glaze is selected. A legendary enamel – the quest for all of its potential has inspired, and continues to inspire, ceramists to refine their investigations over the course of many years. Of course, there is also the time required for loading (6 days), firing (7 days) and cooling (8 days), and the time of the exhibition set-up, when each element becomes part of a whole, at the service of the creation of the entire installation. 3  Formulation for the celadon from “A Potter’s Book” by Bernard Leach.

Each of the pieces reflects (a part of) this history. Like archaeologists, as they discover it can r visitors reconstruct it by reconstructing the pieces.

Leïla Simon

1- From now on, we will refer to ‘mountaincutters’ as a duo.
2- Jean Girault, Hoof Bathtub, 1817, 93.5 x 60 x 76 cm, permanent collection of the Issoudun Museum.

Exhibition from Febuary 2 to March 12, 2019.
Opening Saturday, Febuary 2 from 6pm to 9pm preceded by a meeting with the artists at 5pm.

Open every day from 11am to 6pm.