With a Rabbit in the Trunk. Flower Blanket Creator Joanes Simon-Perret
“Riga and Marseille are similar in terms of the population and area, but their relations with nature and the green areas differ significantly. You have grass growing on every corner,” he says nodding at a tuft of grass that sprouting through tarmac.
Joanes Simon-Perret was visiting Riga from the 30th of May to the 1st of June to hold master classes in weaving – according to his unique interpretation of the trade – for the general public next to the “Garden of Freedom” that opened at the Vidzeme Market during the Night of Museums. This is where the results of the workshop, four blankets created at the Aizpute artist-in-residence centre “Serde” – which the artist refers to as live installations, are on display.
During the project, seed ribbons were woven into traditional rag blankets that are regularly watered and where the seeds will germinate, become seedlings and grow into plants during the summer.
“I still don’t know what it will be like – in a week already, these growing sculptures will look completely different, maybe something will break, …I really don’t know.” The artist has created similar flower blankets in the past, but he admits that quite some time has passed for the results to be unpredictable.
Joanes Simon-Perret mastered weaving with a loom at the artist-in-residence centre “Serde” in Aizpute with the help of Ms. Laima. Although they had to rely on gestures and a few simple phrases to understand each other, Ms. Laima, who also came to Riga for the artist’s master classes, said she was proud of her student: “He did a really good job, and he is clever too! He was learning fast, and now he is good enough to teach others.” She also praised Joanes’ imagination, which is of utmost importance in an artist. The woman said she knew of other works created by Joanes in Aizpute, such as the miniature garden projects, where tiny hothouses grow into “the jungle” of real plants, but she is particularly pleased at the plant blanked that depicts Aizpute.
Joanes Simon-Perret first arrived at the artist-in-residence centre “Serde” two years ago, on the back of a moped and with a rabbit in the trunk.
At that time, artists interested in horticulture, rural environment, and the various interpretations thereof were invited to Aizpute. Joanes was the first artist to settle at “Serde”. Before coming to Aizpute he had visited Daugavpils, where he was living near a farm for some time. That is where he was presented a live rabbit, and he took him along wherever he went. During the first day of his stay in Aizpute he tried to hide the rabbit in his room, but the bunny made a daring escape into the backyard. The rabbit went on to become part of several artworks, and a favourite of local kids.
“I map the places where I go, be they a city or a rural area, I study the relationship between the population numbers and the area of farmland,” says Joanes. To this end, he studies maps printed by various publishing houses, uses “Google Maps”, observes people in a given area, goes on walking tours, finds out about the local traditions and, based on his findings, creates own maps that are works of art in essence.
The works are made of all kinds of materials and in all kinds of techniques – canvas, metal, video, photography, installation, but the uniting component in all works by Joanes is green plants and nature.
“This is Marseille,” Joanes explains showing us a blue-grey blanket. The plant blanket, where no seedlings are visible as yet, is dedicated to the European Capital of Culture of 2013. Joanes participated in some of the cultural projects of the city last year. “Marseille is an industrial port city, but this should not, of course, be seen as a literal map – rather as a map of feelings and impressions,” says the artist while showing us the European Capital of Culture 2013 postcard attached to the blanket and other paraphernalia from Marseille that have been weaved into the textile. Next to it is the plant blanket of Riga and two more blankets dedicated to Latvian and French towns – Aizpute and Joanes Simon-Perret’s native town of Montmoreau.
“I come from an agricultural region in France,” says the artist. From a distance, the textile dedicated to Montmoreau resembles what one would expect to see from a plane window when flying over the “chequered blanket” of fields and farmland, whereas the Aizpute installation was created from various materials found in the town.
The French artist’s ideas are in line with the priorities of “Serde” – passing the traditional skills and know-how on to the new generations, as well as artistic interpretation of these skills and traditions. Works by Joanes Simon-Perret prompt us to think about the modern way of life and consumerism, and the ingenious ways in which things we throw away can be used again.
The four plant blankets created by the artist are on show next to the “Garden of Freedom” until the end of summer.
“Flower Blankets” are part of the “Riga 2014” Programme’s thematic line “Survival Kit”.