Along the Rue de Moulin A Mer near Nevez, a village close to Pont Aven, there is an ancient site called Trois Fontanes. Perhaps Roman, perhaps older. The namesake is an old spring that has had numerous foundations from different epochs built around it. Adjacent to this fountain, and in the downstream of the spring, long ago, someone planted a grid of trees to control flooding. I found it, as many do, while walking the Sentier Côtier out of Pont-Aven towards Port Manech, its a quick little diversion after you pass the oyster farm at the stone bridge. It was a welcome days walk of fresh air to take a break from my fellowship work I was doing at the Pont Aven School of Contemporary Art.
One of the professors at the school told me about Trois Fontanes and I made quite a habit of walking it on fair weather days. I was struck immediately by the cathedral-like atmosphere of tree lanes and the serene solitude of the space. The rigidity of the tree grid surrounded by wild nature was incredibly austere but equally meditative. I was spellbound.
Then, in the midst of the grid, I noticed two trees that had fallen down. It occurred to me that these trees more than anything activated the grid and made it present. This combined with the poetry of the fallen trees being absent, if a tree falls and no one hears it, etc, I was immediately in love with the site. Their absence was present.
I had noticed the site, and as spring weather improved, I began asking about the feasibility of working on the site. I made a few proposals, and in a surprisingly small amount of time, thanks to Sandra, the school’s admin assistant, I got permission to install. Below are some of the first proposals sketches.
I set about immediately making tests and sourcing material. I new that the trees were planted by humans, possibly monks, for flood management, and I also new that the area had a lot of farms surround it. When I discovered a polyester landscape cloth used by gardeners and farmers, I knew I had a match and I began construction. Each scrim was 6 by 6 meters and had gussets at the corners for rope attachment. The site inspiration was the fallen trees visible in the picture, I saw them as activating the grid by their absence.
I finished fabrication and testing over a week or two, and then installed the final version. I couldn’t really allow the installation to stay up for more than a weekend. A lot of people enjoyed the softness of the installation and the gentle play of light and shadow. The Trois Fontanes project in many ways was a precursor to the Aven Project I would develop and install over the next 18 months. Below are some images, some mine, some by others, of the Trois Fontanes installation.
The piece breathed with the wind, and sadly, I didn’t catch video of the piece, but you can see in the above images the wind moving and playing between the scrims. I was glad to do the installation, and I learned quite a lot from it. Thank you to everyone who helped, my professors at the Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art, and my friends in Pont Aven.