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Jean Michel Othoniel: The Dream of Water

Aug 26, 2022

“The dream of water”, a new exhibition of glass sculptures and site-specific installations by French artist, Jean Michel Othoniel, is currently on view at the Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace as part of the institution’s 110-year anniversary.

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“The dream of water”, a new exhibition of glass sculptures and site-specific installations by French artist, Jean Michel Othoniel, is currently on view at the Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace as part of the institution’s 110-year anniversary.

The story of this exceptional palace is as legendary as its fantastic architecture. In April of 1879, Ferdinand Cheval, a postman living in the rural countryside in the Drôme region of France, stumbled on a stone “so strange” that it caused him to have a visionary dream of what he needed to build on that site. Dedicating the next 33 years of his life, collecting stones along his postal routes and working mostly by night, this self-taught artist created his “fairy palace and gardens”, a site that continues to delight and bewilder its visitors today.

Jean Michel Othoniel, who remembers visiting the site with his mother when he was 6, recalls: “The castle of giants, sand, shells, dust, sun, coolness, caves, laughter and silence and getting lost in the mystery of childhood”. For “dream of water,” Othoniel has created an homage to Cheval, a fantasy of glass works in hues of blue, pink, purple, and gold that embody themes of light, water and magic; “I can’t wait to surprise Ferdinand Cheval, to lose myself again in the mysteries of childhood, in the world apart of youth and in the joy of knowing how to live and end my life”, he says.

Inspired by the preparatory drawings of Postman Cheval, Othoniel has made a new series of glass sculptures which are installed across the architecture and within the gardens; Two hanging pieces evoking the magic stone that inspired Cheval, a series of stained glass windows that create a pattern of coloured light against the interior walls, a site-specific installation titled “Oracle”, made of stacked, golden glass bricks placed behind the gates that the Postman designed to protect his stones and which are meant to evoke construction, the Sacred and Wanderlust, as well as several fountains, as it was Cheval’s dream to have there be water as part of the palace. “In this intimate dialogue with the “Temple of Nature”, that is the Ideal Palace, the artist makes water and light his favoured materials and, for the first time since Postman Cheval, he has imagined water installations that will allow visitors to experience something as close as possible to that conceived and desired by Ferdinand Cheval.” Also on view inside the palace are Othoniel’s sketches, beautiful ink on paper and watercolours that highlight this project and the vision of Postman Cheval in which “dreams become a reality.”

“The dream of water is on view from May 15 – November 6, 2022.

All photos are courtesy of Jean Michel Othoniel

www.facteurcheval.com

@facteurchevalofficiel

www.othoniel.fr

Oriflammes, 2022
Oriflamme, 2022
Trésors et Fontaines, 2022, Ideal Palace of the Postman Cheval
Trésors et Fontaines, 2022, Ideal Palace of the Postman Cheval
Grotta Azzurra, 2017
Stained glass window
Preparatory drawings for the stained glass windows, pencil and préparatoires au crayon et à l’aquarelle
Project for the Ideal Palace, 2022, watercolour on the preparatory drawing of Ferdinand Cheval from 1882
Project for the Ideal Palace, 2022, watercolour on the preparatory drawing of Ferdinand Cheval from 1882
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