Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dreaming, hand-in-hand with François Houtin


This little post mailed to the universe at large doesn’t really need to be anything but an arrow pointing to François Houtin and Galleria del Leone. I’m not sure how I survived in the world so long without knowing his intricate etchings that have all the rightness of dreams and sometimes remind me of something he must have seen by looking through one of those fey stones with a hole worn through the middle. His etchings are half Earth, half Faerie, half Heaven—unlocking vista on vista through arches and shapes that give way onto marvelous lightening skies. And yes, I know that makes three halves. It would take that many to make up the whole of Houtin.

I love his little garden structures that seem to have grown from some mossy nook, wherever that green dream earth might be found. If I close my eyes and wish hard, perhaps one will seed itself on my back lawn, next to the birch that springs out of an apple stump.

And he’s young as printmakers go—only 61, it seems, and that means time for more dreams. For an instant, looking through the arch of a crumbling ruin onto a vista that slides back forever, you might think him quite as old as Piranesi! I can imagine that Steve Cieslawski likes his work… Houtin has interesting kindred but is quite himself and wonderfully obsessive, it appears, and I am always drawn to the obsessive--those who find "a fire was in my head." That multitude of tiny leaves! The delicacy and intricacy of his dreams! The radiance of skies at the back of his arches and the wonderful eye-peeps drawing our gaze onward and onward from here to mystical there...

I, having the lavish freedom of the mind, shall imagine Houtin as a sort of wandering Aengus, who composes his own "hollow lands and hilly lands" and then passes into them, seeking to catch what "faded in the brightening air." And surely if we can only clamber over the sill of a frame and into one of his etchings, we can "pluck till time and times are done / the silver apples of the moon, / the golden apples of the sun."

How glad I am, François Houtin, that you spent all those hours scratching at a wax ground with your etching needle! True metal and other worlds lay underneath, all the time.

In a mere eye-twinkle you may flit to Galleria del Leone and see many more Houtin etchings in dizzy, heaped-up profusion, along with dream-like titles and a bit of information about the artist and each picture. Here are are few mysteries to entice:



12 comments:

  1. As usual you have garnered another unknown treasure out there on the Net. Thanks again for being a wandering eye in search of the beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In my zany life, I do occasionally stub my toe on something brand new to me and beautiful...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your enthusiastic "little post" is a delightful gift, in and of itself! And i can see why you love his little worlds...

    This is my favorite--this go 'round. and i'll be looking again.
    http://www.galleriadelleone.com/artistes/houtin/big/mes-cabanes.htm

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like that one too. So hard to know what flower to choose when the bouquet is so wonderful! Although that one is a nosegay in its own right, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Marly, wow, what a find and lovely introduction to another printmaker. How come I've not heard of him? His work seems like from another time and world. Did you notice that his first career was as a gardener and landscape architect?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Glad you found him interesting, marja-leena! Yes, I did find that appealing... What a wonderful garden he must have.

    Must run to meet a friend of a friend from out of town.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm not surprised he's a gardener. I used to walk by Stanley Kunitz's garden in Provincetown and it was lovely, so making gardens is apparently quite compatible with making art.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lawsy, yes, creation and gardens have gone together forever! Eden, onward...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fantastically intricate - I could spend hours looking at work like this. There's another world in there.

    ReplyDelete
  10. dear Clare, hello--

    Yes, and how closely he has observed it! I would love to go on a fine Powis-style ramble there with you--and stop at some fantastical tea shop (thie time it's my turn to treat for tea--probably I will pay with curled sticks and flowers.)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Magical work, all rendered with the obsessive's eye for detail. A splendid discovery Marly. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Clive,

    Surprised you didn't know him already, or I would have sent a link... Notice the age remark, birthday boy!

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.