some things we always dream about, others we experience only once.
my senses are invariably always tuned towards passion; whether it be medium, subject matter or technique. i believe it is what the creative spirit is made of. the postman ferdinand cheval’s ideal palace is a striking example of just such determination, sacrifice and expression.
after turning off the motorway and hours of creeping across the landscape we arrive eventually, exhausted and hungry at a wind still valley of 43 degrees. we eat in the car with the motor running; a selection of delicacies purchased from the paul bocuse market in lyon. under the trees a couple of people lie motionless in the slow heat. there’s some sort of bric-a-brac market on the far side and a lot more people than i expected. it is hauterives.
we follow a sweating english couple to the entrance. once inside, the answer to the crowds become clear; unbeknownst to me it seems that a movie about the artist was released just the previous season.
not really looking anything more than an unfinished sandcastle at first glance, the structure reveals itself slowly as a labyrinthine coagulation of dreams, visions and hopes. walking through the structure confronts one with an eerie sensation, partly because you know every piece of it was imagined and shaped by the artist’s own hands; a physical habitation of his claustrophobic dreams. the poetic phrases and anthropomorphic figures form part of vignettes which, in various architectural styles, combine to shape this eclectic temple dedicated to one man’s irrational endeavour. one can hardly imagine how the fantastically detailed imagery was given form as textured reliefs and organic shapes, moulded from rocks which he collected and built up with lime plaster during those 33 years. the unlikely narrative of styles together with cheval’s personal dedications may seem out of character for a daydreaming postman, but that is exactly what makes this a monument of such importance; an affirmation of a stubborn creative spirit’s victory over prejudice and adversity.