In Praise of the Sublime (English)
Lire aussi / Related : L'esprit des lieux
For four hellish years, the fields of Champagne-Ardennes witnessed the most horrific scenes of war. Four years of blood and fury unleashed by the murderous folly of man's thirst for power and domination, the region became a gigantic battlefield, and the ugly wounds of hatred scarred the once tranquil landscape permanently. The First World War shaped the lie of the land as surely as any geological phenomenon, marking its passage deeply and permanently in the rich soil.
The children born here are the children of this soil. Their blood and bones are the blood and bones of the Glorious Dead. Their memories are the memories of a region torn apart by war.
Christian Lapie's family has lived for generations in a small village on a secluded stretch of the Vesle River. The smiling landscape where the artist lives and works gives no clue of the trauma buried deep in the entrails of the earth. This land is his nation, his cradle; for some twenty years, he has drunk deep of its inspiration.
Fascinated by the idea of roots and rootedness, the artist first set out to explore his creativity in paint, using earth as a material able to bear life, carrying the seeds of a series of abstract images, their universal signs framed in polyptychal compositions, the better to trace a line of demarcation round the land and its memories. After exploring the notion of the genius loci, the spirit of place, Christian Lapie's work began to examine the idea of volume, in powerfully architectural installations whose historical references were a reminder of painful adventures past. An example of this is the work entitled War Game-a life-sized reconstitution of the table where the act of unconditional surrender that ended the SECOND World War was signed-which was for a time the object of heated debate, committing the artist to his own subjective vision of history.
After this, Christian Lapie used all the plastic materials that can first of all be seen as part of a fetishist economy-votive objects, structures in the form of altars or temples, and so on-before finally sculpting the archetypal figure of Man in the memory of his epiphany, or his tragedy. Over the years, the artist has come to realize the importance of the dialectical play of global and local issues, or how a planetary microcosm carries within itself the seed of a historic dimension that knows no frontiers, that is common to all the world's many cultures.
It is as if he had taken upon himself the curse that Jean Genet cast on Giacometti: "No, no, the work of art is not destined for the generation of children. It is offered to the numberless throngs of the dead. Who accept it. Or refuse it." Christian Lapie has chosen his camp: the symbolic figure. The figure he imagined is hewn roughly with a chainsaw from one block of wood-a hieratic trunk trapped in a dark mire of creosote, without arms, without legs, without a face. It revives the power of the statue as art. Christian Lapie's figures neither advance nor retreat. They are simply there, for all time. They always have been. For all time, for the span of human memory, for eternity.
From one country, one continent to another, the groups and processions of figures that the artist has displayed have always been in communion with the site, its culture, its heritage, even its current situation. Christian Lapie's symbolic figures, which, to quote Genet again, have "that air, at once soft and hard, of passing eternity," possess the rare quality of openness and offering which distinguishes great works of art, which manage to encapsulate something of Man's memory and his supremely sublime history.