Etienne Tilman 2009, Art critic and exhibition curator

MONOLITH

Slate monoliths have emerged here and there on the Golf Course of Anjou. These human-sized stones were placed there by the sculptor Marie-Noëlle de la Poype. The aim of her artistic approach was not only to scatter sculptures all over the golf course simply to embellish it but also to disclose the nature under the ground, concealed by the lawn.

Marie-Noëlle de la Poype became a sculptor because she was fascinated by matter at a very early stage. In fact, slate was not really a choice. As a child, she was already familiar with the slate quarries in the region where her grandmother lived in the Ardennes. Later, she moved to Anjou, a region of châteaux with roofs covered in slate from the local quarries.

By extracting these minerals from the ground, miners played an important role in building historic castles such as the Château de Plessi-Bouré. Before showing an interest in the finished product, Marie-Noëlle de la Poype focused on the block, and its structure, colour and features.

For the installation at the Anjou Golf Course, she respected the materials in the simplest and most obvious manner: choosing human-sized blocks and arranging them in such a way as to reveal their matter from different angles. As viewers move along the course, they discover sculptures of different shapes, their position (standing or lying down) creating a specific dialogue, depending on whether the décor of the stone is a field, the edge of a wood or an apple orchard. Repetition and the passage from one work to another forces attention on what she shows the most: its matter.

SPLIT SCULPTURE

Although the size of a golf course permits this radical, and even minimalist, attitude – because in this dream setting the material in its simplest apparel is sufficient – Marie-Joëlle de la Poype is just as interested in its structure.

The most distinctive feature of this mineral is its faculty for division into a series of more or less numerous strata, which are more or less fine, to the point of having the thickness of a common slate.

These different layers are sometimes clearly visible, as revealed in the photos of slag heaps that are an integral part of the work of Marie-Noëlle de la Poype.

Some blocks, on the other hand, are more secretive about their age, and their different layers are less visible. But the fissility of the material nevertheless remains its main characteristic. Rather than using this faculty of the stone to show only a multitude of plates, as in the case of roofers, Marie-Noëlle de la Poype tends to see in it a way of naturally dividing the block, as if it contained a series of guides allowing for numerous possibilities of division.

Among these choices, she decided to split the volume into two, three or several pieces. Each piece remains thick to retain the interest of its volume. Each one has two nearly flat faces that can be readjusted perfectly. If the split is clean and does not produce any fragment, she shows a flat and even surface made of small asperities and reliefs that capture the light and make this surface noticeable.

Every piece of the divided block is then arranged in such as way that an element is never far away from the one it was originally stuck to. It is therefore possible to see the connecting surfaces of the different stones.

Each part becomes the echo of the other, and separating them without creating too much of a distance between them introduces a tension between the modules and enables us to merge the elements mentally so that the original block can be reconstructed in our mind.

Each element is an inescapable reminder of the unique and initial stone of the work.

Just as in the theories of fractals, every part is the “memory” of a whole and the whole is a memory of a geological layer, which in turn is a memory of the world, of the history of the earth. These minerals are much older than us and they project us into a past that is frequently much more ancient than the human race.

METTALIC ALLOY

Stone and bone have an aspect that is similar yet different. The subtle relief and grainy patches result in a certain resemblance but the texture makes the mineral matter diametrically remote from the organic matter.

Since the volume and surface are the most important visible parameters sculpture, Marie-Noëlle de la Poype decided to combine everything in a common material, and to achieve this, she turned to another major class of matter existing on the earth: metal. To unite the two elements into a single and unique material, she came up with the idea of making an imprint to bring out a positive image, in three dimensions, in the bronze. These sculptures are therefore an non-interpreted image of reality.

The subject serves as an earthly witness, while the bronze retains its relief and volume, the two elements thus blending into the material. The original bone and stone are no longer identifiable, and in consequence, one enters into another world of sculpture: cast metal.

Stone, bone and metal are in this way inter-related through their formal and global resemblance and the intrinsic differences can only be discerned in the details.

MASTERY

Whether it is a mineral or organic project, Marie-Joëlle de la Poype masters the simple and monumental aspect of her sculptural challenge like a phylogenetic voyage that she inevitably makes us undertake by confronting us with her work.