21 June 2013 by Vivienne Kincaid
Modern Art in Historic Settings: Art in the Chapels 2013
During July and August holidaymakers visiting Morbihan in Brittany can experience a unique fusion of the historic local churches with exciting modern art installations. Art in the Chapels is an annual event that invites contemporary artists to be inspired by the religious heritage in the regions of Pontivy and the Blavet Valley. The artists create bespoke works designed to complement or contrast with the religious art and architecture.
Art trail routes through Morbihan
2013 is the 22nd year of Art in the Chapels and this year the event brings together 20 artists and 25 religious venues to create four different routes for you to explore. Each route takes you through the beautiful countryside and picturesque villages of rural Brittany.
It is possible to cycle or drive between venues but cycling is highly recommended to get the most from this insight into Breton life. Bicycles and electric bikes are available to hire from the Tourist Information points and maps and guidebooks are on offer to show you where to go and what to expect.
There is clear signposting on the roads to help you on your way, the key to successful navigation is to continue straight on at any junction unless a sign is there to say otherwise. Guidebooks cost from just €5 and the experience itself is completely free so everyone can enjoy a fascinating cultural day out. You will however see collection boxes at most chapels where you can make a voluntary contribution towards the restoration and upkeep of these ancient buildings.
Art, sculpture & multimedia installations
Art in the Chapels not only provides an opportunity to see modern art that includes paintings, sculptures, textile pieces and even sound and video installations, it also gives a rare chance to see inside some of the historic 15th and 16th century chapels in central Brittany. Many of the chapels taking part in this event are usually closed to the general public unless a specific religious festival or Saint’s Day is being observed.
Inside the chapels you’ll be able to step back in time experiencing the religious history of the region through the scenes painted on the walls and ceilings and the carved wood or stone beams and pillars. Saints play an important role with episodes in their lives and local religious events often forming the subject matter for decorations. Ancient sculptures depicting various saints are also present in many of the chapels.
Event dates & further information
This year Art in the Chapels runs from 5th July to 15th September. Every day except Tuesday during July and August, and for weekends only in September, each chapel has a knowledgeable guide on hand between 2pm and 7pm. The guide will welcome you and can answer your questions about the architecture and artwork on display. Sometimes there are also scheduled guided tours, artist workshops or even musical recitals. Check your guidebook for up-to-date information.
Art in the Chapels is a chance for tourists to take a thought provoking journey through rural Brittany. The carefully planned routes take in villages from through the ages, canals, rivers, farmland and ancient standing stones and megaliths providing plenty of points of interest for your journey between each chapel site. Those travelling on foot or by bike will also be able to look out for local flora and fauna including butterflies, hawks and elusive deer, foxes and even otters. Take a picnic to make a perfect day of exploring and discovery that’s sure to be popular with all ages.
For more information go to www.artchapelles.com or visit a Tourist Information point on arrival in the region.
Chapels of special interest
- Organ recitals at The Chapel Notre Dame de Quelven, Guern. This chapel holds weekly Baroque music recitals played on a faithfully restored organ that dates from 1709. For more information visit www.orgue-de-quelven.org
- The chapel of St Gildas at Bieuzy. Built on the banks of the River Blavet this chapel is hewn into the rock of a cave providing a particularly atmospheric setting for contemporary art installations.
- Chapel de la Trinite in Bieuzy. Gory carvings of monsters swallowing people and green men disgorging monsters adorn the wall plates of this chapel.
To give you an idea of what you might see this year some artwork highlights from the 2012 event included:
- The arching installation by Vincent Ganivet. This piece in the Chapel of Saints Dredeno & Gerand near the village of St Gerand was intriguing, appearing to change in form as you walked around it.
- The striking colours from Japanese artist Mari Minato. This painting adorned the wall and rafters of Chapel Notre-Dame du Cloitre, Quinstinic.
- Dutch artist Lizan Freijsen with her nature-inspired textiles. This beautiful piece in the Chapel of St Trephanie near Pontivy was a woven tufted carpet of natural fibres creating imagery reminiscent of rock formations, fungus or coral.
- The work of thought provoking French artist Renee Levi. This video installation was projected onto the ancient walls of Chapel St. Noyale in Noyal Pontivy contrasting with the richly painted ceiling depicting the story of saints Jean and Trephanie.