Pierre Stiefel Artistic background

September 7th 2014 in Mulhouse (Alsace, France):

I brade all my furniture on the pavement of the building in which I occupy a spacious apartment of 1000 foot square. Strange to observe his movable property offered to the public and see them drop off in the four directions of the city. In the late morning, I have almost nothing, I feel almost naked ... I'll be able to leave lighter ...

I am still an architect in practice since 1999: architecture is a real passion for me, but I do not share the evolution given to the profession. I have to leave, leaving behind a career of which I am proud, with some beautiful victories and fantastic human adventures ... to reach the sea! My brother, who is established and works on the peninsula of Giens can accommodate me for a short amount of time. I only have one job waiting for me ... in Thailand: a short mission of a few weeks at Starboard, the world's leading manufacturer of Windsurf boards and Stand Up Paddles. I got this job by successfully submitting, during the annual dealer meeting of the firm in Spain, my ideas of graphic design boards ... in a totally spontaneous application. Will follow with Starboard two beautiful years of collaboration ... but that's another story. I arrive on the peninsula of Giens at the end of 2014 to start a new life, delivered to myself in an environment that I had the chance to choose ... where the sea is omnipresent. I feel very quickly physically and mentally refreshed by daily sessions of Windsurfing, Stand Up Paddling, snorkeling and some sailboat transporting as a sailor.

I find back the firm intention to give a voice to what lies deep inside me and to pursue, at all costs, a personal development in line with my deep convictions.
It is a return to the sources, the nature, the sun and its light: everyday, I think of "Homo delphinus", a dolphin man so dear to Jaques Mayol and let me be guided by the call of the sea.

I maintain a very important complicity with my life location, this thin territory, this in-between: the Peninsula of Giens. All the woods I work with have stranded on its shores or sailed near them. Art, like language, has enabled us to distinguish human groups in remote times from specific geographic locations. With the people who share my life here, my work is the expression and the defense of an art of living: that of living in harmony and listening to nature, of oneself also to evolve at sea .
The sea remains an exceptional space, where the adventure is not dead, which invites us, in a long and intimate relationship, to savour fully these too short moments of life.

As Jack London points out in "The Snark's Cruise", sailing at sea allows one to "go through the gamut of human emotions". "It's an opportunity to take a look at yourself, to converse familiarly with your soul" and then "there is training and discipline, learn to discern imperfections and then, inevitably, to master them". So many values that are shared by the small "beach community" to which I belong now. Strong attachment to a place, its people, its climate too ... I organize myself with the seasons, the winter and spring periods being more conducive to the discovery of beautiful pieces of wood: big storms are indeed more frequent and it is after a good gale of East wind that the sea bring back to the coast all its treasures. On the other hand, a little before the beginning of the summer, until the autumn, beaches are cleaned daily by the municipal maintenance services to welcome the tourists who flock then massively during this period.

Then remain the small coves, always accessible by the sea, where, whatever the time of the year, I receive, like the most beautiful of presents, every piece of wood that the sea agrees to give me.

Ferdinan Artistic approach

« Once upon a time there was a piece of wood ... So the story begins. »
First lines of Carlo Collodi's « Adventures of Pinocchio ».

Ferdinan was born from a simple piece caught in a pile of woods, stranded on one of the small coves of the Giens peninsula: a piece of wood polished by sand, sun and salty waves. I often collect driftwoods from the sea, scanning the coast on my Stand Up Paddle greatly facilitating the access to the small creeks and rocky corners, difficult to access on foot. I bring back my precious loot and like a "Geppetto" in his workshop at ground, I work with my hands each piece brought back with my paddle. These woods have lived, traveled: they have a history, sometimes several, following the intervention of man and the use he gave them: wooden planks, pallets, hulls, chords and fittings of stranded boats, logs, barks, stumps, roots ... All these pieces, which I had the chance to find, returned to touch land of men after a stay at sea. Stranded, at the end of a secret journey with unknown travel length and distance, they have rounded shapes, relaxed and have a special patina.

« Sculpture is the form that has become emotion. »
said Paul Valéry.

The woods, carved by the sea, find an all natural nobility to the eye and the touch as well as the desire takes me to extend their history ... again ... I apprehend my work by following a fundamental rule. I do not transform the material, as a sculptor carves the wood: it is the sea which, above all, takes care of it. This principle being established, I try to invent my own artistic gesture, by developing an adapted and innovative manual skill. Each piece is a new poetic essay, specific, dictated by the shape and patina that the marine elements have given it. Brought back to the ground and once well dried, the wood is simply fed with turpentine and linseed oil, a sweet mixture of perfumes that hovers in my workshop. Follows a search for associations, combinations with other driftwoods or abandonned objects by men on the beach as children's toys forgotten on the sand or lost fishing tools. Natural elements given back to the earth like cuttlebones, skeletons of animals, marine plants or twigs dried by the winds do complete my palette ... With a formation of architect, I love to play with the scales of all these selected elements available in the nature, to develop a whole bestiary, reveal creatures, create scenes, landscapes or some underwater devices with reduced dimensions ... In a quest of sense and harmony, I take on the roles of embalmer, paleontologist, model maker, assembler, painter, sculptor, hydronautical engineer, narrator, voyeur ... My way of doing things is uninhibited, my universe without borders and my poetry free of any expression. My approach can recall some practices appreciated in the "primitive arts", like some ethnic African or Eskimo tribes, Inuit, Yupik, of the North who compose their art with what their environment, sometimes rough, has to offer them. Similarly, a parallel to "primitive art" which originally meant foreign art, the art of fools and, especially for me, the art of children can be issued: indeed, a child arrives better than anyone to identify a face or an animal in the shape of a cloud. This is a classic example of pareidolia. Certain pieces of driftwood do reveal to me, when I find them, obvious promises of pareidolic manifestations.

« Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible. »
Said Paul Klee.

For my part, I come to see a form of art made by the sea itself, art of nature which I will only be humble.