T H E C H A P E L
T H E C H A P E L J O U R N E Y
Before and After
A C L O I S T E R OF R E D E M P T I O N AND R E S T
This is the story of a project which closed a decade of practice in the arts and bore the seeds for the next. It began with a commission of a mural and ended with the full design, build and hand finish of an en-suite apartment in the French Alps. It created a bridge between my identity as a painter and the cultivated sensibilities aimed at shaping spaces and contributing to architectural endeavors with what I now call sensual form.
The brief was to redesign the space in response to the historical context of the gîte - a barn house in French.
Located in a small village in the Alps in earshot of the twilight bells of a medieval church built along the mountainous papal road on the way to Avignon.
The concept of creating a chapel cloister for a weary and well travelled pilgrim was born, with the bells in mind.
The challenge was to harness a nostalgic echo of the past in character and style, yet harmonise it within the parameters of a modern expectation for function and comfort.
* * *
D E S I G N
T H E B O N E S
The apartment was cramped and so the first change was to redesign the room architecturally .
This drawing illustrates the proposed circulation in the room after the re-establishment of the walls. Giving the space and especially the bathroom the opportunity to breathe more with grander proportions suited to the elevation of mind.
With the skilled assistance of Neil and those at Noel Property Services, my designs for architectural adjustments, lighting and plumbing were realised.
* * *
A B E D B E N E A T H T H E S T A R S
The design of the bedstead was singularly important in that it had to compensate for the subsequent lack of storage, lost to the rearrangement of the room. It was designed with a wardrobe, hidden compartments, panelled radiator cover and a slide out writing desk. The arch intended to invite you into the clouds within whose canopy you were permitted to rest.
The arch was salvaged from an 18th century British manor house, whilst the rest was handmade in solid oak, bespoke to my designs.
The craftsmanship of Chris Baxter, artist, carpenter and sculptor, was indispensable in bringing my design to life.
Project Management and Delivery
With the most extensive variety of materials beset to me, from salvage to prefabricated elements and bespoke, as we open apertures it is only necessary to fulfill them. It seems true enough that which is said of architecture, 'you either turn big spaces into smaller spaces, or smaller spaces into bigger ones'. It is a matter of establishing proportions suited to a function.
* * *
T H E S K I N
* * *
D E L P H I C B A T H I N G S U I T E
Listening to forms.
This picture defined my sense of progress with the project. It was to say the least, gruelling, despite the incredible learning curve of wearing a few too many hats. I am an avid skier which was not the only challenge being entirely occupied with work in the mountains throughout Winter. It slows everything down and under such circumstances one can become jaded and disillusioned as to whether it was all worth it. When I took this picture capturing a low vibrational atmosphere conducive to relaxation, I knew I had achieved my goals. It all of a sudden transformed, from a skeleton to a breathing body.
Bringing the mountain home.
Archeology in reverse.
Quite simply, there was no budget for the bathroom floor, and I loathed the idea of having to put cheap tiles back down. It occurred in conversation with the client, who was at that time on a six month sabbatical through South America with his family, that I was in the mountains... We said no more. Four boots loads of my car later and I had assembled a selection of stones, with mineral deposits and a green quartz like composition which anyone would struggle to find in shops with such a profile.
It did however present other problems. None were obviously flat and many too awkward to sit within the given depth. It took an afternoon breaking many of them down until I was satisfied with the shapes and quantity of the material.
When the time came, I spent four days carefully puzzling the stones together to show not only the best surface to walk on, but also to look at. Resulting in a genuinely unique floor, made directly from the surrounding mountains of this homestead. Talk about local!
* * *
F R E S C O
The Fifth Element.
As I mentioned, the original commision was to paint a mural, and for the room to deserve the work we almost had to start again, do all the above, in so creating the most elaborate yet functional frame for a painting - one which you can actually live in. Therefore it was now the task to tell a story, one of a vision, which distilled the sensations intended through the design of the room, its sensual form.
However first and foremost, given the character and nature of materials considered and used in the making of this space, there was no way I was going to paint a mural in acrylics. I looked into doing a spirit fresco with wax/oil on plaster, similar to the technique of Leonardo's Last Supper, however its efficacy is still disputed as that example proves.
As fortune would have it, I found a course in Buon Fresco painting at The Bosa Art school in Sardegna within a two week lead time of the start of the mural project. The director, Carey Mortimer, gave me a practical introduction to the medium, which alongside my research I devoured all I could learn in ten days before I set off back into the mountains to complete the design; which would distil this awesome journey with a picture.
It was called the cloister of redemption and rest, a space of spiritual contemplation caught between extremes.
It had not been overlooked, that in that local medieval church there was an arched allegory of the twelve disciples. Being agnostic, the temperament of doubting Thomas' role in compelling evidence based reason, has always been a stand out figure. His name, Thomas Didymus also means twin, either literally the twin brother of christ or otherwise symbolic of the twinned conscience of man to the divine.
It is with this in mind that I intended to design an allegory of The Twin. A story of parallels along a single journey. Where contrasting elements converge, between blood and water, faith and doubt, love and loss, fight and flight.
Whilst the bull and the bird(angel of death in the clouds) had reference to the divine form of St. Luke - patron saint of painters, divided here by a concept of as above so below. This terrestrial depiction of the divine ordinance of things wanted to simply bring the cows home. As the original use of a gîte or barnhouse was for the keeping of cattle, not least for central heating, the bull is symbolic of the historical context of this home, who now keeps an immortal watch over earthly things.
Buon fresco painting is swift as it challenging. You must complete each section of the design whilst the plaster is fresh and the wall is absorbing the water, drawing in the pigments. The days work is called a giornata, simply a day. This design took 21 giornatas to finish the picture, averaging at sixteen to twenty hours per day. It is not for the faint hearted as without any assistance, it can take about four hours to prepare and apply the plaster, eight hours to paint, two to clean and at some points throughout the day you must also eat! I kept sane with an eleven track playlist on loop for the whole three weeks whose sufficiently variated repetitions maintained the necessary trance like focus.
M I S S I O N A C C O M P L I S H E D
If I managed to keep your attention this far, thank you. Feel free to share this page with anyone you think might be interested and message me with any queries or questions.
contact luke francis haseler
** I AM ON THE HUNT FOR THE NEXT PROJECT OF MATERIALISING OUR DREAMS **