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Administrative Centre of the Ministry of the Walloon Region (Jambes)

THE ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRE OF THE MINISTRY
OF THE WALLOON REGION in JAMBES (Namur)
 

The constitutional evolution in Belgium has caused a growing number of responsibilities to be granted to the federate powers. Consequently, from the beginning of the nineties onwards, the young Walloon Region has been forced to find the necessary space for the installation of its new administrative services. For the first constructions of the future buildings of the Walloon Region, it was the decree adopted by the French Community (percentages applicable to the integration of works of art) which was in force (Tilot and Bovesse II buildings).

Soon, however, the Walloon Region , determined to succeed in its implantation in its new capital, set up its own Arts Commission. Before even being officially brought into being, it had to work on the organisation of four contests, meant for the conversion of the new architectural complex which the Walloon Region was building, on the new Place de la Wallonie (Wallonia Square), in Jambes.

These contests concerned the conversion of the main Patio and the reception halls of the three buildings. The appointed laureates were Françoise and Georges Pirson (Patio), Costa Lefkochir (Hall of building I), Francis Dusépulchre (Hall of building II), and Anne Mortiaux (Hall of building III).

 


© Transit photo

 

 

 

 

 

The patio : Françoise and Georges Pirson
 

“ Telluric undulations”
 

The first contest, which was organised in 1993 by the publicly instated Arts Commission, was not as simple as it appeared. The artists, architects or landscape planners had indeed been asked to conceive the conversion of the open patio of the building of the central services of the ministry of the Walloon Region ; that is  a quadrilateral whose sides are 20 metres long, surrounded by high facades expressing a set of constructions : various architectural signs, alternating colours, light contrasts of curved and straight lines, and so on. The architectural whole can be read as a purified and contemporary interpretation of the vocabulary of classical architecture.

Being aware of the fact that it is useless to compete with facades in this kind of closed space, the two laureates, Françoise and Georges Pirson, respectively sculptor and architect, have preferred to put the emphasis on the essential qualities of the ground. Their project is based on the idea that the ground naturally gushes forth, like a regular outgrowth caused by telluric movements. The central part of the patio, covered with ochre stoneware slabs (psammite or sandstone from the Condroz plateau), seems to warp under the effect of an irrepressible interior force. This smooth curvature contrasts with the vertical movement imposed by the architecture and gives concrete expression to a working principle Georges Pirson is particularly keen on : "The architecture adheres to the body of the earth which it marks and thickens with its own material".”


© Y. Fonck

Iron vertical elements gush forth from the ground to which they are joined by tighteners. This elevating movement recalls the presence of Man (Homo sapiens), one of the major stages of human morphological development was the passage to the upright position. Also on the bare ground, five spheres in oxidised iron, placed on an exponential curve, suggest a long circular movement. Their presence can be read in many different ways. They can recall the orbiting of the planets around the sun, suggest pure iron masses spat out by the nourishing earth, the representation of the electrons, and much more. Finally, five quadrangular blocks covered with fine sheets of stone make up a new regular alignment, whose interrelation with the other movements contributes to the amplification of the constructed perception one may have of space.

 


© Y. Fonck


© Y. Fonck


© Y. Fonck


© Y. Fonck

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hall of bâtiment I : Costa Lefkochir

“ Disclosed memory ”
 

For animating the first reception hall of the building, the artist Costa Lefkochir has shown the worth of his painting on two large wall paintings covering the totality of the walls (3 x 12 m each). In the heart of some kind of solar yellow, a black shape spreads out, slowed down in its explosion by the weight of its own matter. Being thick, it grows and releases dark emanations which mix with the prevailing yellow to produce a scale of colours, going from earthy browns to luminous oranges. The great wall painting allows the painter to establish a dynamic dialogue with the pictorial space. Its gesture should be right : concealing the surfaces which have to open, letting the others protrude, amplifying the shades. More than ever, painting requires the engagement of the painter in an intense close encounter. The wall bears the marks of it, but these are not distressing scars which should be concealed. They are right and measured. The lyrical outpouring remains precise ; it does not give way to chance, nor to randomness.

    
© Y. Fonck                       © Y. Fonck

At the very heart of the form, fragments of newspapers show up as a filigree. It is there, in its vital core, that the black form preserves the memory of the time that passes. Excerpts compiling human catastrophes, planetary events, dramas and disillusionments which occupy everyday life, and sometimes the moments of brief happiness which light up life and make it possible. Lefkochir's painting is intended to be a call for consciousness, for understanding history as a means of progress for humanity. "He who does not know the past is condemned to relive it", wrote George Santayana, an American philosopher of Spanish origins (1863-1952). This sentence perfectly summarises the artist's approach. Furthermore, this monumental realisation closes a cycle which the artist had dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi.

 

 

 

The hall of bâtiment II : Francis Dusépulchre

“ The monochromes polychromes ”
 

Whereas Costa Lefkochir plays on the minute variations of colours and the refined nuances which his palette offers, Francis Dusépulchre chooses another way. One is not better than the other, quite the contrary ! Every artist looks for the most adequate way of expressing himself and the plastic forms can be distinguished from each other. Brought to treat an important wall section jolted with disconnections    and disrupted by two imposing columns, Dusépulchre decides to amplify the plastic presence of this wall by means of a giant arch, thrown at both sides of the two pillars. This visual "bridge" is composed of metal panels, painted in an incandescent red and a dark blue. The first colour answers a function of "signal", the second a function of "dialogue".


                  
                   © Y. Fonck "Ombres dessinées"


© Y. Fonck

Although rigourously monochrome, these bright panels react differently to the light. The luminous sparkles deepen the colours or make them more radiant, according to a modulation which varies in relation to the place it occupies in the hall. The spectator then has the impression that the shades vary in accordance with his movements. This is particularly the case for the blue that the artist has chosen because of its qualities of modulation to the light.

This phenomenon is emphasised by the essential characteristic of Francis Dusépulchre's artistic approach : the sculptural animation of the surfaces. The panels which constitute the arch are not simply affixed level with the wall. On the contrary, they get loose of it and search to distance themselves from its vertical planeness.The panels are fixed at different levels, slightly jutting out from the others and from the wall. In this way, they always absorb and reflect the various luminous impulsions differently. Thus the simple evidence of the monochrome gives way to a subtle play of nuances, to a theatre of misty shadows, whose darkness and light are the main protagonists.

 

 

 

The hall of bâtiment III : Anne Mortiaux

“ Return to the sources ”
 

The entrance hall of the third building of the administrative complex of the Walloon Region, in Jambes, is probably the most "ungrateful" for the artists. Because it offers a rather cramped ground surface, divided by vertical partitions with irregular lengths, and because two massive columns go right through the middle of it. However, Anne Mortiaux has found a remarkable solution there to integrate a work of art, in accordance with her plastic approach : she has associated the irregular course of the surface with the outlines of the meanders of the Meuse and its twenty-four affluents and confluents.

Her first intervention then was to inscribe the course of these various rivers on the blue stone of the hall. Breaking the monotony of the representation, this course which starts outside the building thus seems to animate the ground with an internal shivering, as though it had its own nervous system. Consequently, Anne Mortiaux has placed twenty-four parallelepipedons of water against the partitions, containing the water of each river, in each case drawn from their own source. In order to do that, she patiently went back the courses of the rivers, up to their most remote point of gushing out. Photographs, fixed in a frieze at the far end of the hall, give a commentary on these "expeditions", guided up to the sources of these rivers.

Aesthetically very harmonious, Anne Mortiaux's integration is further enriched by a conceptual substance. The patient return to the sources which has guided her search is more than an approach, it is a way of looking at the world, a philosophy of life, one could be tempted to write. A way of getting back to the origin of things, including to the origin of oneself. Water, source of all life, becomes the pretext of an extremely personal introspective journey. The work suggests a way of looking at the essence of things, to cross the partitions, to surmount obstacles and hindrances which loom up, with the irresistible determination of the water flowing towards the sea.

© Y. Fonck

©  Y. Fonck

©  Y. Fonck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Y. Fonck

 

© Y. Fonck

 

© Y. Fonck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Y. Fonck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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