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marble

karin-van-ommeren-breche-romaine                                                                                          “Brèche Romaine”

When you come into Saint-Béat, you can find the “Brèche Romaine”, an old quarry that dates back to the time of the Romans. The story tells that in this quarry the “Monolith of Lez” has been carved out. A column of almost 30 meters that was meant to become the Column of Trajan. But the column never arrived in Rome and probably stayed in Lez, the nearest town.

But if you take a close look at the quarry you still can find the traces.

©karin-van-ommeren-sculpture

My sculpture “The Monolith” , made of marble of Saint-Béat, is placed next to the “Brèche Romaine”

karin-van-ommeren-marbre-saint-beat                                                                                    the quarry of Rap

The village of Saint-Béat is situated in the south of France in a beautiful narrow valley of the Garonne and  is surrounded by mountains rich of  marble.  At the time of the Romans the place was well-known as “Passus-Lupi” (Passage of the wolfs) and famous for its quarries.The marble was used to built Roman towns as Lugdunum Convenarum, which is called Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges today.

karin-van-ommeren-saint-beat

                                                                                                            Saint-Béat
Later on the marble was used for many monuments and palaces. During Louis ⅪⅤ  it was used for the fountains and sculptures in Versailles.Today new quarries are used in Saint-Béat. The quarry of Rap ,in the mountain of Rie, is one of the biggest underground quarries . It is almost 40 kilometers long and divided into different floors.karin-van-ommeren

Since the year 2000 the “Association Marbre & Arts” (www.marbre-et-arts.fr) organizes a festival of sculpture and marble (“Festival de la sculpture et du marbre”) in Saint-Béat. During three weeks every summer the village becomes again “the city of marble” and the marble of Saint-Béat has again all the attention, for its history and as material for contemporary sculpture. And every year a monumental sculpture is placed permanently in town and this year I had the honour to make a sculpture for Saint-Béat.

©karin-van-ommeren-ilario-bessi-beeldhouwer“Artisans working in Marble” historical photograph, Pietrasanta, by Ilario Bessi, from his book: “Il Marmo Ieri e Oggi.”

“Every block of stone has a statue inside”

That is what Michelangelo said. But how to get it out of that block? That has been a question for some time.

©karin-van-ommeren-sculptor

One way was to make a model and copy it into the stone. In the 17th century they worked with frames which were put on top and beneath the stone. From these frames one could find the perpendicular lines and measure the volume that had to be taken off.

Later on the craftsmen started using compasses. By putting some main points on the stone they are able to take very precise measures that help to carve the form in the stone.

Both methods are still used today, but new techniques showed up.

©karin-van-ommeren-stonesculpture

Now we live in a very different period. We have robots to carve the stone. Computer guided machines cut the shape out of the stone. A new approach which opens new possibilities. It could, for instance, be easier to make multiples in stone sculpture, which is usually only done in bronze sculpture. And another important fact is that these special computer programs also offer us a way to keep records of cultural, historically important monuments.

One can feel the form inside the stone, but our eyes aren’t good enough to see until the shape of the stone starts to guide the eyes.

I make my sculptures in Pietrasanta, Italy.

Visit my website: www.karinvanommeren.com

Pietrasanta is a town on the coast of Tuscany, Italy, in the province of Lucca. It is situated in the foothills of the Apuan Alps, some kilometers from Carrara. The town has been called Italy’s “Little Athens” because, for centuries, artists from all over the world have come here to make their sculptures in stone or bronze. Since the 15th century Pietrasanta is famous for its connection with marble and it has a long tradition of excellent “artigiani” (craftsmen) for stone. It is also the home for a large number of high quality bronze founderies for art.

Today sculptors still come to Pietrasanta and rent a place in one of the  studios for a long or short period of time. Here the old tradition of stone sculpture by hammer and chisel can be found next to computer sent machinery that cuts the stone with high precision.

For me this town always has been very important for my work. The knowledge of the craftsmen, the excess of different types of stone and the tradition of stone sculpture in the daily life of the people of Pietrasanta has always been an inspiration.

Visit my website:     www.karinvanommeren.com

Two men splitting a block in the quarry. The diamond wire only came into use in 1978.
Hard work for tough people. Quarrying marble has been a way of life in Carrara and in the quarries of the Apuan Alps for centuries. Many died doing the work. Streets here have names like “Via dei Martiri del Lavoro” … the “Martyrs of Work Way… ” A complicated history.

The “Lizza”, the transport of the marble blocks  from the quarries in the mountains.

The photos are from the book “Il marmo….ieri e oggi”  (Marble… yesterday and today) by Ilario Bessi, published by Societa Editrice Apuana, it describes how the marble industry in and around Carrara has progressed over the years.

In the first century BC, Greek marble started to be replaced by the Apuan marbles. The seaside city of Luni was built, from where stone blocks were shipped to all parts of the ancient world.

Important monuments arose, like The Pantheon and The Trajan Forum. Michelangelo came to Carrara in 1518 to search for the blocks to create his sculptures.

In the last century Carrara marble was exported all over the world and used in an infinite number of  monuments.

The book shows the history of methods for quarrying, transporting and processing marble in the past through a series of beautiful pictures by Ilario Bessi, accompanied by a short and fascinating text by Alessandro Conti.

I, in my own way, continue in the old tradition … albeit with more modern tools. I make my art in my studio in Pietrasanta, the center for stone sculpture in Italy.

Visit my website:  KarinvanOmmeren.com

“What art offers is space, a certain breathing room for the spirit”
– Updike

I’m posting more of the sculptures that I made – inspired by the marble quarries of Carrara. I call these works “The Carrara Series.”

In this landscape, where the surface has been stripped off by centuries of human interaction, one can sense the powerful resilience of nature.

Here are two sculptures I made in this series, both in granite of course.

Carrara is located in the Apuan Alps and is where the world’s finest marble comes from. I use primarily granite – from all over the world – like Africa, America, India… and Brazil. I make my art in Pietrasanta, a short half-hour from the quarries.

Visit my website at KarinvanOmmeren.com

Hands always have to touch the stone. Its color and crystals contain a mystery and harmony I try to hold on to. The memory of an image materializes itself. Everything I knew has flown away; all but this image that looms up as a diaphanous truth. Hands touch the stone to see and like a piano tuner tunes its chords the stone resounds the form.

I  make my art in my studio in Pietrasanta, in the marble and sculpture center of Italy.

Visit my website at www.KarinvanOmmeren.com