Through Folon’s eyes

« In a pink and sand-coloured sky, a bubble danced. A bubble, an earth … Light as a soap bubble, but serious and burdened with suffering, like an inhabited planet. Inside, a silhouette was calling out, its arms stretched heavenwards, tendering its stifled distress in the silence of a gaze … »

Philippe Delerm, L’Envol

Once upon a time there was a dream. Like a flower preserved intact in the strata of the memory. Images and desires waiting behind the gates of childhood … Then one day, chance opened the park with the rhododendrons for Folon; the one that his youthful imagination used to populate with marvels. An outpouring of life into fancy: the château de La Hulpe was no mirage. What Folon did not yet know was that this place would become home for the children of his thoughts: his watercolours, drawings, posters and sculptures.

In the course of his travels, his discoveries and his encounters, theenchanted Domain of Art has revealed itself to him. That domain, haunted by the likes of James Ensor, Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Giorgio Morandi.

‘To speak of beauty on earth’. Being a marvelling witness to the world, but above all, to flush out your deepest soul, such is the vocation of the artist. In Noces, Albert Camus tells of his passion for ‘the immense stage where tenderness and glory meet in yellow and blue’. He adds: ‘To conquer this that I must apply my strength and my resources’. Folon can but acquiesce. He who evokes that ‘being-in-the-world’ of the watercolourist as a sort of dialogue with paper, water and colours. ‘I cover the surface of the page with water. I add colours. A Terra Cotta colour blossoms in the water. The shapes that form evoke a mysterious landscape. You add an intense yellow: an orange dawn breaks. The tones disappear. You leave Tuscany for Luxor. Your colours carry your dreams away. You are transported from Italy to Egypt in an instant… Everything becomes a matter of colours. You have to take a thousand decisions. You put the page on the floor. The colours continue to mingle. You are the first spectator of your work’.

Painted images are more than objects for contemplation. They are a meeting place, a warm reception, confidences. The coloured shapes watch the passer-by. They harbour something like a secret: the truth lies dormant on the other side of the paper.

Watercolour allows birdmen to fly over a field of silence, through lavender skies. It gives the possibility of weightlessness to a serene funambulist, charisma to the unknown star gazer, its unusual insurance to the basalt sphinx with its burning eye, a persuasive force to each of these strange and familiar creatures who want to remind us that not everything has been made to make the earth a more habitable and fraternal place. This magic therefore operates thanks to gestures. The exact line, the way that the water takes possession of the fibres where the tones blend and become iridescent. The avatars of the image resist, flee and then surrender under the eyes of all. At the end of the imaginary journey, the internal space has become a spectacle – and more than that, a call for complicity.



Sculpting is ‘setting traps for the light’. But it’s also singing of life, with its dramas and its joys. Folon’s birds question the sky, yearning to fly. His boats are turning out to sea: the call of the open. Even though every six hours the sea covers the man that Folon placed on a childhood beach in Knokke, it makes him reappear when the tide retreats. At low tide, life starts anew. To quote Aragon: “Life, a season of man between two tides”.

Sculpting, a work of great patience for Folon, never finds it completion: ‘The seasons will continue my work’, he says, ‘and will give it the colour of time’. In his thoughts, he echoes César, the invisible ever-present confidant, attached like Folon to recreating matter and equipping it with a poetic essence.

A thousand miles from inhabited land, Folon met the Little Prince. He did not ask him to draw a sheep. He threw him down a challenge: ‘Please, draw me life!’ We know what followed. It is well worth a visit to La Hulpe. For those visiting the “Ferme du Château”, the sunsets takes on a particular sweetness. Perhaps because, with their heads and their hearts saturated with images, they can read in the opal, the orange and the mauve of the celestial aquatint, something obvious: the happiness of existence …

André Leick