"Harking from a small village in the Champagne region, not far from Reims, Christian Lapie started out by developing a pictorial technique drawing on the memory of a land profoundly marked by its painful past. In time, the artist progressed from surface to volume by erecting towering figures whose sheer symbolic presence vies with their universal value. Beyond depicting the Champagne region in miniature, Lapie's work has gained ground to achieve a reach that no longer knows any bounds - geographic or cultural. Powerful in their silence, Lapie's figures are carved out of looming tree trunks that he has chosen for their straightness and shaped into human form with a chainsaw, before coating them in a dark gangue that shrouds them in timelessness. Installed in groups or in isolation depending on where he is invited to work, the artist stands them up tall and, all of a sudden, the space engulfs them. At once hieratic, spectral and memorable, Christian Lapie's sculptures play a semaphorical role that highlights the atmosphere of their settings”. Philippe Piguet.
“My sculptures are not object-works. Each work is a reply to an invitation. I always work in liaison with my hosts.What matters is to be invited somewhere to think up and create these figures in a new context. My hosts come to me with an idea in mind, describing their land, their history, their family, their forest ... I simply let myself float around in all that. I attach personal touches here and there. I come up with a setting for the figures so that the magic can unfold. The human touch is essential in my work. It can't work without it. Besides, if I didn't have a project, I wouldn't produce any work. All of my work is done for specific projects. There must always be human relations involved.” Christian Lapie.
Timeless dark figures, that are strange yet protective, Christian Lapie’s sculptures inexorably capture the onlooker’s attention, drawn in by the extraordinary and universal presence that they give off.
Christian Lapie au Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, 2015 - © Éric Sander
He studied at the École Supérieure d'Art et de Design in Reims from 1972 to 1977 and then at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1977 to 1979. In his early days as a painter, he used chalk, oxides and ash on rough canvas sheets mounted on rudimentary frames, before moving on to sheet metal, cement and charred wood.
A creative trip to the Amazonian forest inspired him to take up monumental sculptures. Back home in Champagne, rough and charred wood figures illustrate the bloody history of this World War I battlefield. His universal themes are steeped in musings on our relationship with the world around us and our own identity. Lapie's elementary, sometimes rudimentary, techniques capture the memorable image of an irreducible "being in the world" that is both within and out of our reach. Artists who create by working out in the landscape are inevitably "travelling" artists. Christian Lapie is no exception: for the past decade or so he has been asked to work all over the world: in Japan, France, Canada, Belgium, India...
His work challenges our individual and collective memory, and his installations of spectral figures take shape in carefully chosen, historically-charged settings. His sculptures all occupy their surroundings in the same way - taking them over and filling every available space. In their powerful silence, devoid of arms or face, they probe us and unsettle us. Because Christian Lapie's figures are trees, they often tower over the onlooker, but their blackness and their stature are not a cause for concern in the artist's view, as there is something reassuring and peaceful in the company of trees. Like calm, unchanging sentinels, they hark back to a past, embodying a recollection experienced personally, as if they possessed a human side.