Curtain of rain
Françoise Naudet, president of the Association des Sept vallées in Haute Côte d'Or, who has passed away, wants to save the village washhouses from indifference. It is at the origin of the awareness that leads, among other things, to the organization of a tour as part of the European Leader II program. The Local Action Group chaired by Martine Eap-Dupin, General Councillor and Mayor of Précy-sur-Thil with the support of Jacqueline Bosset-Chauvière at the Côte d'Or General Council, supports this project of the Fondation de France. Thirteen villages are concerned by the restorations and nine works are commissioned for the washhouses of eight of them. In addition, there is a photographic commission, which is reflected in a book. The entire operation is supported by Whirlpool (Daniel Payan).
The distinctive architectural feature of the Baigneux-les-Juifs wash house is the presence of an impluvium. On entering this 19th-century wash house (1872) lying on the outskirts of the commune, one is struck by the luminosity resulting from the glass roof and by the strict alignment of the stone benches round the rectangular pool. The place is welcoming, but at the same time almost austerely bare. The patrons had the idea of bringing in an artist to carry out a figurative coloured fresco.
Micro-pipes have been installed on the roof right round the building. On entering the wash house a switch only has to be activated for water to start flowing down the slopes of the roof and end up falling back into the pool like a screen of water. This special moment lasts as long as it takes for the mechanical programming to be played out. Thus the artistic intervention highlights a functional specificity of the place. By adopting the form of an immaterial, transparent plane, this work by Caramelle occupies a special place in his creative work, while at the same time resonating with his more specifically pictural pieces. The artist wished to provide the best answer in the context of the commission. Thanks to Caramelle's intervention, the Baigneux-les-Juifs wash house has become a watery, poetic resting place gifted to the community.
The mediator felt that a mural of an abstract nature would be a more appropriate choice. He succeeded in persuading the patrons to reformulate their request along those lines, and suggested bringing in Ernst Caramelle. This artist who has been active on the international art scene since the early 1980s is a painter working in abstraction who succeeds in bringing about a subtle dialogue in space between small-format panels and monumental works; the fragility of the supports and of the techniques used is always highlighted. The economy of the means used gives his work a radicalism which is reinforced by an interest in ephemeral forms of show and elusiveness. Feeling some reservation regarding the decorative dimension which seemed to underlie the patrons' initial wishes, Caramelle, impelled by a desire to educate, entered into a dialogue with them. The project was to change direction totally as a result. In revealing the identity of this wash house, was it not much more important to show off the impluvium to full advantage?