Guillaume Bessoule : Sculpting Angels and Demons

3 by Ellen Hall 3

I found Guillaume Bessoule at his worktable, his hands modeling clay into a four-bodied sculpture to be cast in bronze. To complete the piece he is going to learn traditional bronze-making techniques from a Burkina native artist.

Born to a French mother and a Russian father in Cameroon, Guillaume was left to his own devices to explore the exuberant nature of the African jungle. His early companions were serpents, trees and spiders. Later in Morocco he fell in love with the ruins of ancient Greek and Roman cities. “I felt I was completely at home among those old stones.”
From this period dates his passion for ancient and pre-history and his lifelong habit of collecting stones, shards of bones, ancient coins, “looking for a secret or a story inside”.

His return to France lead to teenage rebellion and a nomadic lifestyle, writing songs and playing his guitar in bars and cafés all over Europe.
Along the way he became a Burmese monk in England and an international businessman. Guillaume finally found the harmony that always seemed to escape him in Roussillon at the centre for sculpture in Cabestany. There, in the best tradition of medieval craftsman, the master sculptor transferred his knowledge of the techniques, tools, architecture and materials to his pupil.
Guillaume started working in wood. His totemic figures of this period he sees as protective spirits. To this day Guillaume places pieces of wood or cork or stone at the door of his workshop “to call on the forces of nature”. He believes everything is invested with a divine nature: animals, plants and all the elements, including stone. “If we pay attention to each thing, we find each thing is alive.” Myth and legend with their monsters and seething underworld explain life’s chaos. “The struggle between forces of fire, water, and earth create the power inherent in stone.”

Guillaume himself cuts his stone from abandoned quarries. After a process of touching, observing, and listening (to the mallet tap!) the final form of a sculpture comes from working with the stone. His first influences were African masks and the ancient Greeks. Brancusi, Picasso, Zadkine, and Giacometti are among his modern favourites.

His present show in Banyuls includes a copy of marble capital from Serrabone, complete with angels and lions, and a mortar with carvings of a bull’s head and a plant that reflect the fantastic power of nature.
The gallery on Rue de l’Isle is open every day from 11h00 to 18h00 until 8 March.

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