Bernard Varvat managed a pottery workshop in Grenoble from 1962 to 1966. He sculpted wood between 1985 and 1988, before starting to sculpt stone in 1995. In his workshop in Bouc-Bel-Air in Provence are stored blocks of marble with different origins and of different colours: pink marble from Portugal, marble from Carrare in Toscany, beige marble from the Dauphine region in France, blue granite from Brazil or serpentine from Africa.
Bernard Varvat systematically uses a six-faced block to work on, saying that it is "the most neutral shape for me... which does not make me think of a known or symbolic shape; it is an object with no past, a block that leaves me to my own devices, free to create". Before beginning sculpting, he makes sketches and models in clay. The work of a sculptor is physical. He has to wear protective clothing, gloves and mask; he describes his relationship with the stone as "both adversary and united". Chips of stone and dust fill the workshop, and the sound of the chisel on the stone is very distinct. The stone reasons and the sculptor listens. Little by little, the tools change and the volumes take shape; the disc cutter gives way to the small pick, the small pick to the point, the claw chisel is replaced by the rasp, which is in turn replaced by the file and sandpaper. Bernard uses thinner and thinner sandpaper, before he finishes with the polishing.
Bernard Varvat's sculptures are abstract: "Abstraction places us outside our usual way of thinking. We cannot appeal to our ability to recognise, as there is nothing to recognise; the only thing we can do is to refer to our own experiences and to let ourselves re-discover primary feelings: our emotions."
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