Folon Museum, La Hulpe

Guest blogger: Olivia de Vos

The Folon Museum is located in Domain Solvay, La Hulpe

I leave the green forest and rolling lawns of the Chateau de la Hulpe and amble into the courtyard, surprised at a couple of nondescript  farm sheds and an amazing sculpture of a two-dimensional man about to fly away. His body is an open rectangle, and I step inside; the temptation irresistible. My thoughts are drawn back to the courtyard where my eye catches a quirky fountain, a man’s head, and yet another sculpture; the body is nondescript as if only the head is important, the mind ready to take off.

I walk over to the dark door and go inside, pay a sizeable entrance fee for what I think is a small white shed, but my curiosity is piqued. I watch a simple short DVD of birds taking flight and a book opens, I step inside and stare in wonder at the soft lighting, the shiny wooden floors and a myriad works of art. They all seem weird, very simple and always there is travel: a boat, a suitcase, birds, the sphinx … Baudelaire’s Invitation au voyage comes to mind. Indeed, Folon is inviting me to escape, anywhere, by any means, it couldn’t be difficult. After all, it only takes a couple of brush strokes for his birds to fly away, some simple mixing of a rainbow of colours and his steamboat departs, framed within a suitcase!

In the next room, I meet Folon on a large screen. He explains that the most fascinating thing is the blank page, and the next, the mixing of colours. Here I translate and say for me it would be putting words on paper, the act of creation, of making myself laugh or cry or simply enjoy, or stare in amazement: art should be a verb!

I walk down the stairs wondering what will happen next: the unexpected, of course – I see myself in a small room a million times over, reflected in dozens of mirrors. I stagger out of the multiple recurring images and leave the book, to enter a small garden and there he is again, the man, this time with an umbrella fountain, immobile but about to leave.

Children will love the Folon Museum

I cross the courtyard, enter another barn door into a dark starry cocoon. In the middle of the room is the man, his body there but unimportant, this time on a ladder. He has become a circus artiste. I watch him as he goes through his paces to the music, on one hand, on both hands, a dance, the dance of life. I am amused and mystified and reluctantly leave this room. Life must go on.

A mirror draws me into a workshop, plaster casts, hammers, shelves and the man with the hat, always present, sometimes as a centaur or a sphinx, simply waiting. I am disturbed by a constant background noise and I peer around the corner to the sight of never-ending breaking of waves on a huge screen, and, seemingly dejected, the man with the hat sits on the beach. There is no invitation here, just some unattainable longing to be elsewhere.

I walk out and sit on the bench in the sun-baked courtyard, energised and exhausted, at the same time curiously satisfied: I have met Folon!

To visit this delightful museum (children will love it) and for more information, consult this website.

Jean-Michel Folon was born in Uccle and studied architecture. He lived in Paris where he started drawing and was first recognised in the States. He illustrated some of Kafka’s books and later lived in Monaco. He started the Folon Foundation at the Chateau de la Hulpe just outside Brussels. Folon died in 2005.

Copyright and photographs by Olivia de Vos

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