Saturday, January 23, 2016

Karine Benvenuti: ceramicist/sculpltor

Karine is an artist after my own heart.  If I weren't so wayward I am sure we would see each other more often. 

For her artist's biography let me begin by stating that Karine was born in Marseille in 1959,  lived for some years in Canada , then Paris and has now settled to work and live in the South of France.  

When I met Karine and Olivier as a couple, they were living in a small village outside of Nice and Karine had already begun the study of ceramics.    But for the last ten years her work has gone from strength to strength and she is now creating unusual and powerful works in clay

Karine started with a classical education,  learned to work the ceramicist wheel,  then left both traditional worlds behind to throw herself into an art form which is becoming a fresh statement of our times...  that of contemporary sculpting of earth, of clay.   You could say that she works the soil of France like her French forbears.

It is certain that Ms Benvenuti's art is influenced by nature which creates for me a primordial attraction to it.  She starts with nature's panoply of clay soils( some very difficult to come by),  and searches out the hidden secret in each... its foibles and its hidden offerings. 

Karine invents tools and methods,  often using just the force of her own body to pummel the clay towards or against its natural inclinations.  The results are a variety of shapes and forms whose textures call out to be caressed and explored. 

There is a noted subtlety of glazes and enamels in the work.  My guess is that the art is even more about the tending of the fires; the movement and gesture of creation;  the conflict between artist and clay.    With most abstract artists one starts out with an idea of where you want to go but the material may say otherwise.  I imagine it's that way with the material of earth. 

Karine was awarded the prize of the Ateliers d'art de FRance for her oeuvre, Matrice, at the International Biennale of the nearby village of Vallauris a few years back.  

The large sculptures of Karine Benvenuti ( and some of her smaller objects) can be seen at l'Ancienne Poste Gallery, (an hour an a half outside of Paris) which specializes in contemporary ceramics. .    You can also visit her website at  for more information and some fine photos. 

And for those who would like to own a smaller piece ,  Karine has some of those works available at her studio in Contes.  These include porcelain tea and coffee bowls and a line of neck pieces on ropes ( I hesitate to call them necklaces). 

My coffee bowl   photo by Mary M Payne

 I use a Karine Benvenuti coffee mug in the mornings.   Monsieur, aficionado of rare green teas, has two small tea cups of Karine's of which he is quite fond.   I also own a small Benvenuti piece that reminds me of all the elements of earth.  

Sculpture by Karine Benvenuti  photo by Mary M Payne

Here are some photos of my recent visit to the studio that Karine shares with Olivier Planchon in the village of Contes.

Mas in which is found" l'atelier de Karine Benvenuti et Olivier Planchon", Contes  photo by Mary M Payne
Entrance to studio of Karine Benvenuti, Contes    photo by Mary M Payne

Thierry, Patrick and Karine Benvenuti in atelier of Karine     photo by Mary M Payne

Necklaces and earrings designed by Karine Benvenuti   Photo by Mary M Payne

Friends admire the texture of Karine's neck piece.  photo by Mary M Payne
Work of Karine Benvenuti    photo by Mary M Payne

A row of tea bowls by Karine Benvenuti  photo by Mary M Payne

Sculpture by Karine Benvenuti    photo by Mary M Payne

Sculpture by Karine Benvenuti  photo by Mary M Payne

Containers by  Karine Benvenuti  

sculpture by Karine Benvenuti  photo by Mary M Payne
I call this one the "hippo"....  Studio of Karine Benvenuti    photo by Mary M Payne

bowls and small sculpture of Karine Benvenuti     photo by Mary M Payne

Olivier Planchon: Luthier

 Not long ago we had the privilege of having a visit from Olivier and Karine, who Monsieur and I are pleased to claim as long time French friends.  

 Recently both artists of this couple have consolidated their studios to the nearby town of Contes in the Alpes Maritime, an art loving village whose mayor welcomed them by offering a beautiful rustic farmhouse (mas) owned by the city that Karine and Olivier bought and are continuing to renovate.

  My friend, Patrick was kind enough to gather a posse of pals to go visit Contes for Karine's studio open house.  I will do a post on both of these artists.   Let's visit Olivier's studio first.

Back of the old house showing the animal pens , photo by Mary M Payne

A new angle on an old by Mary M. Payne

Newly created steps and hand crafted door to entry to Olivier's Studio     photo by Mary M Payne

Olivier Planchon is a luthier by profession.  For his work as a stringed instrument maker,  he has already been awarded the Finest Artisan in France  (Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2007) as a maker of instruments that have a recognizable sound......and he hasn't even been at it for that long. 
In a former life, Olivier and Karine lived in Paris where he was an art director in advertising.  They dreamed of leaving that life and starting out in a entirely new field away from the city. 

 Olivier made his first guitar following the instructions of a book and showed it to Daniel Lesueur,  a classic "luthier" who was impressed and offered to became Olivier's guide and instructor.  

  Now Olivier specializes in making handmade concert guitars  and "ouds"( he is holding the beginnings of one in the photo below) for professional musicians and passionate amateurs.  It takes about a year to painstakingly construct an instrument. ... Olivier spending 150-200 hours for each instrument he builds.

Olivier Planchon photo by Nice Panorama

Studio of Olivier Planchon   photo by Mary M Payne

Atelier of Olivier Planchon   photo by Mary M Payne

Atelier de Olivier Planchon    photo by Mary M Payne

"Utiles" de Olivier Planchon   photo by Mary M Payne

Body of an Oud made by Olivier Planchon by Mary M Payne

Wood carving tools, studio Olivier Planchon, Contes   photo by Mary M. Payne

M. Planchon is particularly proud of the "finish" ( varnishes and decoration) of his instruments and continues to work towards improving the sound of each one.   Musicians claim appreciation for the quality of his instruments ("good dynamic, powerful, very balanced, very comfortable") and especially the quite recognizable sound that emanates from a Planchon instrument.

The marquetry from specialized woods and the finishes Olivier uses make these guitars beautiful as well as functional.  Each time a new instrument is christens he has had the pleasure of creating a different "rose window" to signal the exclusivity of the instrument. 

If you are hankering for a handmade guitar or oud... it will come to 3500 euros for an Oud and 5000-8000 euros for a handmade guitar.  You will then own an exceptional work of art.

565, avenue Borriglione06390 Contes - FranceTel: +33 (0) 6 11 62 25 85postmaster@olivierplanchon.comOlivier Planchon Website: