Travel Souk voyages around the world to find the best outsider art and gives you three good reasons to get down to the travel agent: Nek Chand, Edward James & Ferdinand Cheval.
Nek Chand's Rock Garden, Chandigarh, India
In the early seventies a government-funded work party was clearing a tract of forest on the outskirts of the Punjab's new capital Chandigarh, when they uncovered 2,000 naive figures sculpted from a colourful assortment of broken pottery, glass and concrete. After gaining independence India drafted in the modernist architect, Le Corbusier, to rebuild the city of Chandigarh, at the bottom end of the project was a transport official named Nek Chand. In a dream Chand saw a utopian kingdom where people lived serenely alongside the forest's animals.he set to work. He toiled alone at night by the light of burning tyres, piecing together figures out of rubble from the villages flattened to make way for the new capital. When discovered the first thought was to level the sculptures, but someone was smiling on Chand. He was relieved of his day-work and given a team of fifty to help him. Today the rock garden has a population of 10 000 sculptures, covers 25 acres and is the most visited attraction after the Taj Majal in India.
For images of Nek Chand's Rock Garden visit www.clt.astate.edu
Edward James, Las Posas, Xilitla, San Luis State,
"Edward James is crazier than all the surrealists put together. They pretended, but he is the real thing" Salvador Dali to Sigmund Freud on their mutual friend.
In 1945 a new face arrived in the sleepy Mexican jungle town of Xilitla, that of eccentric British philanthropist Edward James. His aristocratic background was getting the better of him, a childhood spent at Eton had made him miserable, and having almost single-handedly funded the surrealist movement he was now getting sick of a popularity based primarily on his wallet. He chose to turn his back on society's avarice and visit his friend, the psychiatrist Eric Fromm in Mexico. Serendipity led him to a string of nine pools, locally known as Las Pozas and he soon began constructing his own world where he could lose himself among his flamingos, deer, butterflies and orchids. Things went well until 1962 when a freak frost decimated his 80-acre garden of 18,000 flowers. James decided to rebuild, this time in concrete. Until his death in 1985 he invested millions in casting giant flowers, spiral staircases peering above the forest canopy, raised aviaries and endless other sculptural follies(think Rene Magritte meets Andy Goldsworthy to help Gaudi rebuild the city of Oz). Since his death, the jungle has reclaimed much of James' world, something that would have him smiling.
For images of Las Posas visit www.jungl e gossip.com/
Ferdinand Cheval, The Postman's Palace, Hauterives, Valence
In 1869 Ferdinand Cheval was appointed postman to the village of Hauterives. One day, during his 20 mile round, he picked up an attractive stone and took it home with him. Despite having had no previous training in architecture or masonry, he started to piece together an extraordinary creation. After 33 years, Cheval had built the walls to his visonary palace. 50 metres long and ten metres high, they form an organic, hallucinatory melding of ornate Eastern and European sculpture and religious statuary. Peopled with characters from history and his imagination - Julius Caesar, Archimedes, angels, flamingoes and ostriches - the palace is France 's most unusual protected monument. The surrealists of the 40s instantly hailed Cheval as an instinctive master of Art Naif, and Max Ernst honoured the long dead postman with a portrait entitled 'The Postman Cheval'. Cheval built his own vault in the parish cemetery and summed up his determination when he said 'Should there exist a more determined man than myself, then let him set to work.'
For images of The Postman's Palace visit /www.france-random.com