First published: Spring 2023


Famed for his ever-evolving garden paradise near Paris, French artist Jean-Michel Chesné also experiments with other ways of creating


The artistic journey of Jean-Michel Chesné began in 1982 and has carried on ever since. The astonishing universe that he has created in his garden in Malakoff, near Paris, is one of the most unusual outsider art sites in France.


Soleil, 2021, ink on paper, 12 x 12 in. / 30 x 30 cm 


Born in 1959 and raised in Paris, Chesné studied agriculture but went on to work in an office administration role from 1983 to 1990. He then became a decorator for a theatre and cinema scenery workshop and, after that, worked as a graphic designer at several communication agencies.


Poisson, 2019, ink on cardboard packaging, 12.5 x 15 in. / 32 x 38 cm


Throughout his working life, he made art in his spare time but, in 2001, he decided to devote himself entirely to it. Two events had brought him to this point – two events that had changed his life. The first was in 1982 when, still a student, he went to an exhibition of Georges Braque’s Cubist collages which instantly ignited in him a passion for art. He bought brushes and canvasses and began to visit art exhibitions regularly.


Vanité, 2009, ink on paper, 12 x 15.5 in. / 30 x 40 cm


The second event took place ten years later, in 1992, when he visited the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives, south-east France. This “palace of stones”, created by postman Ferdinand Cheval between 1879 and 1912, had a profound emotional impact on Chesné. When, a few months later, a friend gave him a 1910 postcard of this extraordinary place, it marked the beginning of Chesné’s collection of old postcards devoted to obscure places (some of which no longer exist) in France and other countries. Later, his collection of 3,000 cards would be exhibited in several museums including La Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne.




This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #114.

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