L’École des Filles

February 7, 2010By Claudia BarbieriArchive

Back to School in
Northwest Brittany

ParisUpdate-Ecole des Filles Huelgoat vue generale

L’École des Filles at Huelgoat.

Finistère, in the far northwest of Brittany, is loved by holidaymakers for its sandy beaches, rocky coves and picture-postcard fishing ports. Away from the coast, however, it also boasts more secret treasures. The village of Huelgoat is one, nestled among forests and granite outcrops some 20 miles inland from the seaside town of Morlaix.

A prized destination during the Belle Époque for wealthy English tourists enamoured of its tranquil woodland walks and landscape bathed in Arthurian legend, it now hosts a vibrant art center, the École des Filles, created over the past seven years by the Parisian gallerist Françoise Livinec.

Built in the early 19th century to house a communal boarding school for girls, the complex has been converted into a series of showrooms rambling over a 2,000-square-meter space filled with artworks gathered during Livinec’s travels across the world. During the summer months, every Sunday, a celebrity writer is invited to give a talk and lead a literary-philosophical conversation, followed by a seafood buffet (€30) in the restaurant, accompanied by excellent wines and pastries. Among the writers scheduled for August are Mona Ozouf, Hédi Kaddour and Michel Onfray.

This year’s summer exhibition, “L’Attrape Feu,” features 15 contemporary artists from the four corners of the globe. One of them, Wei

ParisUpdate-Ecole des Filles - Wei-Ligang

Works by Wei Ligang.

Ligang, is a former mathematician who uses his background in calligraphy to express himself in works that oscillate between figuration and abstraction, and play with texture, moving from a palette of black and white into gold and blue. In residence every summer since 2013 at the École des Filles, he has been greatly influenced by the landscape and atmosphere of Huelgoat.

The work of Parvathi Nayar, born in New

ParisUpdate-Ecole des Filles - Parvathi Nayar

Parvathi Nayar’s work in the washroom.

Delhi, is on show in the school’s washroom. A pioneer in what she calls “sculpture/drawing,” she makes complex drawings with an astonishing three-dimensional quality.

Zuka, an American artist from Los Angeles who now lives in France, uses oil paint and collage

ParisUpdate-Ecole des Filles - Zuka

Zuka’s paintings.

to colorful effect. Her series on the French Revolution is full of humor and exudes joie de vivre, like all of her work.

Livinec animates the space and encourages visitors to explore the surrounding landscape. A favorite promenade passes through the Chaos, a fantastical boulder-filled waterfall, to a bluff above the cascade topped by a stele commemorating the French poet, doctor, explorer and sinologist Victor Segalen, who died here in 1919.

Beside offering a serious dose of culture, the area is a hiker’s paradise, with a nature reserve, grottoes, a pre-Roman hill fort and a village-side lake (created in the 18th century to feed water to local lead and silver mines, long abandoned). The Brittany Coast is an easy drive away, and some delightful small hotels offer a perfect holiday break, among them the three-star Hôtel de Bretagne, with unusually large rooms with Korean furnishings and huge showers, and the two-star Hôtel du Lac.

Claudia Barbieri

École des Filles: 25, rue du Pouly, 29690 Huelgoat. Tel.: 02 98 99 75 41. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-7pm. Through September 11. francoiselivinec.com/en/ecoledesfilles

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