In the realest sense, no art is permanent. Sculptures rust, paintings fade, drawings become speckled with the passage of time. But when your artwork is so impermanent it will be washed away come the next rainfall, you really have to hustle.
French artist Guillaume Legros paints on grass. This means that, when the rain comes down, not only must his process come to an end, but the whole masterpiece goes with it. His way of creating art is truly a practice in impermanence, in producing beauty and letting it go. It’s all very zen.
“The fact that it is short-lived reflects the idea that all is impermanent, nothing in our life lasts forever,” Legros explained in an email to The Huffington Post. “The fresco is dynamic. The grass grows, the flowers grow, it rains. So the nature take its rights again over the human beings’ intervention, and this idea particularly interests me.”
Once only a fresco painter, Legros became interested in creating an outdoor mural after thinking about the precarious relationship between human beings and nature, as well as what kind of world we will leave for the next generation.
He resolved to address these issues through the medium of land art ― albeit a different mode of land art than he’d ever seen before. Legros created his own recipe for an all-natural paint, using flour, linseed oil, water and natural pigments. Free of any chemicals, the paint is completely safe for the environment. Brush it atop a landscape and the grass beneath it will continue to grow.
Legros’ featured piece, “What makes a Great Man?” ― located on the grassy hilltops of Leysin, Switzerland ― depicts a gentleman clad in a fedora and suspenders, smoking a pipe and gazing into the natural landscape around him. As Legros expressed, his stature far outmeasures the average human being. And yet, compared to the mountains and hills engulfing him, he’s barely perceptible.
The artist hopes viewers leave the work having experienced “a touch of humility.”
To make the piece, Legros first designated a particular region as his canvas, using pickets to form a rectangle. He then began painting, starting with the contours and working in the various shades and textures. At the end of each day, he’d check in on his work-in-progress using a drone to figure out if corrections were needed.
“The exercise was technically and physically very intense,” Legros said. “Moreover, my project is weather dependent as, if it rains, I can not paint. So I was in constant pressure about doing it perfectly and rapidly before the rain came.”
Even once the rain washes away the physical image of Legros’ portrait, its significance will live on thanks to Legros’ thoughtful words and stunning photos documenting the ephemeral artwork. Using a minimal environmental imprint and yielding a maximal emotional impact, the massive land mural shows the magic of combining Mother Nature with human ingenuity.
And, also, a drone. That helps, too.