preface of Agnès Varda

Just as others work in their vegetable garden in a space between the road and their house, growing their leeks and salads, Bodan Litnianski has created himself an artistic garden where he grows cement vegetables, totem poles made of seashells, garlands in plastic and bouquets of left overs.

The "Facteur (postman) Cheval" brought his stones home in his wheelbarrow to construct his ideal palace (palais idéal). I remember my surprise when visiting it for the first time, more than 50 years ago, when his family served as guides for the rare curiosity-seekers.

As for Litnianski, he brought his treasures home in a trailer behind his moped to construct his ideal garden, which his neighbours referred to as the seashell-garden. This site is already famous.

And the artist likes to talk about the television programmes that have been devoted to him. Nowadays, there are no ignored naïf artists. As for me, I met Litnianski, who was already 87, and his wife at their home. I filmed the artist in his fantastic garden in the year 2000, when I was looking for gleaners having made something from what they had found amongst objects that others had discarded. Yes, he indeed did something with the elements and left overs he had gleaned here and there - in dustbins, on street corners and in rubbish dumps. Yes, people throw away all sorts of objects. Little girls and boys - or their parents - get rid of their broken dolls or mechanical toys that no longer work. And Litnianski salvages them, along with old tellies, motorcycle helmets, springs, plastic buckets and bald tyres.

All that makes up Litnianski's material, to which he obviously adds cement, plaster, metal reinforcing mesh and consolidation rods, for he is a mason. A mason who worked for construction companies all his life, he became a full-time creative mason when he retired, composing his constructions with a maximum of technical care, assembling the elements from his collection in surprising ways and erecting towers so as to emerge from the shambles of the other compositions. He is proud of his work and justly so.

"It's solid stuff, - he told me -. I'm a mason. I know a big deal about it."

Just as Ferdinand Cheval was a postman-artist and Gaston Chaissac a shoemaker-artist, I very much like the fact that Bodan Litnianski is a mason-artist, creating without a guide - and maybe without the comprehension of his friends or family - a universe to his taste in this area of his daily life, outside his door and on land that might have seen leeks and salads growing.

He prefers dolls to vegetables, saying, "Ah, I do like dolls. Ah, that's my system. A doll is someone."

Litnianski, too, is someone : the project manager and guardian of his extraordinary garden, except for the fact that it is no longer a garden, but an inextricable forest of mini-monuments and assemblage-sculptures. It is a raw museum that he is inviting us to visit.

Agnès Varda, 2004

Translated by John Tyler Tuttle

Couverture du livre Le jardin des merveilles de Bodan Litnianski