When visiting Pascal Bettex’s art studio we could involuntarily exclaim “Open Sesame”! Since his own “Ali Baba’s cave” installed in the old Montreux Taulan electrical factory, keeps in “secret” 40 tons of industrial age “treasures”. Half of the place is where all sort of old scrap is stored, classified and labelled accurately. The other half hosts his kinetic art sculptures in two well organised and full of magic floors. At the entrance a panel proclaims: “It is not necessary to be crazy to work here. But it helps. ” We can understand why!
I first met his wife, Betty Morel, a lovely and dynamic lady who conducted me through the studio while I was waiting for Mr Bettex to finish his talk with another visitor. “He always talks too much”, she said, but I did not have to wait long, because he was already there, talking to me full of that energy and passion that drives his work. They got married in 2005 and through all these years they were sharing this magical universe and the pleasure of motorcycle travel. Their home is situated in Rue du Lac in Clarens, easy to recognize because of the kinetic sculpture in front of the house, of course!
Pascal Bettex was born in 1953 in Basel. At the age of ten, he became fascinated by an exhibition of the work of Jean Tinguely. By the age of sixteen, he had already produced his first mobile. He is a resident artist of the Mechanical Art & Design Museum (Mad Museum) in Stratford-sur-Avon (UK). He worked during 15 years for the luxury watches industry. Maybe another seed to nourish his infinite creativity with improbable mechanisms? A pioneer of the unusual, Pascal Bettex innovates by designing oval, square, asymmetrical gears in shape of clover, heart or… Switzerland! These “impossible gears” are so complex that it takes the help of a computer and laser cutting to achieve them. Hard to imagine that it turns… however, it does!
A great admirer of the technical ingenuity of the early twentieth century, he is passionately fond of restoring old pieces of machinery. Since 1999, he has dedicated himself to kinetic art and specialises in the creation of highly imaginative mobiles based on objects he has fashioned into new forms. His art seeks to recall the industrial genius of the early twentieth century by giving life to old tools or old devices. We can relate to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times movie walking along this atypical studio. He has the art of transforming metal waste into a poetic and colourful mobile. This seduction of waste results in an art that is at the same time magical and naïve. His kinetic sculptures fascinate, seek to brighten, charm and surprise us, and they succeed!
The artist apart from manual skills has a great capacity for wonder and a rich imagination. He enjoys seeing the faces of onlookers, children and adults alike, lighten up with joy as they contemplate his mobiles. These human emotions motivate him. Pascal says that kinetic art speaks to people’s hearts, and so there is no reason for a critic to explain it to the public. He’s probably right.
The expression “kinetic art” in this modern form first appeared at the Museum für Gestaltung of Zürich in 1960, and found its major developments in the 1960s. Kinetic art contains movement perceivable by the viewer or depends on motion for its effect. Usually referred to three-dimensional sculptures and figures such as mobiles that move naturally or are machine operated.
The majority of his creations are designed to the specification of his clients, so that it is a question of matching his creative spirit to the client’s objective and producing a harmonious balance between the sculpture and its surroundings. He also makes personalized gifts on demand with objects that people bring to him. What a wonderful idea to touch people’s hearts!
Some of his most popular works are the telephone booth exposed at the shores of Lake Geneva, near Freddie Mercury statue and the Chablais Scope, a 35 meters long mobile sculpture in a train, entrusted to him by the Public Transports of Chablais, in the framework of the hundred years of the Aigle – Le Sépey – Les Diablerets (ASD) railway.
I left the studio with the feeling that I’ve opened Pandora’s box, releasing all the industrial parts discarded by humanity leaving only hope (and dreams) inside. Pandora’s name means “giver of all gifts”. Like her, Pascal Bettex can give us gifts, the gift of feeling amused or emotionally touched in front of his poetry-in-motion-art-machines, or the possibility to create a special meaningful gift for someone you love.
Pascal Bettex’s art make people dream. We are living in times in which we need to have dreams and to understand that they become reality through determination and hard work. Anais Nin said, “Dreams are necessary to life.” At the bottom of my Pandora’s box I left for you to discover this artist’s wonderful dreams. For it, don’t miss the next Taulan Art Factory Open Day! Keep an eye on their Facebook page to be informed about it.
Rue du Lac 160
1815 Clarens / Montreux
+41 (0)79 415 50 78