During a recent journey through France, Homes & Travel editor Stewart Andersen took the opportunity to stay at ‘l’Ancien Presbytère de Troniac’.
Troniac is located on the border of the departments of the Lot, Lot-et-Garonne and Tarn-et-Garonne and also on the border of the regions of Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenées.
Today the small hamlet of only two farms is part of the village of Saux, but once it was an independent parish. Troniac was first mentioned in a document from 1279 when the Abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Moissac granted the inhabitants certain rights.
The present farmhouse was built in the 19th century on earlier foundations with material from the original ruins. Traces of some of these medieval remains can still be seen: a transom with a crucifix above the kitchen door, the base of a Romanesque chapel and the ruin of an adjacent building, probably the vicarage or ‘presbytère’.
Teacher and mentor
The reason for stopping at ‘l’Ancien Presbytère de Troniac’ was to visit Belgian artist Stefaan Eyckmans. Born in Niel, which was part of Antwerp, Stefaan was the son of the painter and commercial artist Louis Eyckmans. Because of this he was exposed to the tools of painting and drawing from an early age. He said that his father remains to this day his greatest teacher and mentor.
During his student days Stefaan was strongly influenced by the Flemish Primitives, the 17th century still life painters and the Antwerp hyperrealist movement led by Willem Dolphyn. Still later, the more impasto technique of the Frisian Henk Helmantel and the austere compositions of the Italian Giorgio Morandi left their traces in his work.
After training as a designer and illustrator, Stefaan worked in advertising for a while. However, he found himself concentrating more and more on his painting. The world of advertising and deadlines provided him with the means to have the time and opportunity for the world of his studio, for patient observation and the slow build up of compositions.
Explained Stefaan: “In our postmodern age where official academia reject beauty as corny and museums of ‘fine’ (beaux) arts get amputated to museums of ‘contemporary’ art, I opt for beauty as an objective yardstick.”
His paintings radiate tranquility and balance. They are in the artist’s own words: “Emergency exits from our stressed consumer society. I believe the tonal technique of the old masters in combination with modern materials, colours and objects, gives my work a contemporary realism with roots in a centuries old tradition of painting.”
Despite being a painter who exhibits internationally, Stefaan leads a quiet life in the French Quercy Blanc region in a small hamlet between the vineyards of Cahors. There he works in a converted barn at ‘l’Ancien Presbytère de Troniac’.
For more information, contact Stefaan at: www.stefaaneyckmans.com