People of Penola

Guy Detot
Story by Eliza Berlage

For a man so inspired by movement, Guy Detot says it surprises a lot of people that he is living in Penola. The internationally celebrated dancer and sculptor from Paris puts his interesting life down to being an “opportunist” and “luck”. After separating from his wife Shelley in the ‘90s he moved into a former hardware shed on Young Street upon invitation from some friends.

Now the sun shines through the windows of Le Max gallery illuminating his wooden sculptures. Tucked away behind the public studio, Guy shares his living quarters with his four-year old Huntaway, Cedar. At the suggestion of a friend he began making a montage of his media clippings on a screen in his gallery. “It is like an autobiography,” he said. “I never saw my life as a big deal so I had my doubts about making this. “But when I looked at it I thought ‘my goodness I have done a lot’ and people were interested.”

The transition from dancer to sculptor was a natural progression, he says – all about flow. In his hands pieces of wood in his possession for decades are transformed in minutes. Some days he walks Cedar in the forest, where he finds wood “through faith and accident”. It is a process he compares to the “meditative” state of doing barre work.

However, it is the ideas that take time. “Sometimes I become obsessive about a piece of wood that is talking to me and I do not understand the language,” he said. “So I have to wait. “The idea has to come organically.” Normally it is the human form that inspires his work, but lately he has been making animals. “I’m also inspired by poetry,” he said. Guy says being able to do what he loves everyday is a “gift”. “I feel blessed.”

Coaching junior soccer, teaching ballet at the local kindergarten and creating a public sculpture inspired by the artists of Penola are among his contributions. Punters are grateful when the former Australian petanque champion provides pointers at the Friday night social tournament. More recently Guy has shared his space with other artists, hosting a book launch and exhibition through the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival.

The bypass has been “good for business” he says and improved the safety and smell in town. A man of routine, he starts his day with a coffee from a Church Street café and finishes it with a glass of wine on the verandah at his gallery. Bathed in the golden glow of the sunset he sips and sits – a ritual Guy gained an added appreciation for when he received an early diagnosis for prostate cancer last year.

“This is my bucket list,” he said. “I can say I am probably safe now. “I still do the check regularly.” While he was born in Paris and has worked in London, Germany and New York, he sees Adelaide as the “most beautiful” city.

After 28 years in Penola, Guy feels “fulfilled”. “Good coffee, good wine, good people – what more could I want?” he said. “I love this place. I feel a part of it and it is a part of me.”

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