It is the everyday here in France to see the bricked portal. And so, I share with you an image of one of my recent oil paintings with one of France’s lost doors … these doors and windows make my imagination burn. I imagine that some beings can walk through these portals? What is on the other side? And I prefer this thought to the question of what would compel people to brick up their light and freedom? For retched really is the answer … door and Window tax it seems. Here in France from 1798 to 1926 property tax was based on the number and size of doors and windows in each house. Similar taxes existed in Britain and Spain too. So, these bricked portals are remnants of an era past, of government madness and the resulting social, cultural and architectural phenomenon of blocked light and passage.
From Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables … “My dear brethren, my good friends, there are thirteen hundred and twenty thousand peasant houses in France, with only three openings, eighteen hundred and seventeen thousand, which have two openings, the door and a window, and finally, three hundred and forty-six thousand cabins, which have but one opening, the door. And this, because of a thing called the tax of doors and windows. Put me poor families, old women, little children, in these lodgings, and see the fevers and diseases. Alas! God gives the air to men, the law sells them. " …
There is however one positive of the blocked window … the street art of painted window scenes spied everywhere, in every old city of “trompe-l‘oeil“ which directly translates to 'the eye deceived'. Here’s one in the old city of Albi, near where I am painting … http:/www.google.fr/search?q=trompe+l%27oeil+exterieur+albi&tbm=isch&tbs=rimg:CVMm0es_1wGSWIjgwyF0iVbFgNxgGyjcw8bYTfjbXqWPs_1EuyS6Wyb0DoHFT8ebQUTxbfK9dZ3Mj4V2ITFL2vXPmEsioSCTDIXSJVsWA3EX8-0_1woWEFoKhIJGAbKNzDxthMR_1UmHlsRnh1gqEgl-NtepY-z8SxGm4hL0iEwwjCoSCbJLpbJvQOgcEYsu-ACX2kFQKhIJVPx5tBRPFt8RDkMUaT6ipqUqEgkr11ncyPhXYhHKKV9bOXmaDioSCRMUva9c-YSyERz9Yf-FT-j5&tbo=u&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjpxpOr7LXWAhXCVxQKHXtNCboQ9C8IHA&biw=1366&bih=638&dpr=1#imgdii=K9dZ3Mj4V2LskM:&imgrc=UybR6z_AZJbYmM:
From Pierre Soulages (see my previous blog post) to Henri Fantin-Latour there has been a lot of looking at light. I first came across the work of Fantin-Latour through one of my ANU supervisors – thanks Ruth. It was the contrasting textures in his still life works that first drew me in but having stumbled into one of his little works Chaise à la Fenêtre, 1861 in the Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse, http://www.fondation-bemberg.fr/uk/visite/detail.asp?ID=40 it was the intimacy and light within this work that has held me close. I love the light through the doorway and beamed off the wall along with the thick rich texture of the layered paint. With this one work and the body of work by Soulages, I have been inspired just to paint what is in front of me, here in France, in the studio, and the street – to share some light within the everyday, and the wonder of light right here right now … and so here I share with you some images of a few of my works of this studio in which I am working with other potters and painters …, I’m still very much working on capturing light, but these works do show you a little of the studio that I feel so privileged and so content to be painting in. It is an amazing thing to be part of a formal artist residency program (which I am really looking forward to for later this year at CAMAC in Marnay-sur-Seine, near Paris). But also amazing is to just trust that through working independently on this journey in the south of France, that I would be able to find a great place to paint and become part of, to learn in and to share – to create an independent residency of my own in a local community … thank you Louis Paul, Christiane, Francoise, Christine and all at AMIS des Arts Albi who have welcomed me so warmly.
Feet landed. I’m sharing a studio with potters and painters - having met some terrific individuals and found a wonderful group of artists in Albi. It’s great when I’m here alone doing my thing, but also super when they come one by one or in a mass – time to talk French – or try to, in my case, and share what we are all doing. Challenging, it is, but I feel incredibly fortunate to be welcomed and walking this path. And I’ve walked too, in many an old town (for they come aged and rich here) and visited a plethora of contemporary and old galleries. To share with you a wonder that has embedded in my being, is the body of work of the contemporary French artist Pierre Soulages. One of my new generous French artist friends, Nicole took me on an adventure to the Musee Soulages Rodez. And of course, no French outing is complete without some French cuisine. So we started with ingestion at Café Bras with a MiWam, a culinary invention of Sébastien Bras https://translate.google.fr/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.cafebras.fr/&prev=search Right now Musee Soulages has a Calder exhibition – so superb – a whole room of shadows and movement colour and wonder. And then there was the rest of the Museum, http://musee-soulages.rodezagglo.fr/oeuvre/brou-de-noix-65x50cm-1948-papier-maroufle-sur-toile/ devoted to Soulages – and his celebration of light and gift of Outrenoir. Simple and magnificent, his work is of light reflecting off black. As with so much art an image of a little just doesn’t do justice. Don’t baulk, if you ever get a chance to experience with your whole being, a Soulages exhibition.
A drawing a day? It was one plan – and I have not missed the chance of drawing in the street, at the pool, by the river and of the captives on the trains. Here are a couple of earlier moments of two of my companions on this hearty adventure. And of these two, they are not with me right now for, six weeks has flown by, the summer holidays are over and they have started out at their new French schools this week – so proud of them. Here they name each school after illustrious French personalities like resistance fighters, artists, musicians, writers, scientists and leaders. Mine scored singers all round and are at Yves Duteil, named after a contemporary French singer songwriter. If you want some acoustic guitar melody with touching French lyrics, do head his way … http://blog.yvesduteil.com/blog/ And and Aristide Bruant – the French cabaret singer well known as the man in the red scarf in the famous posters by Henri de Toulouse Latrec. A little of him is here … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristide_Bruant And what do they do here – all students in French schools study philosophy in their last year of school – and mine – hopefully they will take in a bit, think some, share a little, make firends, enjoy moments, broaden horizons and learn some French too. So now that the children are at school and I am in the studio (more on that later), painting is on …