Monday, June 25, 2007

Home to Dali

Travelling via Cannes and the artisan village of Biot, the afternoon brought me back to my most inspirational place in the world.

Cadaques was the home of Salvador Dali for many years - actually Port Lligat to be precise, which is a five minute walk from the village over the hill. A haunt of artists for many years because of its remoteness and inaccessibility, Cadaques still holds a certain aura and fascination for all who visit.

I could quite happily have stayed forever among the whitewashed houses countered with the view of surrounding hills, blue water and brightly coloured fishing smacks. Mentally I always take a lot of shapes and colours back with me to feed my next collection of paintings.

While there I again made contact with a gallery for a potential exhibition. For me it would be the ultimate location to make a pilgrimage with my works - to the home of the master. Lets see what the future holds for next year or so.

The last evening was spent on the hotel balcony looking down over the boats bobbing in the bay sipping Cava and listening to the cadent water whispering ’dali, dali, dali’ by the shore in homage to the artist.

The Nice life

Travelling down and across to the south of France via Genova, a short stop in Monaco was called for. While there, a super yacht was berthing with attendant crew dressed in corporate livery. The port bristling with bodyguards and bullet-proof jeeps of the rich and famous. Another world into which I could only glimpse.

Onward to Nice, and more art based experiences. The Negresco hotel along the seafront is a marvel. Everywhere you look there are artworks adorning every space. Older, more classical pieces jarring alongside bright, colourful, in your face artworks from right up to the modern day. A truly eclectic mix and a joy to behold. I only wish I could have afforded to stay there.

I was initially disappointed however, to see that the beach was mostly stones and pebbles, but on the second day I was there I think I understood why the coastline gets the name the Cote D’azur.

Normally, when the waves kick up on a windy day the water on a sandy beach gets muddy and confused, but in Nice the action of the waves breaking onto the pebbly beach aerated the water so much that it turned a mix of aquamarine and vibrant blue.

As night approached a phosphorescence became apparent that reflected the colour along the whole promenade. Young people sitting on the stones their laughter wafting along the shore, mixed with the sound of jazz from the beach bars, helped set an idyllic scene. With more gallery contacts made it was time to move on to my spiritual home…

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Italian Job - Jam in Milan

Under no circumstances try to get round Milan’s ring road system on a Friday afternoon. It took me 2 hours to cover 10 kilometres!

Arriving in the Lago D’Iseo area about 7pm meant a break in driving for a while. After what must be the largest pizza in all of Italy - at least 60cm across - so big in fact there barely a table big enough to accommodate it never mind a plate, I was more than ready for an early night.

The stunning area of Iseo, in my mind, can give Garda and Geneva a run for their money anyday. The hills and mountains run steeply into the dark green/black penetrating lake and create a haven for artists and locals alike. I have been here on occasions before and never tire of sitting by the waters edge looking across at the majestic island dominating the whole area.

While here a number of leads made on previous trips were followed up in regard to galleries and exhibition spaces and hopefully will produce significant results at some point in the near future.

Great weather for ducks!

Having left Paris with a number of new gallery contacts, as well as fresh inspiration, it was time to hit the road once more. After a few hours drive we crossed the border into Switzerland and spent the night in Geneva. Another late arrival meant that hunger and exhaustion overtook curiosity, and exploration was delegated to the following day.

However, awakened by the sight of yet more torrential rain meant that the sightseeing was reduced to that of a crawl through heavy traffic on a steamy lakeside thoroughfare. In the grey lake I could just see the famous water jet spouting in protest as the heavy rain tried to dampen its ardour.

Just beside the main bridge, as I prepared to crawl across, the traffic came to a complete halt. As I watched, a duckling and its protective mother came waddling across the road oblivious to all eyes that watched this amazing rush hour spectacle. An interesting way to remember Switzerland, don’t you agree?

After a return crossing back into France, a respite from the rain was only possible by entering the Mont Blanc tunnel. There were various signs indicating the beautiful views of the mountains all around but, sadly the signs were all I could see with the weather.

Having entered Italy, I stopped and looked back at the much heralded viewpoint of the Mont Blanc Glacier. I think I glimpsed the leading edge of it through the rain and mist but can’t be certain that it wasn’t just an optical illusion brought on by a terrible thirst!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Return to Paris

It’s been approximately seven years since I was in Paris. When here before I visited my art heroes in the Musee D’Orsay and looked up at them in awe and longing. I was still a struggling artist at that time and felt that I could never attain the intensity of colour and form shown in the museum.

Another age of this man is gone, and maybe I can now say that at least I am on the first rung of the ladder - still looking up, but at least now perhaps I can observe the paintings with constructive envy and no longer idolatry.

It was wonderful to visit again with such artists as Van Gogh, Monet, Pisarro, Bonnard, Millet et al, as I much prefer the ‘train station’ to the Louvre in content. The building itself is an inspiration for me and for over four hours I wandered between the decades, countries, movements and psyches of my antecedents.

I cannot wait to get back to Spain to work now I am fired up again with enthusiasm. I think it is important to ‘plug in’ to the art charger every so often to reinvigorate oneself, but also to revaluate the direction you feel you are heading in. I often say there are no wrongs in art, just different points of view. If you are passionate enough, and determined enough to push through the hesitancy sometimes felt, then your efforts must be justified in the long run.

The adventure was continued with a visit to Shakespeare and Co. by the Seine to purchase some reading material for the onward journey. The beds between the books were littered with tomes of modern classics and the tap-tap-tap of an old typewriter helped set the scene for perusal of Hemingway and Joyce. Ironically Jack Kerouac’s On The Road came to hand. I wonder what the relevance is there?

Finally the day was finished off with a beverage consumed in the Hotel Meurice frequented of course by Salvador Dali and Gala for many years. As I sat in the salon area I’m convinced that I saw his spirit slip silently past with an entourage of surrealistic elephants.

They seem to follow me everywhere!

Rooftops of Liege

After a late arrival in Liege, Belgium, sadly there was not much time for any sightseeing before catching a meal. What daylight there was showed a city of crumbling grandeur mixed with new architecture rising from the ground in sympathy with the surrounding buildings.

A street side café on a beautifully characteristic cobbled street transported me to the 1940’s - an era I have long loved for fashion and art. Accordion music whispering through the terraced streets set the scene further as a meal was taken outside on the pavement by candlelight.

Then the heavens opened, and thunder and lightning washed the music away with the extinguished candlelight. A quick retreat made across the Place Du Opera to the hotel seemed to beckon the end of the night.

The view from the hotel room had seemed pleasantly atmospheric looking over the rooftops during check-in as it faced away from the main streets, but we were left breathless when all was lit up at night. The scene of the church rising out from the rooftops immersed in floodlit splendour, coupled with the flashes of lightning and rumbles of protesting thunder proved to be a blessing after all.

Sadly the night-time photographs didn't come out so I have included the daytime shots to give some sort of idea of the view, however muted.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Hamburg exhibition begins

The Artist and Director of the Marziart International Gallery Marion Zimmerman, opened the exhibition to a crowd of well wishers and art lovers alike on a balmy Friday evening with an introduction of each artist represented.

There were actually five artists out of the seven exhibiting who turned up on the night. Nationalities ranged from Belgian, Dutch, French, Danish, Indian, Chilean and of course Irish. Much jollity was had over sips of champagne, and a lot of new contacts and friends were made in the international art world. The interest from the crowd attending was wonderful and I spent a lot of time answering questions about the origins of my work and the influences that shaped them.

My thanks to Marion for her attention to detail and I look forward to perhaps having a return exhibition sometime in the future. The exhibition runs until the 5th of July 2007 in Eppendorfer Weg, Hamburg for any viewers of this blog who happen to be in the area in the next few weeks.

A frankfurter in Hamburg

The prophecy was fulfilled as expected when a frankfurter smothered in mustard was consumed by the famous docks area of Hamburg. Bilious, but wonderful. This was of course followed by ‘lashings and lashings of ginger beer‘!

Hamburg itself is more reminiscent of London with its various quarters and suburbs. A very cosmopolitan and modern vibrant city. I have to say, apart from obvious problems with my lack of the language (although almost everybody speaks English!), it is a city I could happily spend a lot of time in. Eppendorfer - the area where the exhibition is being held reminded me of Notting Hill in London with ladies who lunch, chic designer shops and cars to match. It is also a city burgeoning with art and culture.

Having visited the modern art museum near the Hauptbahnhof (central station) I was astonished to find paintings by Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Edvard Munch and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. These were artists I have had an affection for since I started painting. What I found was breathtaking though was the fact that my early art was reminiscent of Max Beckmann’s early naïve seascapes. I couldn’t believe the similarity. Previously I was only used to his post war depictions and hadn’t experienced this work before. What was also interesting was the fact that his work seemed to become more involved and less naïve as he progressed through years of experience.

This is also something that people have noted with my own work. I have found it easier never to look at older paintings as reference points to my progress, rather let the skills develop anew each time I work.

Recently I had the opportunity to look at some of my earlier works from a collector of mine and was amazed at the difference a few years had made. It was like looking at two different artists! Yet, the early works had an innocence about them that still drew me into the pictures.

Snowing in Hannover

Note - In case of confusion - the next few entries were made over the space of a few days travelling but due to lack of access to internet connection they have all been uploaded on the same day.

While walking by the Maschsee (a large lake in the middle of Hannover city) under the shade of mature trees to stay out of the hot sun, I was struck by a surreal image of snowfall all around me. It was actually the shedding of floating seeds from plants all around the lake that were carried high in the air by light winds. As they returned gently to earth, the image created was one of a winter scene tempered by the yachts sailed by crew in their summer wear.

Passing by a ruined church in the centre of town, I saw stained glass windows where none had stood for many decades. The church in question was called Aegidienkirche and was destroyed in 1943. Today it serves as a memorial, and artist Inge-Rose Lippok has placed a number of painted panels in the open window spaces to recreate the image of windows in an empty space full of memories.

This is countered by bright colourful quirky creatures called ‘Nanas’ by artist Niki de Saint Phalle along with striking sculptures placed around various points of the city. In my mind, the embracing of such imagery aligns itself very well with the pleasantness and generosity of the German people I have met on my travels.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Scraping the sky with colour

Apfelwein, cold sausage and sauerkraut - quite a combination. Interesting, but not something I feel the urge to try again in the near future.

The skyline, however, was much more palatable on the return to the hotel. Locally it is known as ‘Mainhattan’ as the city was virtually demolished during the Second World War and the city fathers have decided to push forward with technology and modernism with great effect.

A virtual light show brightens the sky as each tower basks in it’s own personality, reflected in the smooth flowing river Main.


Monday, June 4, 2007

A hamburger in Frankfurt

Our initial impression of Frankfurt was a strange one. The shopping area could have been any city centre in the UK or Ireland, and yet it was countered with back streets and side streets of non-descript municipal housing blocks. Something I imagined that Eastern Europe was like in the late 1960’s.

The traditional old town seems to have been swallowed up to a degree by bland utilitarian modern blocks that smack of East Berlin in the movies. This is tempered by soaring semi-skyscrapers in the financial district (just a short walk from the centre), but for all the money being pumped in, sadly there is a more than average amount of people lying about drinking and begging on the street.

That said - there seems to be an undercurrent of vibrancy here, especially for the younger crowd with a big clubbing scene, alternative entertainment acts in out-of-the-way places and major groups, musicians and art movements. Definitely still a happening place for Dada fans like myself. Dada being the movement that brought us an anarchic view of art such as ‘Fountain’ the turned on it’s side urinal, or the Mona Lisa with a moustache and the letters ‘LHOOQ’ written underneath (when spoken in French it sounds like it is making a derogatory statement about the lady in question).

Quite accidentally I came across a run-down unremarkable street just off the river filled with run-down shop fronts. Virtually each one was an art gallery! They had the strangest mixture of paintings and sculpture I have seen in a long time. What was so refreshing for me was the fact that these were commercial galleries and obviously had the clientele to appreciate this type of art. Then I realized it was just around the corner from the modern art gallery and it all seemed to make sense.

When I arrived I wasn’t sure about Frankfurt, but I think it’s growing on me.

Time for an apple-wine pub crawl I think….

PS - with reference to today's obscure title - always one to be different - I had to have a hamburger in Frankfurt and, yes you’ve guessed it, I plan to have a frankfurter in Hamburg!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

It’s Saturday - Therefore it must be Strasbourg!

Strasbourg - a stunning city that has grown up over the centuries and has been at the heart of the trading routes of Europe.

After becoming a free republic in the 15th Century, it attracted free thinking reformists who helped shape the city culturally after seeking asylum there. Caught in the middle of warring countries right up until modern times, Strasbourg, as capital of the Alsace region, has had control passed back and forward between France and Germany a number of times in the past.

This has helped create the uniqueness of a city blending history and architecture, along with international culture, languages and art in good measure. After the end of World War II Strasbourg regained its position at the crossroads of Europe when in 1949 it was chosen as the headquarters of the Council of Europe. Since 1979 it has been the base of the European Parliament, and the European Court of Human Rights since 1994.

A must for all who pass through this region. Don’t miss it. Back on the road tomorrow for the next cultural adventure.