22 November 2021

Châteaunoir, still a souvenir in painting


When I was back in France three years ago I put together the very minimal things I would need to step out and work in Nature, a palette, easel, and bought some colours and brushes. I had not anticipated to paint at all. I was going over to 'write' and 'think' (ha ha). For some reason I couldn't foresee making an ambulant studio in the boot of the small Citroen C3 I had rented. Though I did write I mostly spent a great deal of time driving around France, all the time in fact. And naturally I watched the foliage cycle through the colour wheel into early winter. In Grignan where I was based I gratefully watched snow accumulate on the roads one night before heading back to London at the end of November.

But late October I stayed at the Châteaunoir where Charlotte Tessier kindly lent me her apartment off the courtyard. It was so familiar, all of it; the smell of all those pine and oak trees especially after a rain, St. Victoire looming like a grandfather in the East, lots of cats though not as many, nor as friendly in my day. Even Mazout (heating oil) not used in decades had somehow lodged its unique scent into the kitchen walls and tiles permeating one's sleep. Through my all senses I   had returned back to Aix and my youth. All of it brought on so many memories, nostalgic yes, but not at all cloying or sad as I had moved on. All these memories though are like finding old photos in a desk drawer. That was then, this is now. I was left feeling like I wanted to keep moving, and this was good because it means I had changed. Unlike so many people, I had always seemed to be someone with a club foot still dragging the past with me in discomfort. 

On the upside, I was connecting with so many old and dear friends, especially being so close to Poussey (the owner), with whom I had coffee every day just like in the old days. And yet, as much as I loved being there I was also happy to leave, to keep moving forward.

During those 10 days or so I walked a lot on those familiar paths which all seem to end up at the top of the plateau. And I set up to paint just for fun. I was curious to see how I might conceive a small picture in the riot of  colour around the infamous and much celebrated Châteaunoir. I found it difficult, but not without great pleasure. And as I regularly exclaimed so many years ago whilst painting in that forest: "What am I doing?? This is way too complicated!!"

Mixing this palette of these forest colours was fun too, so different than the one I prepare in here Australia.  

I did make a few things I liked during that visit, but because I have changed so much these past years, my work is different. These days I am much more concerned with the graphic surface of the painting even though it doesn't sometimes look that way in my studies at the beach. I had always wanted to move in that direction and I could see it in so much of the work done twenty years ago. But I seemed to be still chained to old ideas. 

The top painting, (above) is made up of splotches of colour without too much concern for the drawing (though the drawing is in the splotches) whereas the one below is conceived equally by the colours and drawing. They are different but both seem to me, as they did at the time, not quite paintings but more souvenirs. There is nothing wrong with that. More than ever, I am after the conveyance of feeling, technique be damned. And souvenirs are keepsakes. 

1 comment:

  1. Very happy to see that for you too trees are pink!