Thursday, November 21, 2013
Paintings from a European Summer: The Seine
The thing about Paris is it is every bit the cliche, not the dry stuffy sort but rather the guilty pleasure. Which one soon realises the Parisians do not confess too but enjoy in style - and so too should any visitor to Paris. For it is a lustrous city whose every decadent whim is accounted for: The flying butresses of Notre Dame, the golden lamposts in Place de la Concord, the reclining chairs by the pond in the Garden Tuileries, the availability of croissants on every corner at almost any hour and of course, most significantly there is the Palace for Art, The Louvre.
This extravagent building with its enormous collection of art best summasises my impression of Paris. For it represents a city that not only celebrates art but highly regards it. It is of the city and of the people and you can feel it. Like bread is to the French so is art in all its manifestations.
Perhaps this is why it was difficult for me to apprehend my time in Paris and even more confronting to take pictures and make drawings. It was beautiful and it was the origin of so many revered momets in art and history. As a young romantic artist it was a much anticipated city.
I was fortunate then to spendthree luxurious weeks there, in fine company and with a room of ones own. Given time to enjoy Paris on a day to day basis the culture shock settled, most noticably in my stomach. For I realised the most important way to become accustomed to Parisian life is through food. And so my friends and I ate our way through Paris, with a map and a picnic basket. My most treasured possession came to be my opinel knife that we used to slice through copious amounts of camembert, usually whilst reclining on a lawn.
On one such day our picnic was by the Seine. It was an unusually hot Summers day and despite our weariness Naomi had Hilary and I on a quest to find an ideal view. Eventually we settled on the location depicted in my drawing. Feet dangling over the sandstone edge we watched as thin barges motored down the river whilst eating baguette, cheese, tapenades and fruits.
I remember completing this drawing and feeling more connected to my surroundings. To be of the moment is a very powerful experience and sometimes hard to comprehend. I am fortunate to have the ability and inclination to paint and draw through these moments, an act that will always remain far more instinctual and emotive for my rational brain to translate. When I look back on these works I can reconnect with an emotion that I never could never achieve with a photo. Everything from the weight of a line to a gesture in paint carries significance.
Over time this image will mean more to me, not because of nostalgia but because my experience of Paris is something I am still understanding, given distance. For me it is not a destination city but a mind set, a system of values and a way of life.