I have not taken the time to write lately, as Julie and I have been preoccupied mostly with the organisation of our new house. However, it is now taking shape and we should be able to resume a more routine lifestyle soon.
I must say that the terrible events in Paris have, of course, been a very disturbing factor as well. People in France are still trying to deal with the consequences of these cowardly attacks, but like the water reed in the fable, ‘they bend but do not break’ and they have promptly moved on with their lives. There is no doubt that these guys wanted to disrupt and of course destroy precisely our way of life; but they have not succeeded. On the contrary, by indiscriminately striking at random at innocent victims, they have united people from all walks of life and religions in a common bond that perhaps was not there before.
So here we are! As soon as we have finished the renovating works that are currently underway, I’ll be able to organise my studio and concentrate on creating some new artworks. There is definitely ample inspiration right here around me even in our new home. Yesterday, for instance, was a crisp beautiful autumn day and the contrast between the brightly sunlit yellow stones and the deep blue sky was absolutely striking and out of this world. Such a soothing feeling after the horrors we have lived through lately.
In the past, I painted quite a lot of ancient houses and buildings. What I love is precisely to capture the dramatic competition between light and shade on old stonework, for without it there is neither shape nor depth. This is a vast source of inspiration as they are everywhere in the French countryside.
I am thinking in particular about two of these paintings: Saint-Clement Chapel and The Abbey of Primaudière. I am quite fond of them and they have an interesting story. I painted the Saint-Clement Chapel for a small exhibition in the nearby town of Châteaubriant. A local businessman bought it because it reminded him of his grandfather – a stone mason who at the beginning of the 20th century did restoration works on this chapel.
Subsequently, he commissioned me to paint his own house the Abbey of Primaudière. The abbey is from the 12th century and the chapel of Saint-Clement is from about the time of William the Conqueror in the 10th century. Saint-Clement is a saint who was supposed to bring rain in times of drought. So people in the old days organised pilgrimages from miles around to pray for rain to Saint Clement at the chapel.
To paint an old stone house is like painting a person. These old buildings have a soul that has to be unveiled, sometimes painfully. There is also the weight and scars of history in them, and whilst they have been there some of them for centuries, they will also be there long after we have all gone. They are part of a heritage that none of these mad people will ever be able to destroy, no matter what.
Dear friends on this note … don’t forget if you live in a quirky house with a personality, think of me — I can make a portrait of it for you, or perhaps a portrait of yourself, a loved one, members of your family or favourite pet.
Until the next blog post