Well I’ve just returned from France via Marseille and one of the most obvious art-related sights there has to be Mont Sainte-Victoire. I can understand why Cezanne was so impressed by the subject that he painted it more than sixty times – however, despite his obsession with the subject (and Cezanne was a good one for obsessions) I don’t think I’ve seen many of his paintings that have caught the scale of the mountain. One notable exception is Montagne Sainte-Victoire Seen from Les Lauves, completed between 1902-1904, currently in the Philadelphia Museum of Art; most of these paintings though seem to be more about paint technique referring to spatial volume on the canvas than spatial volume in reality. I’m not saying I could do any better mind.
Also, another cliché of art talk came to mind when driving around Aix en Provence and Arles. The famous ‘light is different’ phrase, though usually applied to Saint Ives in Cornwall, seemed appropriate when bearing in mind Van Gogh’s canvases. Admittedly the sun was blazing the entire time of our visit but you can’t help ‘seeing’ his paintings wherever you go. His colours weren’t artificial at all – the place actually is that bright. There were strange clouds too, no doubt due to a combination of the geography and climate of the place, that though not as twisted and tortuous as he painted them could obviously have provided the inspiration.
So – back in the west country and inspired to paint (I obviously needed some kind of mental creative invigoration). I know I haven’t painted the butcher thing yet, or a hundred other proposed new subjects come to that, but I’m winding up for another larger Icarus, perhaps something Minotaur inspired (I came back with a lovely little casting of a bull that I bought from a roadside wine and fruit seller) and probably a return to the Young Spartans theme.
I know it’s only going to be a matter of time – but we will move to France. The cultural climate there IS different; despite my persistent attempts to tell myself I’m living in some kind of mad idealised world of how I want France to be it actually is how I perceive it. The people are friendly (and gloriously ideal subjects for painting), the food is varied, good value and healthy. Smokers aren’t yet subject to potential summary execution and there’s always the wine and coffee. Ahh – the wine and coffee.
Apparently Aix en Provence is twinned with Bath. I know where I’d rather be.
“Minotaur Woman” 2005