Here is a topic which is very much my leitmotiv these days, both in my paintings and photography (below)

This reminds me of Jacques Tati’s “Mon Oncle”, a 1960’s film in which the film maker was opposing, with much exaggeration, the de-humanized modern day Paris, squeaky clean and globalized, with the old fashioned City, dirty but idiosyncratic, welcoming and unmistakenly French.

But in this case, the old and the new are no longer opposed. One may regret it – and God knows I hear a lot of whinging about that around here – or alternatively, one may grow to like that modern day Paris too, admitting that both of of these can exist side by side and enjoy looking at what’s best in both of these worlds.

Old buildings reflected in a glass building in Port Royal

From artyStuff
The Cathedral in Reims (Eastern France), is reflected in the windows panes of the ultra modern multimedia public library
What I like best is the 2 bats that they stuck on the windows. Will you be able to spot them on the picture ?
From artyStuff

St Jacques, Paris – 3 different views

Saint Jacques in the morning
1. Saint Jacques at day-break

One day I was looking for new subjects and while browsing my notes I then took a look across the back of our building and then I realised that there was so much happening around us that I might even probably uncover a few dozen subjects in themselves just looking at the buildings around me, the people behind windows, some dressed, some not, having a cup of coffee in the kitchen or watching the TV or even just having a stroll between four walls and possibly talking to themselves in the privacy of their apartments. For those wondering where St Jacques in Paris is, here’s a map courtesy of Google.

That’s how I got started on the St Jacques series, a collection of drawings and watercolours showing the buildings around the area, and catching glimpses of the lives that are unfolding before our very eyes at various moments of the day.

Saint Jacques at night
2. Saint Jacques at night

My number 1 watercolour of Saint Jacques was dedicated to mornings, a minute description of what was going on at day-break with people having breaksfast, walking around in their bathrobes or even working from home as I do so often myself.

Number 2 is about the same area at night, only from a different angle and with a different size, a picture in which only a few brightly lit windows are emerging from a huge dark mass of concrete and stone walls, the textures of which at that time of night cannot even be perceived anymore.

Number 3 is a triptych version of an evening in Saint Jacques, not yet so dark as the night one but quite dark though. As it happens, I finalised evening number 2 even before evening number 1 had been started so expect the original to appear later on this blog after its sequel.

Saint Jacques - evening no. 2 - Triptych
3. Saint Jacques - evening no. 2 - Triptych

the rooftops series – Blois, France

As I am getting ready for the Aquarella 2009 exhibition which is due to take place in the West of Paris (Rueil Malmaison to be precise), I have recently produced a new series of rooftop watercolours the idea of which was initiated years ago (see bottom picture). I added a sequel to that rooftop picture by providing another view in the opposite direction taken from nearly the same place, i.e. a stone’s throw from the Blois Cathedral of Blois in the Loire Valley.

Rooftops in Blois - No.2
Rooftops in Blois - No.2 - final version (click to enlarge)

This is only step two in a series of rooftops watercolours which I will issue as I go along this summer as I am building up my stock for the Aquarella event which will take place on Sept 13 (the poster will be added to the blog soon) .

Rooftops in Blois no.2 - 2009

Should you wish to have a close look at the various stages leading to the final version of rooftops in Blois no. 2, click here to see my Posterous report which pictures of the various steps.

Below is a reproduction of version 1 of the Rooftops in Blois series.

CLICK TO ENLARGE - rooftops in Blois

(click the thumbnail to enlarge Rooftops in Blois – May 2005)

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (Great Britain)

Blenheim Palace Fountain
Blenheim Palace Fountain

Back in the saddle after quite a few months in which I haven’t produced any new pictures. I have just completed this new postcard format watercolour of a fountain at Blenheim Palace.

Blenheim Palace is the “home to 11th Duke of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill” according to the Blenheim Palace website. It is located in Oxfordshire, north-west of Oxford.

The palace, an early 18th century mansion built by the Duke is “set in 2100 acres of beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown” and it is “surrounded by sweeping lawns, formal gardens and the magnificent Lake”.  I have only chosen to reproduce this fountain with its caryatids in this picture, but the main landmark at Blenheim is the bridge and the view of the palace from the river (see the top picture at http://www.blenheimpalace.com/thepalace/untoldstory/)

Montparnasse: too old to rock’n roll, too young to die

denfert rochereauI keep hearing that Montparnasse is no longer what it used to be, that the old spirit is no longer there, that the Montparnos, these bohemian artists aren’t around anymore. Well, all the nay-sayers are at it to show that Montparnasse is a thing of the past, dead and buried. But rest assured you lovers of French culture, this is not true. Fine, ‘official’, government-commissioned artists may have all buggered off to London or NYC (there are nay-sayers in both these cities too mind you, there is never a shortage of winging ready to spoil your day) or even Samarkand for that matter but who cares.

the Colin workshopWhat I know for sure is that all around me here are workshops and artists, bubbling with creativity and the desire to set poetry in motion. What else? Thanks to nice Mr Malevich who managed to sell a white painting on a white canvas in 1918 (white on white on the MoMa Website) – was that ominous of the Great War chaos? – we artists have been freed of our obligation to be ‘different’ and provocative. I know that there are still people who think that slicing sheep (read ‘is it Art‘ on Knowledge Art) and keeping it in formaldahyde is a great thing to do. Plus it sells well. Schmap is a new online tourist/cultural service which publishes information about sights and they have just released their new page on Montparnasse, which proves that it’s still well and truly on the map.

Port Royal As a matter of fact, one photograph from the Antimuseum (see above) was chosen to illustrate the page dedicated to the lion of Denfert Rochereau, the area where I live and create. Much as I regret it, the lion hasn’t been split in two pieces and its cast iron doesn’t need formaldahyde or any other chemical to stay in good shape. Bartholdi certainly wasn’t provocative enough. Actually, his lion – although it was meant to pay tribute to the courage of the people of Belfort on the German border for their heroic resistance in front of the Prussian invader of the 1870’s – is looking in the opposite direction as if to show that we have no hard feelings against our former foe. And indeed he was right to do so for now we are the world’s best friends and this is a really good idea by the way.

This natural reserve of Bartholdi’s is not going to prove sufficient to change the minds of the afore-mentioned nay-sayers but the lion still serves as beacon for many of us located around its pedestal and the nearby catacombs.

Salon des arts de Paris 14èmeI have added a few illustrations in this text which describe the area, but I still have to write up a review depicting the 300 paintings which are displayed each year in September by the artists of the well-famed fourteenth arrondissement, not to mention the courageous artists keeping their booths in the windy shadow of the tour Montparnasse every Sunday.

Sisyphus at rest and other pictures

Niemeyer's Volcano in Le Havre

These are 3 miniature watercolours [10cmx10cm] which I have just finished painting.

La roseraie Blésoise (Blois)

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyers Volcano in the Normandy city of Le Havre (left) to start with;

Secondly, the Rose Garden in Blois, in the Loire Valley (right);

And lastly, more surreal and metaphorical, Sisyphus at rest (below).

For the benefit of those who don’t know about the myth, Sisyphus is Aelous‘s son. He proved shrewed enough so that he was able to thwart death itself, which he managed to shackle so that he wouldn’t be sent to Hell. As a consequence he was punished for eternity, a punishment known as Sisyphean Challenge, whereby “Zeus displayed his own cleverness by binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration. Accordingly, pointless or interminable activities are often described as Sisyphean. Sisyphus was a common subject for ancient writers and was depicted by the painter Polygnotus on the walls of the Lesche at Delphi (Pausanias x. 31)“.

Sisyphe au repos (Mythe Grec)

But the The Myth of Sisyphus is also the title of Albert Camus‘s first , and famous, philosophical essay, an essential piece of literature in which the author is depicting his cynical, yet optimistic, view of the world that surrounds us. In this essay, Camus postulates that the world is absurd, and that all human activity on the surface of this earth is no less absurd. He therefore likens the human condition to that of poor Sisyphus, who was forced to push or carry a heavy boulder uphill on an interminable slope. Yet, according to Camus, life is good despite all this, and it is deemed worth living. This is what I imagined in this picture. Sisyphus, a man of today but also of all time, is rolling his boulder upwards as if nothing happened. But in this picture he is also taking his time to breathe before his task is finished. As it will never be finished, the picture shows a scene which is in theory impossible, but as the world is absurd anyway, it doesn’t matter that much. Sisyphus understands that this task is useless, that it will take him nowhere and he decides to have a short break before resuming.

“the fight for any summit, is in itself sufficient for a man to feel contented. One has to imagine that Sisyphus could be a happy man.” (Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus)

A philosophy I can relate to, disillusioned but certainly not in the least pessimistic.

shopwindow cat in Douvres (Normandy)

White-legged shopwindow cat in DouvresI spotted that white legged shopwindow cat in Douvres (not Dover, but its Normandy equivalent, Douvres la Délivrande, near Caen). This little town is mostly famous for its art nouveau pharmacy and its beautiful church but what caught my eye on that Easter day when we were taking a stroll over there is a cat who was merely basking in the sunshine behind a weird shopwindow in the high-street. the shop itself was a bit weird and I am not sure what they were selling in there.

Corner Cat

The owner was apparently an excentric English gentleman, for at least he spoke French with an accent. Maybe it was a shop where they sold cats and where you could pick you next pet from the window?  This reminds me of another cat – dubbed corner cat – which I had spotted in Tunisia, perched on top of a small local building.

I made a postcard of that corner cat  by the way, together with 7 other pictures (the pack of 8 postcards with 8 different pictures on them costs only 5€)

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