So this is where I’ve been “attempting” to work for the last few months, so I’ve had to massively reduce the scale of my work – 1.5 x 1 metre canvases don’t really fit… I’ve never been great at working small scale and back in Dublin I usually laid out my canvasses on the floor in our spare room which was huge and airy and very bright (honestly I was spoiled there and didn’t even realise it, but I was also working full time and running around after my two-year-old so time was a bit limited). Now I’ve much more time but no space. So top of the To-Do List is find a studio space. Ironically, downstairs there’s a huge artist’s studio and the guy who rents it has moved to Germany, so it’s locked up and empty and I have to pass by it every day. (He sells A4 size drawings in Parisien galleries for €14,500 so I guess he can afford to keep it)
When I tell people (back in Ireland/anywhere outside of mainland Europe) I live in Paris they get SO excited. For some reason they invariably ask “So, can you see the Eiffel Tower from your apartment?” While the Eiffel Tower (or the “Awful Tower as my son’s 4-year-old best friend so lovingly labelled it) is 24 metro stops away on the wonderful Line 9, unfortunately the answer is No, I cannot see it. In fact strictly speaking I don’t even live in Paris as we’re a few hundred metres from the Peripherique… quelle dommage… We live in an interesting area called Montreuil, which is wonderfully full of artists (hundreds in fact) but which gives a whole new meaning to the term “competition”. It’s very mixed here and hopefully the Bobos (bourgeois bohemes or the other way around? I never know…) don’t take over… Speaking of which, coming from a small town in the south-east of Ireland, it shocked me to be told that that’s the category of people I fall into… so much for appearances (until I open my mouth to speak “culchie french” or to cackle loudly at something funny when it’s not very Parisien to laugh raucously).
So for the benefit of those who have not visited my humble abode: on the left we have La Tour Eiffel (which I cannot see without trundling through an underground tube squashed under someone’s sweaty armpit or not, depending on the time of day) and on the right, the current view from my apartment window (yes, it’s a wonderfully large window, but malheureusement La Tour Eiffel is nowhere in sight – but the rain is… aaah nostalgia for Ireland)
So hopefully this will help me see where I’ve come from and where I’m going to, as well as providing a record of my art production… let’s start with the most recent. I’ve lived in Paris for a few months now. My french is ok verging on crap depending on the day and how stressed I am if it’s something important I’m doing (like trying to choose the wine for our dinner guests). I did start (free) lessons a few months ago but then between one thing and another I never got round to going very often. I’ve promised myself that my gift to myself for “le Rentree” in September will be a kick in the arse to go back to lessons. There in nothing in the world more frustrating than not being able to commmunicate articulartely, especially when you know that given the chance in your mother tongue, you could flatten someone in two minutes in the same argument. (This is not referring to my partner – when the discussion gets heated we both revert to our own language!) Anyway, soon my three-year-old will move beyond “elle s’appelle ‘my mammy'” and “regarde look la” and then I’ll be in trouble if I don’t keep up. Which brings things round to my current paintings. Quite dark, yes, but that in part comes from using enlarged details of previous paintings to create the abstract element of the work. Over the course of a few weeks I took some photos in cemetaries here – away from the noise and bustle of busy streets. Away too from listening to a language which, unless someone addresses themselves clearly at me – presents itself as some kind of incomprehensible background noise sometimes. The cemetary might be full of overblown stone memorials to people who in many cases are long gone and often clearly forgotten judging by their state of disrepair, but the quietness is a language I can understand. I can hear it almost.
I loved some of the statues here. As if they speak lucidly and loudly without an audible sound. So I took them home after a spectacularly and unexpectedly hot day in March and let them have a word or two through the medium of paint. I’d been working a lot with Photoshop lately while building my own website (the initial excitement of designing has given way to the tedium of the finishing details, of which I have never been fond, and am dragging my heels on completing), so I tweaked the photos somewhat, but only very slightly as somehow the light had given them a depth of colour I hadn’t noticed in the daylight. Printed onto tissue and pasted on, the photo finds a way to complement the abstract element already in place. I thought this one worked well. Others are taking a bit longer to pull themselves in some kind of balance but hopefully will find their way soon.