Monday, 25 May 2009
TRAVELS IN TASSIE
I live in France.
I flew to Tasmania with Lynne in April 2009. It took two days. I nearly died of jet-lag.
French Admiral Bruny d'Entrecasteaux left Brest in September 1791 to look for missing French explorer La Perouse.
Off the coast of Van Diemensland the French fleet was hit by a storm and driven into an inlet which Bruny named Recherche Bay. It was April 1792. The voyage had taken OVER SIX months.
In his log he described Recherche Bay as "a lovely harbour at the end of the world."
We drove from Hobart to Cockle Creek on Recherche Bay which is as far south as you can go by road in Australia. Bruny was right. It's seriously lovely. A sign tells you that you are closer to Antartica than Cairns in Queensland.
We found a whale. It's life size and made out of bronze. A statue of a three month old Southern Right by Steven Walker.
In Hobart' National Gallery we found the statue of Big Mother by Patricia Peccinini, on loan from the Penny Clive collection. It's made out of silicone, fibreglass, leather, human and animal hair.
Bruny died of scurvy in 1793.
Unlike the French Admiral, I survived the trip, and we're now safely back in Mezin, France.
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 11:21
Thursday, 14 May 2009
...COME TO AN END
Jim's 2009 Watercolour Painting in France group produced an amazing output.
Several members managed well over a dozen paintings and drawings in one week!
The weather turned hot and we had to look for venues with some shade nearby. But there's always a surfeit of subject matter when painting in Gascony, as you can see in the photos of our last few days before le retour to America.
Plans are already afoot for next year's trip. Will you be there?
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 09:30
Saturday, 9 May 2009
On VE Day we all went to the service in Mezin. The Mayor of Mezin greeted the Americans and said that Victory in Europe Day was their day too.
Then we went on to Le Bastard for a great lunch. "Bastard" is really the name of the hotel, but in French it is not rude or a pejorative - it's simply the name of a wonderful old establishment in in the nearby hilltop town of Lectoure. It's been there since the Roman were in France. (The town - not the hotel).
After the meal, we found a spectacular place to paint.
(But I must admit that some artists found shopping a parallel attraction and quite a bit of this important activity was fitted in).
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 06:55
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Meet n Greet dinner on the first night at The Mill
Jim and Mo Gensheer and their group arrived safely in Bordeaux on 6 May on their latest trip to France.
It was just like old times when Ray and Lynne met them at Bordeaux Airport.
They then travelled by minibus to The Mill near Mezin in Southwest France where they'll spend the week painting and discovering some of Gascony's secrets.
The above photo was taken in the dining room on their first night. The river passes directly under this 13th Century building which was several hundred years old when Christopher Columbus set sail for America. But the accommodation has been tastefully and faithfully restored and is now a luxury 6 bedroom self catering gite.
Come back to this Blog regularly for more information and photos of Jim's group's trip to France.
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 06:19
Saturday, 2 May 2009
This is a photo taken at a Gallery in Tasmania. Lynne is scowling at something outside the shot – not the dogs, because we both liked Anne-Franc’s paintings very much indeed.
The reason this pic is here is because it shows how I feel when I see a Jackson Pollock or a Mark Rothko (especially a Mark Rothko) in an exhibition.
We saw a wonderful exhibition at the Guggenheim in Bilbao a few years ago. It was called 'Art in the USA - 300 Years of Innovation' and in many of the paintings you could see the obvious connection between late 19th Century and early 20th Century art in America and what was going on in Europe, especially the famous schools in Paris. In fact some of the American works looked as if they had been done by European artists, like the French impressionists, postimpressionists, fauves, etc.
Then we came around a corner into a more contemporary section and were astounded by the rubbish, including a tired old Mark Rothko.
Isn’t it about time we all started asking the question the kid asked of the Chinese emperor? Do these artists have anything? Or is their reputation the equivalent of the Emperor’s new clothes? For those of you who have forgotten the Hans Christian Anderson fable, here is a summary of the plot.
An emperor of a prosperous city who is infatuated with clothes hires two swindlers (in painting terms, critics, gallery owners, art journalists, but mainly collectors) who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This fabric, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position (in art terms us, and people like us who are too stupid to realize we’re being hoodwinked). The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, (in our case we can’t see the poor quality art) but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid - his ministers do the same. (Just like us when we see a Pollock or a Rothko – we pretend that it’s great art). The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital showing off his new "clothes" (just like galleries showing off their paintings). During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, "But he has nothing on!" The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth. (In art terms this moment of revelation would be like us coming to our collective senses and realizing that so many famous artists have no talent). The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession in the nude. (Just like us when we read about art, talk about it and pay good money to see it – but unfortunately there’s nothing there. Like the Emperor, these artists are naked in terms of talent).
So there! Is that provocative enough to start a debate?
Can anyone out there tell me what’s good about a Rothko?
Please contact me at:
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 06:38
Friday, 1 May 2009
Why bother to paint a bottle?
Well, because it’s not just any old bottle, that’s why.
It’s an Armagnac bottle, and even the bottle is something special.
I have just been asked to do a watercolour of an Armagnac bottle by Becky, an American friend who has been to La Petite Galerie innumerable times, and we’ve spent many hours painting together.
It’s done and on it’s way to her via La Poste and the US Mail.
Anyway, while I was painting I was reminded about the ongoing and passionate debate between lovers of Cognac and those who prefer Armagnac.
In English we’d simply categorise them as brandies, but this nomenclature would horrify any French person.
Both are considered very special products in France, and they’ve both become imbued with almost mystical auras.
Having used the crude definition ‘brandy’ I’ve given the game away, so I won’t spend any time on the history, the grapes or the complicated processes involved in their production.
Suffice it to say the debate about the comparative qualities continues at a passionate level.
Now here’s the rub. Wait for it. Yes, Armagnac is by far the better digestif. No doubt about it.
Well that’s easy to answer. It’s because I come from Gascony (where Armagnac is made) and not Cognac (where Cognac is made). Therefore Armagnac must be better. And I can state this with confidence and impunity (I hope) because I live a long way from Cognac.
If you’d like more information about painting an Armagnac bottle with me – or, even better, tasting Armagnac in our area, please contact me at:
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 21:43