Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Sunday, 7 October 2012
Latvia is fairly flat. There are endless forests, and curious paths that disappear randomly into their thick lines of verticals. We had trips to several locations. First there was a long walk down a forested hill to a wide river. We explored the river banks, went up a very tall, wooden tower to get a panoramic view, and then had a picnic by the river. We also visited a Bread Museum, which I will write about in detail in my next post.
As the light began to soften, we went to see Devil's Lake. The bus let us out on a dirt road leading into a forest that seemed to engulf the world. Our group ambled along this road chatting away, while our guides gathered mushrooms. (This is a national pastime.) I was amazed that within a tiny patch of mossy ground, you could see 6 or 7 different varieties of mushrooms: red, black, yellow with frills, yellow round ones, grey and domed, puffballs, flat beige, spotted. As our group were slowly walking along, I stopped with Anna to go to the toilet. (The strong vodka-like drink we'd had at the Bread Museum had created a sense of urgency!) We didn't take long, and hurried up the road to find our group. They were nowhere to be seen. We reached a fork in the road, by a large sign marking the lake. We had a choice, to take the road on the left (which went up a slight hill), or turn right and follow a very narrow, mossy path alongside the lake edge. The lake was in front of us, a crystal clear expanse, with the dark, serated reflections of pine trees. Still we could hear no voices. The forest was silent, not even birdsong punctuated the rhythmic verticals.
A car passed, and men stared out at us. For sure, two women alone in nowhere was very odd. We hoped they wouldn't come back! Were there bears, I wondered?
As evening was sapping the light, we had to make a decision. I said let's go back to where the bus left us. Anna was worried that the bus was collecting everyone from another point. But everything seemed to be saying to go back to our starting point, and just wait there. They would be sure to come back to look for us there.
The ridged, earthy road back seemed to go on forever. We passed the same groups of mushrooms, which were the only points of reference in a forest without signposts. Then, as we rounded a corner, there was the white bus. Our relief sent us into hysterical laugher, which began to echo around the trees. As we neared the group of our friends, our hysterical laughter grew even louder as we realised that no one had missed us! They were all busy drinking some more of the Vodka-like drink, and talking about Devil's Lake. Anna and I were passed small cups of this clear fluid, and I drank mine in one go. No one asked us where we'd been, and we were rather relieved. The talk was about Devil's Lake, and some related spooky or paranormal events, and how beautiful it had been.
Next day I began to mention to the other artists that we'd been lost. They all said, 'We didn't realise!' I guessed that they'd taken the mossy path by the lake, and somehow returned to our starting point on a road parallel to the one we were on. This painting is about that experience. I began it on my first day in the studio, but did not finish it until 2 days before the end of studio time.
('Into the Forest,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 90 x 60cm)
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
On the Sunday we had a long trip out into the Latvian landscape, to get a feeling for our new environment. I was glad of this experience because I wanted this sense of place to enter my work. The trip took us to a river for a picnic, to a bread museum (where we tasted homemade Rye bread, and had a huge supper of organic food from the area), and to see the lovely church at Aglona. We walked along a road, lined with sunflowers, and admired ornate, old houses that were part of a museum, and it was like going back in time. Crimson, orange and yellow Cactus Dahlias were bright accents against deep brown earth, and Apple trees encircled small wooden homes.
We were out until late in the evening, and the luscious greens of the landscape were indelibly imprinted on my mind. It is a landscape without fences (unlike Kent, where I live), and colourful houses are scattered across the flat, grassy land like dice thrown across a luminous, green tablecloth. This is a painting inspired by that day's experience.
My next post will describe getting lost in the forest!
('Latvian Journey,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 80 x 70cm. Part of the Mark Rothko Foundation)
Monday, 1 October 2012
Shortly before the end of our studio time, I tried to enliven this green curve by adding another shade that was entirely wrong (too dense), and spent the next day wiping it off with rags soaked in turpentine! My hands were green for some days afterwards, but eventually I was able to re-work the green and it ended up better than it had been. A huge sigh of relief - it was, of the 4 paintings, the one that was a new direction for me, and I was determined to be able to show it! It was also the one chosen for the catalogue.
Unlike most of my fellow artists, who came equipped with laptops, I was unable to update my blog day by day. I will over the next week describe the experience of being on a painting residency, and what I gained from it. For now, I'm including a few photos of this largest painting.
It was an amazing experience, and I wish it had been longer. It is the first time, since college, that I have had such a large studio space, and it allowed me to expand and reassess my ideas.