Thursday, 27 December 2012

We are all Nomads

                                ('We are All Nomads,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 110 x 70cm)

As I write my last post of 2012, the window near me frames a grey sky, and torrential rain. The television in front of me is once again showing the extensive flooding in the UK, which underlines some of the reasons for my recent painting, above. This germinated from images of Tahrir square, with its mass of tents, and the shocking videos of places in the UK which resemble swampland. Interspersed with these were reports of world recession, homelessness, and increasingly the fragilites of life flash by on that screen. The idea of tents sparked my painting, and the concept that anything can change from moment to moment.

My application for a 3 month residency in Scotland has to be finished before Monday. It is, like most of these applications, long and complicated, and I spent several hours on Boxing Day writing my statements, proposals, checking travel costs (in case I get to the interview stage), and checking out the paintings of the artist whose name titles the residency. I believe my work fits the ethos, though there will be many painters applying for this amazing, funded residency. It's my last application for this year, and the results of all three will come in late January.

As my happiest artistic event of 2012 was participating in the painting residency in Daugavpils, Latvia, I am attaching a few more photos from those incredible twelve days.

           (At the Theatre: From left to right, Peter, Minas, myself, and my good friend Anna)
          (Hotel Latgola, 10th floor restaurant at night: from left to right, Anna, Madara and myself)

This photograph was taken on 25th September, at the Daugavpils Museum of Art and Regional Studies, where we opened our group exhibition on the date of Mark Rothko's birthday. We are standing in front of my friend Anna's paintings, I am at the far left of the back row. The exhibition Opening was filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, and the speeches went on for at least 45 minutes, and during this each artist was presented with a certificate to confirm their participation in the residency. I had difficulty pushing my way to the front to collect my certificate! The Opening was also televised, and I was interviewed. I was thrilled to find that my 3 paintings had an end wall to themselves, with my largest canvas in the centre. My largest painting really shouted its presence on that wall.

As the year ticks to a close, I'm wondering if 2013 will bring any further surprises.

                                       ('Twists and Turns,' oil and acrylic on board, 60 x 45cm)
                                                   (Click on images for a larger view.)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

White Curtains

                                 (My walk through the park to the studio, September 2012)

We had our first snowfall a few days ago. So begins the curtain that separates the old year from the new, as temperatures plunge and my thoughts are on which bulbs to plant. I am remembering the walk to my studio in Daugavpils, as I deal with another rejection. It was half expected, as I had applied to a big company which showcases artists' work, but the slant was that it had to promote an aspect of scientific innovation or relate to something ecologically 'friendly.' I didn't fit the brief. As a friend posted on Facebook today that he had just received a rejection, I was not alone.

                                     (September 16th, our trip into the Latvian landscape.)
I finished my long application for the residency in Scotland, and have half finished an application for a grant, from an American foundation which helps artists. Both are a long shot, but worth the try. Before the white curtain drops and opens into the New Year, another 5 applications will make their way across cyberspace!
                        (View from the 10th floor restaurant, down to the main square at Daugavpils.)

I am closing this post with a recent painting, called 'Seasonal Echoes.' (Acrylic and oil on canvas, 50 x50cm)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Beginnings and Endings

My entry for The Crash Open Salon was unsucessful. Friends on Facebook helped put it in perspective, as this is part of the uncertain territory of being an artist. You never know what the selectors are looking for, or what the tone of the exhibition is. But I have never met any artist, established or beginner, who doesn't feel a slight wobble when a rejection notice arrives! My response is always to begin new work, and in the last week I have worked another two canvases.

I have applied for a residency in the US, and I am racing against a deadline of 7th December to complete an application for a residency in Scotland in 2013. Both of these are set in rural areas, which would be very inspiring for me, as my colourful abstractions often reflect landscape elements, and certainly I feel the energies of the land. I am longing for a period of isolation, in a studio, to focus solely on my work.

The Mark Rothko residency will soon be part of a year past. I can still remember the intoxicating excitement as my aircraft tilted on its approach to Riga airport, and the sight of endless, dark forests. I'll never forget my first night at the hotel near the airport, and the claustrophobic white drapes that obscurred all but a few straggly tree tops swaying against a dismal grey sky. Or how I just wanted to run home! I wondered COULD I cope with being with strangers all day, and would I be the one fraudulent artist among the group? (Because surely it must be a mistake that I had been chosen!) I waited for 6 hours at the airport the next day, until the bus came to collect me (and 3 other artists who appeared from nowhere). Riga shone brightly under grey skies as we walked around and met artists who were waiting there, and got to know each other.

I think that one of the highlights was the evening journey to Daugavpils, and drinking balsam for 3 hours on the bus while chatting non stop about art. I felt so incredibly happy. It's not often that you feel endorsed as an artist, and after years of struggling, I felt I was where I was meant to be. And as we neared Daugavpils in the darkest night, our hotel was illuminated green, blue and red against the sparkle of the city. We had our supper at 10.30pm, at a long table near to the band, whose loud music jarred on us in our tiredness. People were dancing a Russian kind of dance, bumping against us.

I'll never forget going up to the 10th floor for breakfast the next morning, and being told that we had to go down to the second floor for the Press Conference at I sat in the row of artists, with the journalists, Mark Rothko Committee, and TV cameras staring at us. Flags denoting our countries lined the table. One by one we were asked what we planned to paint, and would it relate to Latvia? I said that I was already buzzing with colour ideas spun by the previous day's journey. I looked at my colleagues and they all appeared so calm!

I'll also never forget how, when I pulled my room curtains aside on that first morning, my only view was a puce-coloured wall just beyond a narrow ledge littered with pigeon feathers. I was on the 4th floor and up against the side of the Mall. Mario was in the next room and he asked to change his room. I thought he couldn't stand the sound of my phone calls every night after midnight, but he couldn't stand that wall.

So this post is a re-visiting of my Latvian residency, as I am feeling rather self-indulgent today!

         (Photo: The Press Conference on Saturday, 15th September - I am the 6th from the left.)

On that first day, we also went to see our studios, and chose some art materials from the art shop, which was near the hotel. I was surprised how easily we all bonded, and it was as if we had known one another for years. Sunday was our day-long trip out into the landscape (which I will include more photos from in another post), and Monday was the first studio day. My husband had bought me sachets of 3 -in-1 coffee (sugar and milk included) so I had a reminder of him, and also my own supply of coffee to take to our coffee room, which was just along the wide, bright corridor. We were also asked that day if we had decided who would do their presentation that night, and who would do it on the Tuesday.

It was a very intensive programme. We were given schedules and every evening we had some activity - ranging from Presentations, to a visit to the Theatre, to a wonderful meal in an unforgettable local restaurant (on the Saturday night). It was all within a walking distance, and I have some lovely memories of walks back in the dark, chatting to friends as colourful interiors and warm-stoned buildings vied for attention. We passed through a park one night and were shown benches designed by local artists. They were amazingly creative and intriguing, and each one provoked gasps of admiration. I thought how forward thinking these people were, that they commissioned artists and supported them.

                                          (View from the Latgolla hotel, 10th floor restaurant.)
I'll never forget our many lunches and suppers, and how some of the artists became fed up of being served chicken (usually under melted cheese) and fish (also under melted cheese!) and went out to find burgers. I was always so hungry and found most of the meals delicious, apart from the tendency to put blobs of sour cream in the soup. We had a huge choice of food for breakfast, and always unlimited access to coffee and tea. I loved to sit in the restaurant at night, drinking coffee and chatting about art, as the town sparkled around us. The staff treated us as if we were Royalty!

Before I went to bed, my husband called me. Some nights I was not in my room until, and we chatted for a few minutes before I fell into bed happily exhausted.

More to come.
(Painting: 'Leaving,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 55 x 46cm.)