Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Beginnings and Endings
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 10.am. 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!
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.
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 1.am, 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.)