Friday, 28 June 2013

The New Mark Rothko Centre, Daugavpils, Latvia (part three)

Me, Anja and Dillywn at the entrance to the Centre

On my second and final day in Daugavpils, I had my breakfast with Lars in the 10th floor restaurant of our hotel. It was a sunny but breezy and chilly day. Clouds raced across the city as we exchanged advice on 'how to proceed' with applications, exhibitions, and general snippets of information that you can only get from other artists! We both missed the company of the other artists who were on our September residency, and coming up into the restaurant each morning to see the familiar smiling faces. Our 'music' had also gone, to be replaced with something more rock and roll.

We set off to the Centre separately, and once again I wondered if it would rain. I had a sense of 'this will be a relaxing day, nothing to do but enjoy the Centre,' and I was right. I spent about 12 hours there and was with my friends all day.

With my friends in the Centre (I am second from the right)

We spent some time in the Rothko rooms, looking at the quality reproductions, which were projected onto canvases leaning up against the walls, and sat for a while in the high-security Rothko room, where the six original paintings are on show. I loved these - 2 paintings represented three periods from his artistic oeuvre. I could not photograph these, but below are the reproductions.

At lunchtime we decided to sample a local cafe that two of the artists were recommending. It was about a 25 minute walk but well worth it! All kinds of local soups and traditional dishes were available (though no one wanted any more fish or chicken wrapped in cheese!) The thing about Latvian cuisine is that it is not only tasty but they pay such great attention to how the meal is served up. Even my Cappuccino was decorated with sugars shaped into flowers.

Top two photos - the local restaurant.

On our way back to the Centre, we passed by the railway track, which was high up on a bank, and the longest train I have ever seen slowly trundled by! It must have had about 50 carriages of freight! We were by then late for Peter Griffin's lecture about his work, and had to call ahead to ask him to wait. Peter is my ex Tutor, and it was very interesting to see his work and how it has evolved over the 29 years since I last met him! After the lecture, we were treated to cakes, biscuits and drinks.

Dillwyn and Lars about to enter the tunnel into the Fortress area

Later in the afternoon, there were some performances. The first was a re-enactment of the Russian revolution of 1917, complete with canon fire, and shooting, and I stood up on one of the banks to watch it. From that point, as I turned to look south, I could see the swollen river Daugava just a short way beyond, and how it was almost ready to engulf the flat land. The sun was starting to go down, and cast wonderful shades of gold and copper across the wintry landscape.

Then we watched a performance of dance and music, which I found quite emotional and rousing. It was beautifully done, and the dancers did a similar routine to the one they did on the evening our residency was formally opened last September.

After this, we went up to the artists' flats, where Kristina and Dillwyn were staying, and had some beer in the kitchen. The section for artists to stay is really impressive and I would love to do a self-funded residency and stay there. There are also spacious studios.

The moon was a luminous golden globe hovering just above the horizon, and its largeness made it feel almost touchable. We set off in taxis to Gubernators, a wonderful restaurant that I visited during my residency. It was where we had been taken on the night we'd all been welcomed to the residency, and we had all sat there with the Directors and there had been abundant food, drink, and many speeches. I remembered the name, and recommended it for our farewell meal. We passed the Daugava, shimmering with the pinks and peaches of the evening sky, and in places there was a shiny overflow onto the grassy banks. We all felt sad that it was our last night, and the meal we had at Gubernators was excellent.

We all had copious amounts of Vodka, some had beer, and lots to eat. I had a soup (potato and vegetables), but I wished I'd had the potato and mushrooms because Kristina gave me a taste and it was one of the best soups I've ever eaten! Latvian mushrooms are fantastic and have such flavour. I also had a salad, but my friends ate chicken or meat. Much later, Farida (one of the DMRC Directors) joined us and said goodbye to us. Then we took a leisurely walk back to the main square, all laughing and enjoying the magical city at night. Surprisingly, the streets were empty, though it was only 11.20pm, (according to the digital green clock numbers outside the Hotel Latgola). Anja's hotel was on the other side of the square, and I realised that I could see her room from mine! I arranged with Anja and Dillwyn to meet them the next morning very early.
My final photograph for this post is of a painting I finished last week, which I feel has echoes from my trip through the Latvian landscape. It's called 'On the Cusp of Memory,' and combines and overlaps traces from different memories of places and experiences, but some of the ochres and purples were colours I noted from the bus.

'On the Cusp of Memory,' acrylic on canvas, 80 x 45cm

Yesterday I received three copies of THE JACKDAW, (July/August issue) with my article about the Mark Rothko Centre on page 25. It was lovely to see it in print!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pick Your Own Cotton

'Summer Remembered,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 70 x 50cm

My title is a phrase I saw online in an article about making your own opportunities. It is one I follow every day, as I know that no one will 'find' me, I have to keep sending out applications, keep networking, and gradually make my presence known. It's a powerful reminder that we can take our future and shape it how we want to.

I'm about to send off my application to a gallery in the US, and I'm caught up in a wonderful current of evolving ideas, which are spinning off painting after painting.  I need more canvases to let the ideas run across and blossom further. Two recent paintings should now be on display at the 'Not the Royal Academy' exhibition at the Llewellyn Alexander gallery in London.

Part Three of 'The Mark Rothko Centre, Daugavpils,' will follow soon.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The new Mark Rothko Centre, Daugavpils. (part two) April 24th - The Opening

Shadows across the City

Mark Rothko was born in Dvinsk (then part of the Russian Empire) in 1903. He moved to the USA when he was ten. After the Russian revolution of 1917, Dvinsk became Daugavpils, the second largest city in the new Latvia.

I woke up to a glorious, panoramic view of the city square, and park beyond. The swirling clouds cast deep blue stripes across the buildings and trees, and I wished I had time to paint this dramatic scene. I went up to the 10th floor restaurant, hoping to find some of the other artists there, but there were no familiar faces. I took full advantage of the huge array of cooked food, and cereals, and drank several cups of coffee. I wrapped some slices of the tasty dark brown Rye bread for lunch later, and tried to work out which roads would take me to the Centre. I was told it would take about 30 minutes to walk there.

I stepped out of the hotel and into strong, icy breezes. It was a lovely walk. The sun illuminated the golds in the long, dead grasses, and gilded skeletal trees. Golds and copper contrasted against the brilliant blue patches of sky. As clouds raced across the sky, I wondered if the day would be spoilt by rain.

The Church behind the Hotel

It was quite a long walk, and I was shivering by the time I reached the old Fortress. The river Daugava was almost level with the surrounding land, and there was some flooding in places.

Flooding near the Fortress

The Rothko Centre is within the walls of the old Fortress. I arrived to find many technicians setting up stages and lighting for the performances, and people running everywhere. One of the organisers remembered me from the Residency, and took me to find Lars Strandh, one of my friends from the Residency. We found the other artists, and also my ex Tutor, Peter Griffin (who had an exhibition of his work in the Centre) and we all went for lunch in the Centre's restaurant. As usual, the soup was brilliant, and we had some chicken wrapped in cheese, and salad.

Left to Right: Kristina, Peter, Dillwyn and Lars

A conference was going on, but we spent the rest of the day looking around the Centre and catching up on our news. Then at about 5pm people began to gather outside the Centre, for the performance and speeches. I stood on the stairs that lead down from the second floor, to get a good view.

The Opening began with a performance of dance during which the dancers painted some stands with bright daubs of colour. 

After this, the speeches began. Both Kate Rothko, (below) and Christopher Rothko gave speeches about their father and the Centre. There was a sense that Mark Rothko's paintings had 'come home.'

Then everyone went inside, though there were so many people that security men let us in in small groups. The highlight in the Centre is the Rothko room, which contains 6 original paintings, loaned by his children.

The Mark Rothko Centre

This is me in one of the halls showcasing work by some of the resident artists. Unfortunately my work was not on show, though I was told later by one of the Directors that my large painting will be going to an International Arts Festival in Vietbsk, Belarus, in the summer

There was a wonderful buffet meal in the restaurant - but I was so busy taking photographs, and chatting, that by the time I went to the table, a few bread rolls remained! I met Kate Rothko, her friends, and several gallery Directors and Curators.

From left to Right: Lars, me, Marion, Rene.

At about 8pm, a friend called me outside to see the concert, which was fantastic - a Finnish accordian player - and the Centre was beautifully spotlit all around

It was a great evening, and I walked back to the city centre with Lars and two of the Committee members, under a full moon, near 11.30pm

The Moon over the Centre
(click on images for larger view)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The new Daugavpils Mark Rothko Centre. (part one)

The view from my room, at the Park Hotel Latgola

I flew to Latvia from Gatwick airport on April 23rd. It was a smooth flight, and as we descended through the clouds, I marvelled again at the view that inspired my largest painting, 'Flying into Riga Airport,' made during my September residency. Dark blocks of skeletal trees circled colourful houses, a few industrial chimneys, and expanses of golden, tundra-like landscape. We landed under stormy skies, and my nerves for the long journey ahead began!

Having only hand luggage, I was out of the airport by 4pm. I queued for the airport Shuttle, and after 15 minutes it arrived, and I had a speedy journey into Riga, then a long tour around the city as people were dropped off at various hotels. Riga's narrow streets are wonderful, and crammed with colourful old buildings, cafes and shops. Finally, the Shuttle left me at the main Riga bus terminal. It looked huge - I could see at least 25 bus stands! I went into the ticket office and bought my ticket for Daugavpils. Everything was so efficient, and the ticket very cheap, at around 6 Lats. The only thing that let it down was the toilets, which were very dirty.

I went to queue at stand 7. The bus was due to leave at 6.05pm. My nerves were rattled when a beggar girl who was pestering people for money began to hit the old couple next to me, and wouldn't go away. With great relief, I boarded the double-decker, and climbed up on to the top floor. It was very comfortable, with tables, TV, and drinks for purchase. I was amazed how full the bus became, and we left exactly at 6.05pm. We meandered through the city under rather gloomy skies, and in heavy traffic. I envisaged my comfy hotel room with some longing, as a four hour bus journey loomed ahead. But it was really wonderful, and the landscape incredibly inspiring! For most of the journey, we were next to the very wide river Daugava, which was flanked by steely-purple blocks of trees, and lined with snow. Ice still floated on the formidably grey water. The landscape was predominantly ochre, brown-grey and gold, with slashes of almost black fields, and small, wooden houses scattered across it like dice. There were no fences, just a sense of land going on forever, and a huge sky. Here and there were patches of melting snow, and the river had overflowed in many places, flooding the land. At several points, our bus was only a few feet above the water. I listened to music, and ate my sandwiches.

We stopped twice in villlages, to go to a very basic toilet. Then by about the third hour, I began to search desperately for signs we were getting near to Daugavpils. I saw a huge red-lit mast, protruding high above a pine forest, and thought, 'This is it, that mast is in the city,' but it turned out not to be! Darkness set in at about 9pm, and an enormous, golden moon followed me on my side of the bus. Finally I recognised the thick pine forests, and a roundabout near the city. We passed the Mark Rothko Centre as we entered the city, and it was beautifully spot-lit. Then thankfully, the bus stopped just a few feet from my hotel, at around 9.50pm. I stepped into the hotel, and the girl behind the reception desk said, 'Oh hello Fiona!' Instantly, I relaxed.

My room was on the 7th floor, overlooking the main square. It was a much better room than the one I had during the residency. I took a shower, ate some more sandwiches, and put on the Euronews. My husband called me, very relieved I'd arrived safely. I went to bed around, feeling quite excited about seeing my artist friends and the new Centre. The Opening was the next day.
My room.