WHEN LIFE IS STRANGER THAN ART: MY PAINTING IN ‘HANNAH ROSENTHAL’ AT THE GIRONA FILM FESTIVAL

 Poster for ‘Hannah Rosenthal’

Poster for ‘Hannah Rosenthal’

I WROTE MOST OF THIS A FEW WEEKS AGO, AND NOW IS THE PERFECT MOMENT TO PUBLISH.

I am a passenger in the car on the way to Barcelona, and am ashamed to admit that I am checking my Facebook notifications. There is one entry that catches my breath. I see that I am tagged in a post by the Melbourne actor and film director Naomi Lisner.

A bit of back story:

Last year she wrote and directed a short film called 'Hannah Rosenthal' in which she also plays the lead role.

When filming was taking place in the home of a Melbourne art collector, the entire crew were astounded to see that the large painting of a woman which happened to be hanging behind the dining table as part of the set, was the spitting image of the lead actress sitting in front of it. Naomi Lisner, who is the also the writer and director, found herself stunned to be confronted by what was, in effect, her portrait. 

'Hannah Rosenthal' was completed late in 2017 and entered into several international film festivals.

 Naomi Lisner in front of 'Island' by Chris Aerfeldt, 140 x 120 cm, oil on linen, private collection, Melbourne

Naomi Lisner in front of 'Island' by Chris Aerfeldt, 140 x 120 cm, oil on linen, private collection, Melbourne

Back to now:

The Facebook post announces that Hannah has made the official selection for the Girona Film Festival, a longstanding and prestigious European event.

So where is Girona? 

Well, by another coincidence, we are passing right alongside it at exactly the time that I am reading the post.  Girona is an hour north of Barcelona and home to the ex Prime Minister of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont (remember the Catalan independence referendum and the political fallout last year, except now he's escaping the Spanish authorities and living in Belgium).

Of course, I need to find out more, so Naomi and I get chatting online in a series of messages over the next few weeks. Yes, she is coming over for the event, yes I am invited to the screening, and yes of course I will be there for the showing on September 28. I've never been to an official film competition before, and of course am totally excited about this turn of events.

So finally the time is almost here.

Naomi is already in Barcelona, and we will be meeting for the very first time in person. I have discovered that in Girona I will be entitled to a ‘talent’ pass - meaning access to all the festival events and screenings! Am even more excited.

It just happens, however, that I will need to spend much of the same week in another part of Catalonia working on setting up my own show ‘The Heroine’s Journey’ at the Muxart Museum in Martorell (thirty minutes west of Barcelona). My agenda has had to be finely tuned to fit it all in.

So the week after Hannah Rosenthal screens in Girona, Naomi will be coming to the opening of my own exhibition on October 4.

PS: If you would like to see photos and videos of Naomi and I and the next week’s events as they unfold in Geron, as well as the setting up of my own show in Martorell head to my Instagram feed at aerfeldt_art.

 
 

When art and cinema meet: paintings at the movies

 Aerfeldt painting in the short film 'Hannah Rosenthal' 2017

Aerfeldt painting in the short film 'Hannah Rosenthal' 2017

Artworks in cinema are like actors:

They might play the lead or just be given a supporting role; maybe they get a bit part, or are just extras.

If you begin thinking about art in movies, the titles seem to start as a trickle, but can end up as a flood... 

Here is my own little list of some memorable movies where paintings appear.  PS: I restricted myself to paintings, because otherwise it was getting totally out of control.

1. Art as the STAR:

Think Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, Mr Turner or Pollock. The life of the artist and the creation process drives the whole storyline. 

2. Art in a SUPPORTING ROLE:

Movies where the art has a key role in the storyline fit here. Does Girl with a Pearl Earring fit here or in the starring role category? I can't decide. But there are the whole gamut of art heist movies to consider, such as The Thomas Crown Affair, with Pierce Brosnan stealing a series of paintings from a museum.

I can't help smiling when I think of In Bruges.

3. Art in a BIT PART or as an EXTRA

These are the films where the artworks appear in a scene or two or provide visual backdrops to the storyline. Isn't it delicious to play at decoding subliminal visual messages?  

Think the Batman movie where Heath Ledger's 'Joker' appears in front of a Francis Bacon painting, the actor's makeup deliberately mirroring the Bacon portrait behind.

And Ferris Bueller's Day Off where The Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago is featured (along with my special favourite La Grande Jatte).

There is Michael Douglas in Wall Street boasting of his art collection including a huge Miro.

But what about copyright? 

Well it's complicated, and to cut a long story short it is not often that well known originals by contemporary artists get to appear. Mainly because it costs a lot and is a nightmare to organise.

The Basquiat estate demanded huge fees for the artworks to appear. 

The director (and artist) Julian Schnabel, who had been Basquiat's friend in real life, refused to pay. His work-around solution was to create a series of totally fictitious works 'in the style of' Basquiat. 

In fact Schnabel himself had a hand in creating the works, along with the scenic artist. There was a legal team on hand to make sure that there would not be any copyright infringement, and that the invented works did not come too close to any existing originals.

On the odd occasion legal forgeries are negotiated.

Schnabel happened to be good at schmoozing with the Picasso family. He also wanted to use Guernica in the Basquiat movie (you can't say he doesn't think big), so made a deal to make a legal copy, with the agreement that the fake painting had to be destroyed as soon as filming was complete, and the destruction documented on video and sent to the Picasso estate.

On the other hand, for the making of Pollock, the artist's estate gave full permission to recreate the artworks from scratch, and scenic artists were used.

Artists are also asked to work with actors, coaching them on how to paint or sculpt or whatever the artwork demands.

Actually, several years ago I was asked by a well known film director if I would be interested in working on a movie with a famous French actress who was going to play the role of an artist. Unfortunately the project never developed, but, hey, I'm still open to offers. 

Here is a clip from the making of Mr Turner which includes the actor learning to paint.

Using local and less famous artists

Some set directors prefer working with local or emerging artists (as they are supposedly easier to work with), renting works or commissioning special pieces as there are fewer legal issues (as explained in this Artsy article).

One of my paintings that is owned by Artbank was used on the set of the Australian SBS series 'Carla Cametti' a few years ago.  As the artist I still owned the copyright, so the film makers paid me a fee and I signed a release form.

(The painting can be seen in the video below at 30:10.)

So finally, if you would like to smile, here is Jim Gaylord showing us:

TEN THINGS HOLLYWOOD TEACHES US ABOUT THE ARTWORLD

In short -

1. Art Dealers are Evil

2 . Male artists are cads

3. Regular people hate the art world

4. The Art World is fancy

5. Art people talk funny

6. Artists are scumbags

7. Anything can be art

8. Artists have rocky love lives

9. Art people hate the country

10. Artists will do anything for attention.


And to see and hear more about the Hannah film at the Girona Cinema Festival why not follow my Instagram feed (aerfeldt_art), and see live video stories, right as it unfolds?

There are times when nothing changes; then suddenly everything changes

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Life 'humdrums' along a lot of the time. Actually I quite appreciate un-eventful periods.

You are in a routine, the day is mostly cut and dried. In theory at least. For me, it's my beloved studio time, where I get up early, do some quiet reading and journalling, followed by a cursory check of the emails and then head downstairs to paint at around 9am, staying at it all day. There are also some regular slots marked in the calendar - like my regular Thursday yoga class. 

This is what my life used to look like.

It's unnerving how quickly and unexpectedly it can all change. Since returning from Australia at the end of May, everything feels in a state of flux.

A bit of back story. For some time now Laurent and I have been commuting between our home in France and Barcelona, partly for family reasons (ageing parents, you know the story) and also, of course, because it's a fabulously vital city. For years we have been discussing the idea of moving to Barcelona or spending more time there. We keep intending to do a three month trial run, but it never happens. Calendars get choked up and it is pushed back into Neverland.

So, back to the present, and here are the latest events:

1. I get back from Australia and, out of the blue, am offered a survey exhibition at a beautiful contemporary art centre/museum near Barcelona - the Muxart Espai d'Art in Martorell. I visit the space, meet the curator and the local Culture Minister. Someone has pulled out of a slot and could I do it in early October, they suddenly ask? I take a deep breath, and say yes (feet paddling wildly underwater). 

2. Seeing that there is a show in place and a definite reason for me to be in Barcelona, the mythical 'trial run' in the city suddenly makes immediate sense and moves from 'Neverland' into a possible reality. 

3. So if I am going to be in Barcelona for the three month duration of the exhibition, it seems logical to look for somewhere to work while here, and to invite collectors, curators, and gallery directors. 

The initial idea is to look for a space in a shared studio complex, but the appealing ones are way over the other side of town - meaning an hour's travel each way. And there are no spaces right now.

Next idea - I start looking around my area where there are 'for lease' signs on vacant shops or commercial spaces. No joy - the rents are overpriced.

By chance I mention my problem to a local accountant. He says it makes more sense to buy instead of renting now because the prices and interest rates are very low, meaning it actually works out cheaper. This is getting interesting. 

I start to wander the streets with new eyes, looking at all of the rather unremarkable shop fronts I had previously passed without a second thought. Some are more rather more unremarkable than others. 

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To cut a long story short, ten days later I find my hand nervously gripping a blue plastic pen, signing my name below a purchase offer. This feels like watching the scary part of a crime film on TV, where I need to cover my eyes, or escape to the bathroom. 

Now it's a matter of waiting, while all the paperwork checks are done, to see if it will actually happen. It's not yet a certainty, but if not there will be plenty of other opportunities.

Life is in a state upheaval. It seems that little by little Barcelona is making some decisions for me.

PS If you would like to be the first to hear about exhibitions, new work, and see studio progress, you are invited to send me your email address to receive occasional updates. (They will only arrive a when there is something new or important happening, as I respect your inbox.) 

 
 

Where the OUTER journey meets the INNER journey

 Arrival towards Adelaide

Arrival towards Adelaide

I know there are many of you who, like me, live far away from where you were born, or spend your time divided between different places.

This is a post I wrote a couple of years ago about the search for home, and what does home mean. I have been going though the same emotions once again, on returning from a month in Australia, so am reposting it here.

(First published February 2016)

 

Not much ever pierces your soul like visiting the place where you were born; where you awoke to the first tender years of life. 

I’ve been away for three short yet eternal years, and my eyes moisten as the jet engined monster slowly hovers to land across the flat, summer-brown Adelaide plains. This is totally unexpected. I’ve been living the south-of-France dream now for almost a decade, racing off to Barcelona each month, gorging on European culture, history and prehistory. The flatness of my childhood landscape is the last thing I ever thought I would miss. It cuts into my core without warning. I am home. 

It almost immediately feels like I have never left. The old life is embedded in muscle memory, scent memory, eye and ear memory; primal sensations entombed in the deepest recesses of my being. And yet I am a slight outsider. I have lost the full Aussie twang. I am deeply embarrassed when I get the one and two dollar coins mixed up and the lady at the Hahndorf strawberry stall kindly counts the excess back into my hand. 

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Things are not exactly as I remember them. 

Someone has moved the central iconic Victoria Square fountain, previously a bulls-eye marking the middle of the city, to an asymetrical mis-location somewhere off to the side. It isn’t right. I never liked the drab, modernist fountain in the first place, but moving it is another thing. It messes with my head. 

The cafes on Norwood Parade have changed, or at least the names have. There are new car parks that have sprung up and new gaping holes in the ground where who knows what is about to give birth. At least there is a sign outside the Frank Gehry style new mega-hospital. The old familiar electronic discount warehouses in town are gone – what happened to Strathfield? At least you can still rely on Officeworks, and you can sort of rely on Dick Smith but I hear he is no longer a safe bet either. The Alphütte Restaurant is now painted bright white instead of chalet brown and my mother tells me it is closing.The Southern Expressway now actually goes in two directions at the same time. I don’t recognise the blonde TV newsreader with the helmet bob which splays out from her neck like an anime hero. The hair never moves and I am fascinated. 

I go to the bank to recover my forgotten PIN and the teller asks me to ‘Pay Wave’. What? I figure out what is being said after she has repeated herself twice but the meaning is beyond me. My teller then realises that she is dealing with an imbecile and in a clear, slow voice asks me to tap my card on the machine. 

Each day brings new little reality checks, reminding me that I am no longer quite from here any more. 

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On top of this, I now pronounce any French or Spanish labels on food, wines, or menus in a way that startles the locals. 

‘Cab Sav’ has left my vocab, it is now Cabernet Sauvignon. I even pronounce café differently, with the practised abrupt ending of the  French accent aigu. No one has a clue what I’m on about. There are communication blips. It is me who has changed.

When I first arrived in France, tentatively proud of my workable language skills, there were a few totally bizarre words that had me stumped. I had no alternative but to ask people to please repeat very slowly, syllable by syllable. Suddenly the light flashed –  what sounded like ‘brerSHING’ was written as ‘brushing’ (a blow dry) and ‘shomPWAN’ was spelled ‘shampooing’, meaning shampoo, and the same for other pseudo-English words adopted into the local vocabulary. ‘Bargh-MUN’ was spelled as and meant ‘barman’. ‘Coo-stom-ease-air’ (written as ‘customizer’) meant to add your own original touches to a bought item (ie to customize it). The French are just as capable as the Aussies of mangling other languages and messing with the meanings

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In Australia I feel like Rip Van Winkle, having woken from a mini time warp.

At least I can do a pretty good job of acting like a local and it is such a joy to have people assume that I belong. My accent doesn’t hang over my head like a red flag. In France I am forever ‘English’ the minute I open my mouth, even though the rough edges of my accent have almost been worn into shape. Tiny subtleties are enough to give away one’s origins.

Where is home? I am eternally homeless; a member of a growing breed of restless expats who are lucky enough to be born in one country yet can choose to experience life in another. Not a refugee like my parents were, having to make a go of a new place with no option of returning to a familiar life. I arrive in Europe (their old country) on totally different terms, with a prestigious art study scholarship. I am a wayward homing pigeon looking for a solid place to land. 

France and Spain now do feel like home. There is still excitement and amazement in the wonders of daily life there, and I have forged some new and beautiful friendships. However, as we all eventually learn, nothing replaces dear old friends. It is almost impossible to mimic the depth, breadth and length of shared struggles and celebrations running the course of many years.

 Jardins de Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France

Jardins de Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France

 Christopher Columbus statue, port of Barcelona

Christopher Columbus statue, port of Barcelona

 The Camargue flamingos, southern France

The Camargue flamingos, southern France

Which brings me to the topic of family. Blood is indeed thicker than water. I never really understood where that saying came from, and the symbolism is still a little beyond my mental capabilities, but nonetheless I have finally learned the true value of family. I miss my Aussie family. I dread to use the words ‘age’ and ‘wisdom’ but struggle to find any other excuse for my recent behaviour. There is now also my Barcelona family (on my husband’s side) which I cherish. It gets complicated.

 Adelaide suburbia

Adelaide suburbia

I am only too aware of the luxury of having options of where to live, but you can’t be in two places at once. 

Flitting about also has its price. People never know where you are, so don’t bother to get in touch the way they would if you were always at home. I am happy to have experienced living in three different cultures, speaking three different languages. It makes you more grateful and appreciative of the good in each place, but also more aware of the negatives. You can’t help comparing in some way. In the end I focus on the best of what each has to offer. I now realise that it’s about relationships more than place. Home is where the relationships are.

So the 24 hours of mega-flights, followed by a criss-crossing from Adelaide to Brisbane and then down to Sydney, turns out to have been more of an inner than an outer journey. A mental and emotional working things out. Ideas of place and home. And most of all heart.

 

Have you been to Béziers?

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Have you ever visited Béziers? 

Actually I am ashamed to admit that I have never set foot in the town of Béziers, where I am about to exhibit my work, even though it is only a forty minute drive from Montpellier. It is on the road to Barcelona so we pass by constantly. The closest I have got is the VW agency on the outskirts of town. Nothing to be proud of. I planned to get there before the show, but have been so busy with Cologne and then preparing for this event that I haven't had time.

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To familiarise myself, at the last minute, I have sadly resorted to Wikipedia and downloaded some postcard shots. Not ideal.

 

Yesterday afternoon a nice man in a van came and collected my paintings as well as my specially painted furniture to deliver them to Béziers. I am one of twenty one artists from all over France invited to participate in the outdoor contemporary art festival 'L'Art en Boîte' (which can be translated as tinned or canned art, as in food).

Every artist has been given a shipping container in which to create an installation of their work.  

There will be live performers and street artists and it's happening right in the centre of town over the long weekend of June 2 - 5. We have also each been paired with a local business who is our sponsor/patron for the event. It's pretty much a dream gig as everything is financed, including four night's accommodation, a celebratory dinner, cocktail party, and the fitting out of the containers (mine will be lined with white painted plywood walls and have a black and white check lino floor)

In preparation I've been painting furniture.

Yes furniture - to accompany my paintings. I decided to create a kind of retro living room feel in my container so collected some 1950's furniture (ie from friends and off the street) and have painted it in brightish colours (like my recent paintings) and with a nod to the 1980's Memphis design group from Italy. Memphis has not exactly been the 'flavour of the month' for quite a while but I feel a comeback is in the air, and in any case it works with my paintings. So I am being bold and going for it. People will love it or hate it.

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It's actually a lot harder than it looks to get the different colours to work together, combining several contrasting hues in each piece.

Black and white are the staples, and these anchor the brights. However too many brights and it looks 'kindergarten' so there's been a lot of experimental colour mixing and repainting. In fact most of the so called bright colours I've used are slightly turbo charged pastels, with the black and white adding the dynamics.

This is starting to sound a bit esoteric, and it did feel a bit like an Albers colour theory exercise back at art school.

Actually we never did study Josef Albers at art school but I wish we did. I now have an iPad app where you can do his colour exercises on the screen instead of by cutting up expensive sheets of coloured paper. Probably it's 'cheating' and he would have been horrified, but anyway it works.

 Josef Albers  'Homage to the Square' 1965

Josef Albers  'Homage to the Square' 1965

Sorry for the side track. But it was a totally fascinating process, and makes me realise how much I do use colour as a  means of expression in my paintings. And it makes me want to experiment further, maybe even with some wholly abstract paintings (shock horror). We will see...

So, back to Béziers - actually I won't be able to attend for most of the weekend as I have family visiting from Australia, which was organised well before the art event and we had already made plans. In fact I initially turned down the invitation to participate for this reason, but the lovely organiser insisted I take part, even if I couldn't be there in person. So by being absent I will be forfeiting four days of eating, drinking and partying (just joking). Actually it is hard, intense work presenting your art to the public and answering all sorts of unusual questions, but also very rewarding. I do hope to be there on the final day though, so that is better than nothing.

 Ha - some luck! I have found a Wikipedia picture of the actual place where the containers will be installed. We have a very similar place in the centre of Montpellier.

Ha - some luck! I have found a Wikipedia picture of the actual place where the containers will be installed. We have a very similar place in the centre of Montpellier.

I imagine that most of you will not be anywhere near Béziers or the south of France, so will do my best to document the event and post pictures. 

Béziers seems to be slightly looked down upon by people in Montpellier.

Sibling rivalry? Montpellier is bigger, but Béziers has a far richer and often tragic history. The one time we did go there, to buy our car, the driver picking us up from the train station told us about the Cathar rebellion in the middle ages, and how thousands of innocents were massacred and others burned alive in a nearby village. Béziers currently has a 'far-right' mayor, and I have heard it described as slightly creepy, (not sure if this is why, and anyway how can it be creepy?) so I am actually impatient to go and see. The town itself was established by the Greeks in around 575 BC, followed by the Romans, so it will be fascinating. That's if I get to see anything much outside of my container.

I will aim to do some posts on social media, but for the complete story stay tuned to this blog. (Meaning please subscribe at the top of this page if you haven't already.)

Take care, and talk soon.

Cx

Should artists represent themselves at fairs?

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 They say you should take some risks in life, or so the platitude goes.

Actually life is one long list of risks, whether you like it or not,  so it is more a matter of choosing. Instead of risking getting hit by a bus, or bitten by a spider I prefer to show at the Kölner-Liste art fair (in Cologne). This is my little experiment. (Not that the bus or spider are now suddenly excluded from the possible agenda.)

I have never before represented myself at a fair and always had galleries showing my work at these events.

Actually, almost all fine art fairs deliberately exclude artists. (That could be a whole discussion!) Kölner-Liste is an exception, where galleries and artists show side by side. The idea is to provide an alternative to the blue-chip 'Art Cologne'. 

Collectors are craving surprise and longing to discover new work, something that happens less at top-end fairs where costs are high and galleries play safe, relying on big name artists to cover the rent. Satellite fairs are trying to fill this gap.

When my artist friend invites me to share a stand with her in Cologne, I decide to take a risk and try something different. I have never before exhibited in Germany, so it is a chance to share my work with a new audience. The major risk for me is that not enough of the right collectors will attend.

 Setting up still... A bit messy but you get the idea. 

Setting up still... A bit messy but you get the idea. 

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So how does it work out?

Luckily, it works out very well, but more due to serendipity than anything else. Fine art collectors are somewhat thin on the ground. The fair is a mix of decorator, urban and fine art. Happily, the right people come my way and I am delighted with the results. The largest painting is snapped up by a collector group in Aachen.

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 As an added bonus my work gets some nice media coverage. Fair exhibitors have been given the option of paying extra for a 'media package', meaning their stand will be included on the media tour and given priority for PR exposure. I don't pay, but in any case am included on the press tour, get interviewed, and included in two articles (in German, of course, but I haven't yet translated them.)

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Will I show at the same fair next year?

Hmmmmm, I'm still thinking.... Probably not.

The most common remark I receive from other artists and galleries is that I am at the wrong fair and should be exhibiting at Art Cologne. (I wish! So this is my goal for next year - ie to connect with one of the participating galleries.) Doing Kölner-Liste has been a valuable stepping stone; a learning curve, getting to see the art world from a gallery's point of view, and seeing people's unfiltered reactions to the work. I am happy to see smiles as people look at my paintings.

Normally I am slightly shy and a bit nervous about speaking with strangers, but funnily enough I meet so many lovely people from all corners of Europe I forget my fearful inhibitions.

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 The female artists on my alley - we formed a sort of club. 

The female artists on my alley - we formed a sort of club. 

 It is now over a week after the fair and I am still a bit weary, mostly mentally as I continue to process it all.

I don't have any clear conclusions, apart from the fact that variety is a good thing. It is good to have many different ways for art lovers to experience art, and for artists and galleries to present it. It is not one size fits all. As someone who has worked almost exclusively with galleries, I think that every artist could benefit from showing their work at a fair, even just once.  I know that not all collectors want to meet the artist, but many do.

It is a nice option to be able to close the loop. 

 

P.S. If you would like to read more articles like this, why not sign up to get new blog posts direct to your inbox? There is a box to fill in at the top of this page.

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Why do artists keep doing 'the same thing'?

 This week in the studio - new works to be exhibited at  Kölner-Liste Art Fair , April 27-30, 2017.

This week in the studio - new works to be exhibited at Kölner-Liste Art Fair, April 27-30, 2017.

To my surprise I am once again painting the 'flower eater'.

I made the first version in 2009, and since then have made at least one new one each year. It is now almost a tradition. 

I start thinking about other artists who stay with particular motifs and realise it's a common practice - most artists have 'pet' themes. It's just that some are more extreme in pursuing them than others.

The Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890 - 1964) surrounded himself with the same collection of little boxes and bottles every day for forty years or so. Monet is known for his repeated haystacks and the Rouen cathedral; there are Georgia O'Keeffe's flowers, Frida Kahlo's symbolic self portraits, and Philip Guston's lightbulbs and smoking cigarettes. One well known French artist in our region, Claude Viallat, has been painting his repeated, stencilled lozenge shapes since the 1970's.

 Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe

 So why do we do it?

Is it just because when you're on a good thing, you stick to it?  Not really.

I realise that everyone has their highly personal reasons and there's not one stock answer. The reasons seem to be tied to each artist's life theme. I like to think about 'life themes' - we each have one but often don't think about it or consciously recognise it. You too have a story and unique blend of life experiences that have made you who you are today.

Morandi's story is that he was conscripted to the army as a young man during World War One but had a breakdown so was sent home. He was a quiet introvert and craved peace, privacy and tranquility (probably as a reaction to his war  time trauma). His genre was 'still life', but not like anyone before him.

His work was a kind of meditation or mantra, so the viewer too would feel a sense of peace.

He de-personalized his objects by removing their labels, and painted them using flat matte colour, with few reflections or distracting details.

 Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi

 Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi

Monet, on the other hand, was captivated by light and reflections, changing perceptions and nuances.

Perhaps his 'life theme' was transience - the fact that nothing stays the same, everything is in a state of flux, and it is important to capture the moment; carpe diem. After moving to Giverny in 1883, of his paintings were made within three kilometres of his home.

 Claude Monet

Claude Monet

 Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Claude Viallat discovered his lozenge motif by accident.

A large sponge he had been using to paint with started falling apart when soaked in bleach. He took the biggest piece, which happened to be a lozenge shape, and went with it - the mistake became his theme. Viallat says he likes not having to think about what to paint each day. His art is about formalism - shape, colour, texture and materials, so using a predetermined motif reduces the variables and decisions needing to be made.

 Claude Viallat

Claude Viallat

 Claude Viallat

Claude Viallat

As artists, we need to create constraints for oursleves, otherwise we could never decide what to do next.

When the entire world of colour, shapes, ideas and motifs is your oyster, it is like a child at an enormous international buffet - it is easy to get stuffed and make yourself sick. So we set ourselves limits, make some rules. Yes, the rules can be changed, but there needs to be a reason.

So, getting back to my own work and the 'flower eater' theme, what are my motivations? This is a much harder question. It is easier to figure out everyone else than look at your own reasons.

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One of my life themes is that I am constantly looking deeper.

I have a driving need to get below the surface, search for hidden truths, uncover secrets. As a child I felt excluded, invisible, deprived of information. My questions were not answered, I was just told to trust those in charge, fed 'spin' and expected to swallow the official line. As a result I became an intense observer, attuned to tiny nuances and details, placing bits of the puzzle together. I stopped asking questions and simply watched for clues. Everything could be learned by watching and listening closely. 

Well, I am still looking deeper. How does this translate to the paintings?

I try to make pictures that are mysterious and ambiguous because we are all mysterious and multifacteted. There is always more to see if you look more carefully. I discover more about the flower eater each time I paint her.  I love the languages of symbolism and metaphor. My flower eater is a contemporary Vanitas painting, mixing the languages of fashion photography with old master paintings. She wants to tell you some secrets.

PS Find the latest studio peeks on Instagram at aerfeldt_art

PPS I have been singled out for a special mention as one of the artists to see at Kölner-Liste Art Fair next week.

 

Forced escape from the studio

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When I am in studio mode, I'm in the 'zone', not in the mood to be interrupted.

I am sure you know the feeling - glaring at your partner with those 'don't disturb me' dragon eyes, breathing smoke, feeling like you inhabit your own private planet. Deadlines are approaching and the effort and intensity dials are turned up to maximum.

That was me last Friday. I had to be taken away kicking and screaming for some forced recreation.  

I am bundled into the car and we head off for a day and a half of sea air, driving the corniche around the Med, on the border of where France meets Spain.

 

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Sounds idyllic? Yes, and no. The photos don't tell the story of my growing car sickness as I am whisked around curves to compete with Monte Carlo. It's OK if you are driving, getting into the groove, feeling like an F1 champion. It's not great if you are a passenger just trying to take a few snaps along the way.

No stopping at the rock terraced Banyuls vineyards this time, although we do wander along the shores at Cerbère and Port Bou.

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Despite the nausea, I am forced to admit it was lovely, and yes, we should do it more. 

So the countdown to Cologne continues...

Two weeks and a bit. Only a few days of painting because works have to dry and be packed. And there's so much more to do.

And here's a peek at this week's progress - another tiny (40cm) tondo. 

 

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I've still got a few tickets to the private opening if you would like to attend, so please send me a message. And if you're not going to be in Cologne, you are still invited to receive up to the minute updates straight to your inbox. Simply add your email address to the box at the top of this page.

PS: My German is not progressing! 

I have missed several days, but am determined to do better this week. Duolingo on my iPad was not in the mood to understand what I was saying to it (in English!) and I ended up shouting at my screen.  There has just been an update to fix some bugs, so I am hoping that this is one of them.

How's your (Art Fair) German?

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Did you learn German at school? Or maybe it was French, Italian, Spanish...?

Now that I live in Europe, I wish I had paid more attention in class and daydreamed less. I learned German in high school for three years (in theory) but really only concentrated for one year. The rest I totally wasted, as you do when you are fourteen and the teacher is not really a proper German teacher and she has been dumped with a year 9 German class to fill out the rest of her timetable.

I now find myself badly needing that German I neglected way back...

I am preparing to go to Cologne, Germany, in late April to present my work at the Kölner-Liste Art Fair but hardly speak a word of the language.

Panic stations. I have been told not to worry, by the artist friend that I am exhibiting with. She has shown in Berlin recently and says that 'everyone' speaks English. I still find it uncomfortable to assume that people in their own country will speak another language, and feel I need to get a grip on at least some German basics.

So with the idea of doing a crash course in German, I load Duolingo onto my iPad.

I get started with class 1.01, as you do, and race through the lessons as my old brain archives get dusted off. I get to say hello and goodbye. Ha, that was easy. So moving ahead, I get to phrases such as Schockolade ist lecker (chocolate is tasty) or das Kinder essen die Nudeln (the children eat noodles). Perhaps these are not going to be hugely helpful at the art fair?

I discover that words like like das Buch (book), der Apfel (apple) die Schule (school) das Brot (bread), die Kartoffel (potato) are still somewhere there in my brain, but how am I going to incorporate them into my art conversation with prospective customers? There are a couple of apples depicted in my paintings, so perhaps I could capitalise on this and point them out to my clients exclaiming 'Der Apfel!' in my best German. Yeah, sure.

 Work in progress for Cologne, 40x40 cm, oil on wood panel.

Work in progress for Cologne, 40x40 cm, oil on wood panel.

Best I start looking online for some art vocabulary in German.

I find a website with pictures of an art studio and everything labelled in German, which is a step in the right direction. But some of the words are killers! How will I ever remember these?

An exhibition is die Austellung. But which syllable do you put emphasise? A stretched canvas is die Leinwand (plural Leinwände). Lights are Scheinwerferlichter.

Better move on to phrases. I am surprised to find something that looks relevant. Maybe I have hit art fair gold...

Sprechen dich diese Gemälde an? (Do these paintings appeal to you?) Hmmm, perhaps not the best conversation starter...

Ich habe den Nachmittag damit verbracht, ein Bild zu malen. (I spent the afternoon painting a picture!) Haha, I wish!!!

Das Gemälde is den Preis, den Sie verlangen, nicht wert. (The painting is not worth the price you are asking!) Just as well there is no way I will ever understand this one, so can smile and be ignorant.

So, where does this leave me. The Duolingo lessons are gradually dropping by the wayside. I am getting email reminders that I have missed my daily goals and am falling behind. Just want I want to hear. How about a bit of encouragement to get me restarted?

So instead I am in my studio painting long hours, preparing my best new work for the fair.

For the first time in a decade I am making some small scale pieces (oil on wood panel), and am feeling surprisingly happy with the process and results. I have realised that working on either a very small or very large scale suits me, and is in harmony with the ideas behind the paintings. It's the mid-size where I run into problems.  'Dishwasher' size is my most dreaded format. I try to make it work, and stretch a 60x80 cm canvas as a test. I draw the image onto it, but it just looks wrong and I scrap it almost immediately. The woman needs to be either way under life size or much larger than life. The only solution is to crop the image to maintain the scale, so we will see...

As for showing in Cologne (minus any significant skills in the German language) I am hoping that my pictures and smiling face will speak the thousand German words that will NOT be coming out of my mouth.

 On the easel, new works for Kölner-Liste

On the easel, new works for Kölner-Liste

YOUR SPECIAL PERSONAL INVITATION TO KÖLNER-LISTE

Kölner-Liste Art Fair will be held from April 28-30 at XPOST Köln, Gladbacher Wall 5, 50670 Cologne, with the opening on Thursday, April 27th, 2017, 6 to 10 pm. I have a small number of invitations, so if you would like to attend the opening or visit on the Friday simply send me a message and your invitation will be emailed to you.

 

Are all your walls taken - no space for any more art?

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Are you, like me, a minimalist at heart, and don't like being crowded in by too much stuff?

Where does all this stuff come from? Maybe you have made a conscious decision to downsize. But it's a moving target.

Marie Kondo and her clutter reducing methods are the tip of a growing iceberg. More like an avalanche. You crave simplicity; wish for an empty inbox, a tiny to-do list, not to mention time to read all those classic books on your bucket list...

But how does this apply to art, because you LOVE art? Art is not clutter.

Unless your walls are crammed bumper to bumper and it all starts feeling a bit like like wallpaper, and new purchases are still unwrapped waiting to find a suitable spot. You have an art overpopulation problem.

Clearly, the solutions are not rocket science. You either recycle ie sell some of it, store it, lend it, send it to your office or holiday house, open your own museum, or do nothing and live with it as it is.

 I would argue that it's not necessary to live with the same artworks for the rest of your life. It is natural for tastes to change and develop, and that perhaps it is time to let a work go to make the place for a new one. It's not admitting failure or a bad decision. We move on, and perhaps it's time to for some of your artworks to find new homes.

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Art  is not meant to end up like wallpaper.

Art is supposed to add life, or drama, joy, tranquility - some deep emotion -  to your living or working spaces. If the feeling is gone and it becomes like wallpaper, it's time to act. Once a year I rehang most of the art in my home, pulling it down starting from scratch. Works placed next to different works or in other rooms create vital new conversations. It all feels fresh and amazing walking into a room with newly hung artworks.

Having to choose

As an artist who makes predominantly larger pieces, I often hear exasperated collectors asking about smaller pieces, because 'there is no room'.  It is true. Once the walls are filled you have to decide. You can't have it all. There is a choice between acquiring one major feature piece for a wall, or going for a salon style hanging of multiple smaller works. There is a place for both.

Newer collectors often mistakenly believe that a small room can't take a larger work. Personally I love the bold, confident choice of a single dramatic artwork in a small room, rather than hedging your bets and displaying multiple smaller pieces. 

The artist's idea matters

Finally, from the artist's point of view, the choice of how big or small to make an artwork is integrally tied to the idea behind the piece. We all know that if Jeff Koons' 'Puppy' were made the size of a real dog instead of a giant, it would read totally differently. In my paintings I have deliberately chosen to depict my female character as a heroic giant, larger than human size. So the paintings end up being big.

As an experiment over the past few weeks, I have been making some very small works. Small for me, that is - forty by forty centimetres; just to see what happens when I model my scale on the likes of Vermeer, Metsu and Maes. I am fascinated by the results. It's such a mind shift.

The big theme running through all of my work is about looking at and empowering the overlooked. In the large scale paintings you are forcibly confronted with a giant woman of mythical proportions. In the new small pieces she is still bigger than her surroundings, as the scale is relative, but it is much more quiet and intimate.

Here is a sneak peek, for your eyes only (almost complete but not quite). If you would like to see more, please visit Instagram and find more progress pics at aerfeldt_art.

 

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