QUEEN ELIZABETH, PLASTIC SURGERY AND PAINTING

Dr Terry Wu art collector surgery Aerfeldt painting

If you’re familiar with the Australian art scene, or even the international scene, you’ll know of the high profile Melbourne plastic surgeon, art collector and philanthropist Dr Terry Wu.

He recently received a major award for philanthropy, and below is a video highlighting his art activities, including my own Queen Lizzie and Owl painting which forms part of his collection. (It appears in the video at around the 40 second mark.)

The painting lives at his plastic surgery clinic, and is right by the patient examination couch.

Slightly quirky, don’t you think - in a good way, naturally! Clients are delighted, amused, intrigued and entertained.

The objects in the painting - the owl and the picture of the Queen - come from my mother and grandmother.

My Estonian grandmother came to Australia in the 1950’s and was a crazy-keen British royalist. The rest of the family made total fun of her for it, but she took no notice. She proudly displayed this tiny framed photo of the Queen, with its fancy cream-coloured plastic frame.

The owl came from my mother’s china cabinet - an old travel souvenir

Mixing the bird and the Queen was a slightly crazy leap of faith/ flight of fancy. But it;s what I do. Maybe I had ‘Bird’s nest hair’ in mind, and then there’s also the goddess Athena/Minerva who has a wise owl on her shoulder (a symbol of knowledge, wisdom, perspicacity and erudition - yep, it’s a mouthful, so thanks Wikipedia). And then there’s a lurid El Greco lurking behind.

There’s always a twisty back-story behind my images. Deliberately so, mainly because I get bored easily so make sure there’s a lot of meaty content; enough to keep viewers looking for more.

I Guess you could say I adore mystery and AMBIGUITY, and am bored with simple answers.

Chris Aerfeldt ‘Brave Owl gets his toes stuck in Lizzie’s crown’ 165 x 114 cm

Chris Aerfeldt ‘Brave Owl gets his toes stuck in Lizzie’s crown’ 165 x 114 cm

PS If you haven’t done it already, join my ‘quirky journey’ by signing up to receive occasional delightful emails about arty stuff. I’ll make sure it’s not boring (take a chance and let me surprise you). And of course you’ll get special early previews of whatever’s hot off the easel.


IT’S A WRECK

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I’m a thinker. I ponder and agonise instead of making decisions.

It’s one of my weaknesses. And strengths. Seeing every angle, every nuance…. The more thinking, the more complex and intriguing it gets. Fewer decisions get made. Delay tactics.

The truth is that I’ve been looking for a decent workable studio in Europe for ages, with no luck. I’ve just been making do.

So what do you do when it’s too hard and you can’t decide? I do nothing. Just wait for things to get clear. Except that sometimes they don’t.

Now, that can turn out to be either dangerous or exciting, because then life and circumstances decide for you. The startling thing is that that when I stew and procrastinate my subconscious gets annoyed, takes control out of sheer frustration, and makes the decision for me.

So it feels like it is almost by default, or rather despite myself, that I have found a new studio in Barcelona.

I should call it a ‘potential’ studio. Because, to put it politely, it needs work.

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Unfortunately photos don’t do it’s rattiness ‘full justice’ - it almost looks pristine...But believe me, the walls are seriously hacked into, the floor is mostly rubble, the wiring prehistoric, the toilet cistern not connected to the bowl (the effect is purely cosmetic), and broken window panes sit inside rotten frames.

REWIND: How did it come to this?

I’m looking to rent a little studio space but can’t find anything - what’s on offer is either an hour’s bus ride away or grand larceny.

Wandering the streets, seeing so many vacant shops and abandoned businesses, it’s hard not to think about possibilities...

Almost as a joke, I start looking at old garages and shops. Expecting not to find anything suitable or affordable.

The first properties I visit are either long, skinny, lightless corridors, or abandoned sleazy bars (painted either red or lime green). None of them vaguely rectangular. So when a real estate agent starts describing the place she thinks is perfect for me I’m sceptical.

I go to visit. And see a grimy, dusty cavern, stuffed floor to ceiling with pallets of tinned tomatoes, eels, noodles and other market produce.

Behind the cavern is a secret low door, and I have to duck my head, Alice-In-Wonderland style.

There’s a ceiling hovering twenty centimetres above. I mentally put another big ‘X’ next to this dreadful place.

Later in the day, my husband tactfully (well,rather forcefully actually) suggests that I reconsider, pointing out that the front ‘cavern’ (with a very tall ceiling) is already WAY bigger than my current studio, even forgetting about the back ‘bonus’ section.

In an absolute turn of events, six weeks later, I am clutching a heavy and rusty set of keys, tentatively entering what is my very own space. Now it’s fix-it-up time.

Seriously, how much do you need in an artist’s studio?

Actually, more than I realise; power would nice, some water and a sink too, somewhere to plug in the electric kettle, some light and ventilation, a toilet…

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Luckily I find some optimistic builders. When they start excavations in the tiny bathroom, they uncover a kind of septic/drainage tank - part of the sewerage system for the six storey building. And it hasn’t been cleaned out in living memory so there are unmentionable substances below, all thick and solid. It needs professional emptying. As in a truck or two.

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So, here we are in early February, and the workers have mostly finished. What was supposed to have taken ta couple of weeks has dragged into five and counting.

It will be a marathon instead of a sprint, but I’m still up for it.

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The before shot of the bathroom

The before shot of the bathroom

Bathroom progress…

Bathroom progress…

The old floor

The old floor

Now there are tiles and a kitchenette

Now there are tiles and a kitchenette

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Next, Laurent and are painting the walls.

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By the way, you’re invited to join me on this ‘quirky journey’ and receive occasional delightful emails about arty and other stuff. Let me surprise you!

FLEETING GLORY MOMENTS

On the red carpet at the Gerona Film Festival with Naomi Lisner and Lluis, the festival director (at left)

On the red carpet at the Gerona Film Festival with Naomi Lisner and Lluis, the festival director (at left)

There are actually not many ‘glory moments’ in the life of a visual artist.

Unlike performers in theatre, film, or music, there is no applause at the end of an artwork or even at an exhibition opening unless there’s a speech, and generally it’s the speaker and occasion that are politely applauded rather than the art itself. Yes, there are lovely comments from friends and art lovers, but I always feel that people are pretty much obliged to be polite and congratulate the artist when they are drinking free wine.

So, as a red carpet virgin, it’s a slightly scary adventure

It’s the Gerona Film Festival (an hour from Barcelona) where I’m with the exceedingly talented Naomi Lisner who has written, directed, and acted in the short film ‘Hannah Rosenthal’. I feel like a ‘hanger on’ because I’m there simply because one of my paintings features on the film poster (see the previous blog post for the back story), but the lovely Naomi insists that I accompany her onto the red carpet for the gala awards ceremony on the final evening.

In preparation we put on our glad rags and chunky high heels (the rugged cobblestones of the medieval streets are impossible to navigate with spiky stilettos). Seeing the crowds and spotlights ahead I start feeling shaky. Naomi drags me with her to the front where the public are queuing. Dumping our handbags and jackets to one side (you never see people on the red carpet with coats and handbags) we head onto the brightly lit platform.

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Naomi is a pro at posing for the cameras, I’m hopeless.

That is until Lluís, the director of the festival, jumps over to join us and his clownish antics (he’s really a frustrated actor at heart) make me forget my self conscious gawkiness. An award winning Mexican director is pulled on to join us. We have our minute or so in the spotlight, and then pretty much get shoved off to one side as more actors and directors arrive and it is their turn.

Surprisingly it is a joyful and fun moment, mostly because I feel part of something bigger - a larger project; a group celebration. And, to top it off, Naomi’s film receives a special mention at the awards. We all celebrate together at the after-party with cava, food, dancing and much laughter.

Fast forward one week and it’s the opening of my own ‘mini- retrospective’ exhibition ‘The Heroine’s Journey’ at the Muxart Museum, on the other side of Barcelona.

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Naomi Lisner joins me (we are like two happy little canaries - both just happened to choose yellow) and there are speeches by the regional culture minister and the Mayor. I am asked to give my own little speech in Spanish - a major first for me and I even survive with a smile on my face.

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The photos of the event are mostly blurry phone images - but I will have professional pics for you later. And I am planning to make a video (another first for me).

Voila, the brief spotlight moments are done and dusted.

It’s cool to celebrate, but normal life’s more of a slog in the studio, trying to stay fresh and authentic; escaping old formulas and familiar ways of doing things. But of course it’s mostly about the people in our lives - old friends and newcomers.

And art is a way of reflecting our lives.

PS: NEW BARCELONA STUDIO IN THE PIPELINE

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Now that life has returned to quasi-normal, I am packing up much of my Montpellier studio to set up a new space in Barcelona. No, we’re not totally moving our lives to Spain (everyone is assuming), but with a much bigger space in Barcelona I will be spending more time there.

Follow studio renovations via Instagram stories at aerfeldt_art.

See the dirt, dust and sweat…

HEROINES AT THE MUXART MUSEUM, SPAIN

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Doing a museum exhibition is a different beast from a gallery show. There is a sense of total artistic freedom.

The show at Muxart in Martorell is a Survey Exhibition, covering a period of eight or so years and shows how one body of work extends to the next. The space consists of four rooms - one large and three smaller, on the ground floor of the Muxart Museum in the centre of the old town of Martorell. It is a thirty minute local train trip (or drive) from Barcelona.

It has been a total pleasure putting together this exhibition; showing the paintings alongside photographs, a large drawing and installed objects.

At the moment I am busy with final touches, so will write and show more later. If you are anywhere near Barcelona between now and mid December I warmly invite you into my world - the world of Heroines (and Heros) where daily tasks take on great importance and our lives have huge significance.

WHEN IS REAL LIFE EVEN STRANGER THAN ART?

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

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.

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.

 
 

PAINTINGS IN 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.

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.

And, 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.


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.

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