Have you been to Béziers?


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.


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.


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.