The Remains of the Day

“The Remains of the Day”
Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth. 36.5 x 30.8 cm. February 2019.

Venice: November 2018.  It is nearly 4 pm and the sun is already inclining westwards.  I am going west as well, back towards my apartment, plodding along happily worn out.  But then…a light bulb moment…

‘I know – what if I point my lens into the sun?’  It is poised above Punta della Dogana and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, shining directly into my eyes.  (I raise the camera, quickly compose and then close my eyes as I click, click, click.)  Voilà!

The air is all haze and halo, evaporating some objects while solidifying others (including people) into dark abstractions.  Sea mirrors sky; blazing here, sparkling there.  A seagull has swooped into my view.  Perfect.

There are probably only 90 minutes of daylight left.  I will be back sitting on my bed by 5 pm scrolling through photographic images.  ‘Here’s a good one.’

The two drawings from this day are bookends – starting with “Early One Morning” (07:50)  and finishing with “The Remains of the Day” (15:50).  Matthew (husband) came up with the titles – the first being a Celtic folk song and the second, a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Early One Morning

“The Remains of the Day”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Room with a View

“A Room with a View”  –  coloured pencils, 31.5 x 28 cm.  January 2019

We have a room with a view!

On our first night in Venice I sit at the open window – looking, listening, still.  And then I reach for my camera.  Perhaps this view (this sentiment) can be captured in a drawing.  Shutter clicks follow.

Sounds of lapping water drift upward.   Distant voices from figures on the bridge float on the air, echoing between stone.  It has been raining; maybe it still is – [I can’t remember].  The buildings are lace silhouettes, their white lights reflect on black water.

(“E.M Forster, I’m borrowing your novel title for my drawing.  Is that OK with you?”) 

The following three nights I hardly glance outwards as I flit about the room.  I am already used to the view – desensitized.  Isn’t that a peculiar thing about human nature…

 

 

Early One Morning

“Early One Morning”
35 x 28 cm in coloured pencils.  January 2019

Early one morning just nine Saturdays ago I set out from my vacation rental into the maze of lanes outside.  “I won’t go far”, I called to daughter, Alicia, who was still in bed.  My plan was to orientate myself within a small radius from the apartment, in our sestiere, Cannaregio.

We had arrived in Venice the previous afternoon in rain.  The forecast for our entire four-day stay was rain.  Indeed in the night it had drummed down steadily.  I had woken early to the plaintive call of seagulls.  When I roused myself to the window the sky was blue and the moon sharp.  So I quickly dressed and rushed out. Who wouldn’t?

First I took a photo of our building’s entrance so that I’d be able to recognize it again.  The distinguishing feature was “hooligan” scrawled in graffiti.  Noted.  Senses erect I took a few steps this way (into Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo) then that way (to Fondamenta Nuove – the vaporetto stop).

Before I knew it I was OUT AND ABOUT in Venice.  Wow!  What an achievement, what joy!  The low winter sun illuminated all it touched.  Stone and water glowed.  Hardly anyone was around, the time being before 07:00.

I took the brave (for me) decision not to retrace my steps.  Instead I pushed on, map in one hand, camera in the other, past Santa Maria Assunta dei Gesuiti.  In tiny lanes between canals I witnessed light, shadow, water and movement.

I would do a loop back to our apartment.  En route I took the photo which became my reference for “Early One Morning”.  Where was I?  On Rio Terrà di Franceschi detta la Botesela.  (The name is longer than the thoroughfare!)

Was the pooled water a remnant from the just-finished high tide or was it from the night’s rain?  I don’t know but it looked perfect in its Venetian context.  Sunshine bathed upper walls of buildings.  It couldn’t reach lower – the result being an almost spiritual vertical ascension from deep shadow to radiant light.

Early one morning just as the sun was rising...” in Venice –  Serenissimo – Most Serene.

(And I found my way home.)

 

Let Your Heart Speak

How to get to the island of Burano from Venice – arise early.  Alicia and I are two of only four passengers aboard the 07:10 vaporetto on a bright Sunday in November 2018.

The ferry skits past Murano.  Venice is framed in the distance.

Here we are in Burano, an artist’s paradise of multi-coloured dwellings.  And we seem to be almost the only people up.

We immerse ourselves in the joy of colour.  We become part of the colour.

Like the other islands in the lagoon, Burano has a network of canals.

At first the water remains inside them.

But then –

Look at this!!!

The tide is coming in.  Even the town square is morphing into a lake as water pops up through holes.  The locals are laughing at me as I exclaim madly and photograph their morning coffee turning wet.  They’re perfectly used to it.

Raised platforms are erected, ready for the spread of water.

A nonchalant local goes about his day as usual…

…while a tourist improvises…

I am overwhelmed by the almost silent beauty of the changing landscape.  A little lapping sound perhaps…and a breeze.

Alicia and I continue our walk and our photography.

(Let there be light)

We wander across a pedestrian bridge to Mazzorbo, a tiny piece of land adjoining Burano.  There is a market garden/vineyard which is open to wander through.  In the garden is a sign which reads, “Let your heart speak“.  This is a message to the school children of Burano who are invited to partake in the creativity of the garden.  I am touched, and write it down so I don’t forget.

We peek inside the 13th century Chiesa di Santa Caterina, then pay our respects to those who reside in her graveyard.   This is a view back to Burano through chrysanthemums outside the cemetery.

By the time we meander back to Burano the tide has receded.  Wet pathways glisten.  Any remaining water has been pushed back into the canals by brisk brooms.

The tourists have arrived.  Shops are open.  The town begins its Sunday trade.  Alicia spends time in the lace museum while I walk and photograph.  (The dog comes over to say hello and gets a warm reception from me.)

The cat (typically) ignores me.

Colours, colours, colours!!!

I discover that Burano has its very own leaning bell tower (17th century).

And finally I return to Alicia back at the designated meeting place.  I manage to capture her while she is unaware of me.

Thank you Burano.  This morning excursion is one of the highlights of our Italian trip.  It is nothing short of a magical mystery tour…a mother-and-daughter special!

Let us all endeavour to take the message in the Mazzorbo garden into 2019 – and beyond.  Happy New Year!  Let your heart speak.

 

 

Enchanted Venice

It’s true.  Venice is a tourist trap.  It is groaning under the weight of people as much as it is soaked by increasing washes of acqua alta.  It is claustrophobic and impossible not to get thoroughly lost…continuously!  When the tides are very high the waterbuses (vaporetto) stop running leaving one stranded.  It is wet, wet, wet.  Who would go there?  Who, having been, would ever want to go back?

(After five days I said to my traveling companions, “I don’t think I’ll ever come back here”.  They nodded in agreement.)

It’s a lie!  I don’t mean what I said about not wanting to go back.

The enchanted city has caught me. In the few weeks since I was there its spell has been intensifying, working its way into my emotional landscape as surely as an incoming tide.

Venice – wait for me!  I will surely return.

Venetian selfie

 

The Artist’s Way

“The Artist’s Way”    Coloured pencils    October 2018

The artist’s way is a journey where sometimes one feels certain about the path ahead only to become thoroughly lost at the next turn.

When I visited rue Quincampoix that night in October 2016 I was in familiar territory and was delighted to see it illuminated so vibrantly.  I took photos and walked in a happy daze.  Continuing home (so I thought) I turned up one street, thinking it was another, and led myself into an unfamiliar area.  Alone.  At night.  Lost in Paris.  After some hasty and intimate time spent with my map, I righted my wrong and got home.

Similarly I went into my most recent exhibition full of certainty.  But over the two weeks in the public gaze I lost my bearings.  Certainty dissolved into a state of trepidation as I experienced the full spectrum of reactions; from praise, through indifference to actual hostility.  (Only one person was truly hostile.)

To be lost, found, and lost again in an endless cycle throughout a life, questioning one’s art and one’s very existence, is the artist’s way.

In the end the thing that you feel is your undoing is also your way back to sanity – art.

Another drawing from the same photo-shoot is “Guiding Lights”, drawn in 2016.

The drawing below shows the way I drew this street back in 2012.

“Conversations at Dusk” 2012

 

 

 

 

 

Post-exhibition post

  • Here I am
  • I exist.  For now
  • What am I going to do with the rest of my existence?
  • What is my relationship with the world?
  • How can I be relevant?
  • How can I fit?
  • How do I fill in time?
  • Void

At the end of every art exhibition I walk off the edge into nothingness…

“Once Upon a Wall” (detail) coloured pencils/oil pastels 2017

Disintegration, then reformation (hopefully) – maybe.  Exposure equals vulnerability.  This always happens.

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way/ And the stars look very different today/….Planet Earth is blue/ And there’s nothing I can do…    (David Bowie)

A normal part of the artistic process.  Nothing special.

“Café des Arts” (detail) coloured pencils 2018.

PS I recovered from my post-exhibition blues.  It took exactly two weeks for me to return to my normal self.