collioure morning to twilight

December 29, 2011

Arriving by train at Collioure, you hit the market quickly. It’s a Saturday market normally . . . the spice, soap and sponge stall ( what is the collective name?) was busy . . .

. . . des éponges!

The famous view of Église Notre-Dame-des-Anges in front of  the  Îlot St-Vincent.

Don’t forget to turn around and see my preferred view back to the Château Royal and Port d’Avall – stunning today with bonfire smoke. . .

. . . . . look down and see tiny anchois . . .

The plane trees are really beautiful now – the old quarter – the Mouré in the background.

Some buildings have an aristocratic charm.

By the entrance to Notre Dame is a small landscaped area – it works well. Inside . . .

the gilded high altar by Catalan sculptor Joseph Sunyer  and all the more stunning as the ceiling and much of the wall surface is quite modest and understated. Behind the church, on the rocks of Îlot St-Vincent . . . looking north east.

And then back to the south west  . . .

As the sun moves to the west at Jardins de Pams   I’m reminded of Le Crepiscule, so here it is:

Voici le soir charmant, ami du criminel;
II vient comme un complice, à pas de loup; le ciel
Se ferme lentement comme une grande alcôve,
Et l’homme impatient se change en bête fauve.

Ô soir, aimable soir, désiré par celui
Dont les bras, sans mentir, peuvent dire: Aujourd’hui
Nous avons travaillé! — C’est le soir qui soulage
Les esprits que dévore une douleur sauvage,
Le savant obstiné dont le front s’alourdit,
Et l’ouvrier courbé qui regagne son lit.
Cependant des démons malsains dans l’atmosphère
S’éveillent lourdement, comme des gens d’affaire,
Et cognent en volant les volets et l’auvent.
À travers les lueurs que tourmente le vent
La Prostitution s’allume dans les rues;
Comme une fourmilière elle ouvre ses issues;
Partout elle se fraye un occulte chemin,
Ainsi que l’ennemi qui tente un coup de main;
Elle remue au sein de la cité de fange
Comme un ver qui dérobe à l’Homme ce qu’il mange.
On entend çà et là les cuisines siffler,
Les théâtres glapir, les orchestres ronfler;
Les tables d’hôte, dont le jeu fait les délices,
S’emplissent de catins et d’escrocs, leurs complices,
Et les voleurs, qui n’ont ni trêve ni merci,
Vont bientôt commencer leur travail, eux aussi,
Et forcer doucement les portes et les caisses
Pour vivre quelques jours et vêtir leurs maîtresses.

Recueille-toi, mon âme, en ce grave moment,
Et ferme ton oreille à ce rugissement.
C’est l’heure où les douleurs des malades s’aigrissent!
La sombre Nuit les prend à la gorge; ils finissent
Leur destinée et vont vers le gouffre commun;
L’hôpital se remplit de leurs soupirs. — Plus d’un
Ne viendra plus chercher la soupe parfumée,
Au coin du feu, le soir, auprès d’une âme aimée.

Encore la plupart n’ont-ils jamais connu
La douceur du foyer et n’ont jamais vécu!— Charles Baudelaire Le Crépuscule du soir 

Albi cathedral soars above the town. Gothic and Romanesque architecture rolled into one. Pale pink to rich red –  it’s bricks, bricks and more bricks – hundreds of thousands, millions of relatively light weight units enabled the construction of vaulted roofs – earlier timber roofing could not provide the span to accommodate the huge congregations that gathered following the Albigensian Crusade.

A single nave and 12 bays supported by massive buttresses – no side aisles and clutter – took 200 hundred years to complete 1282 – 1480’s. Just think about this again . . . . .  

The ornate canopy porch was added in early 1500’s..

The ceiling above the chancel at the east end with light spilling from the long narrow windows. Lapis lazuli background gives great strength to the decorative surface of the vaulted ceiling. Above the nave and high altar, keystones, ogives and quarters, last suppers, fancy scroll and medallions. What dedication – what craftsmanship, what wonder!

We must admire her perfect aim,
this huntress of the winter air
whose level weapon needs no sight,
if it were not that everywhere
her game is sure, her shot is right.
The least of us could do the same.

The chalky birds or boats stand still,
reducing her conditions of chance;
air’s gallery marks identically
the narrow gallery of her glance.
The target-center in her eye
is equally her aim and will.

Time’s in her pocket, ticking loud
on one stalled second. She’ll consult
not time nor circumstance. She calls
on atmosphere for her result.
(It is this clock that later falls
in wheels and chimes of leaf and cloud.) Elizabeth Bishop  The Colder the Air

les balcones

December 26, 2011

In Perpignan, the Castillet, has magnificent projections with true Catalan lighting . . .

 . .   day-to-day decoration – functional but also arranged with a stylish eye.  In Illes – sur – Tet, cascades of Ipomoea (Morning Glory)  . . .

and something more architectural here . . .

and in Rue Fusterie, even more so. In Rue du Four St Jean, selective treatment of the items for the balconies . . .

and festive lights hang decorously here.

In Place Joseph Dupres, religious additions make the composition . . .

 A climbing rose contributes to the delicacy in San Antonin . . .

 . .  and more substantial, as part of the construction, as against an appendage . . .

 . . . the ancient timber and tufa building . . .

 . . and extremely simple with Shakespeare to conclude.

It is the east and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief (5)
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love! (10)
O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing; what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold: ’tis not to me she speaks.  William Shakespeare  Romeo and Juliet

ville et vallée

December 26, 2011

Christmas eve morning in Place de la République with filigrees of decoration above . . .

and a sunset behind Saint Joseph . . .

the next day, a blocked up doorway – lovely in its simplicity – in Rue Droite in San Antonin – Noble – Val. Just by Place Raimon Jordan  . . .

. . and a view up the hill from Avenue du Docteur Paul Benet – a building that looks like a château. The elegant spire

The narrow streets are well decorated. . . .

. . .  we walked on the road to Feneyrols passing an area called Paradis . . .

and a grange . . . .

. .  and later on, someone enjoyed throwing stones down into the river. Happy Xmas 2011!

Que quascus hom deu razonar son fraire
E queia domna sa seror . . .
E s’ieu per so velh far razonamen
A las domnas, no m’o reptes nien.

For each man must reason with his brother,
And every woman with her sister . . .
And if I wish to reason with women,
Don’t reprove me for it at all.  Raimon Jordan  1178–1195

The Canigou mountain has looked inviting from Perpignan this week; especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset. Seen here to the south west from the outskirts of Ille-sur- Têt.

Les Orgues, the earth pillars are to the north . . . .  a natural phenomenon

and Bélesta sits only a few more kilometres to the north. It seemed quite uninhabited yesterday apart from flocks of sparrow/small swallow type birds – TBA. They liked perching on the hands of the church clock . . .

Curving roads wind up and down through rock formations – some with smooth rounded forms – lead passed the landmark of the Vidal tomb erected by a son.  Narcisse Vidal was born in Belésta 1816 and died in Ille 1892, a follower of the teachings of Robespierre.

Sparse garrigue vegetation covers sloping landscape.

In Ille-sur- Têt, between the river Tét and the Boulés, Prosper Mérimée set his story ‘The  Venus from Ille’.  The entrance to Alexis tower – constructed with carved rock and stone diligently to course.

Deare Friend, sit down, the tale is long and sad:

And in my faintings I presume your loue

Will more complie then help. A Lord I had,

And have, of whom some grounds, which may improve,

I hold for two lives, and both lives in me.

To him I brought a dish of fruit one day,

And in the middle plac’d my heart, But he

(I sigh to say)

Lookt on a servant, who did know his eye

Better then you know me, or (which is one)

Then I my self. The servant instantly

Quitting the fruit, seiz’d on my heart alone,

And threw it in a font, wherein did fall

A stream of bloud, which issu’d from the side

Of a great rock: I well remember all,

And have good cause: there it was dipt and dy’d,

And washt, and wrung: the very wringing yet

Enforceth tears.  George Herbert    From  Love Unknown

rue paratilla

December 22, 2011

Rue Paratilla is small and intimate. It isn’t a road but it’s larger than an alley or a path and connects Rue de l’Ange and Rue Voltaire with Rue de la Fusterie (the road of the new carpenters). From inside the Bar de la Marée, there’s snapshot of the familiarity of life here – stall holders and locals – shaking hands, drinking, smoking, eating plates of seafood.

The camion and the stand of chairs add to the colour and general verve . . .

The windows of the poissonnerie are similarly bright, jolly and picturesque.

René Paratilla, an airman who died in combat in September 1939, might be pleased with this little street. It’s full of bonhomie.

We must admire her perfect aim,
this huntress of the winter air
whose level weapon needs no sight,
if it were not that everywhere
her game is sure, her shot is right.
The least of us could do the same.

The chalky birds or boats stand still,
reducing her conditions of chance;
air’s gallery marks identically
the narrow gallery of her glance.
The target-center in her eye
is equally her aim and will.

Time’s in her pocket, ticking loud
on one stalled second. She’ll consult
not time nor circumstance. She calls
on atmosphere for her result.
(It is this clock that later falls
in wheels and chimes of leaf and cloud).  Elizabeth Bishop  The Colder The Air.

In San Antonin – Noble – Val  in the Aveyron Gorges; noble val means glorious valley. The narrow streets and alleys here are formed by bâtiments or residences of wealthy merchants of cloth, fur and leather. These edifices have flattish roofs covered with half cylindrical tiles.

Pons de Granholet (a good solid name) had this mansion erected in early 1100’s. Slightly in in relation to this, today I received an email from my cousin with an attachment showing both our fathers ancestors all the way back to Jacob Sherne (excellent name) in the late 1600’s. We are of poor stock – blacksmith, labourers, stone masons and coal miners – so her research must have been difficult! Little to record apart from church records of christenings, marriages and deaths. So any more research further back to the 1100’s is not possible but this email made my Xmas and made also a sort of connection with this post   . . . .

The mansion became the counsel’s residence later and then in 19C, Viollet – le –  Duc  (another name to remember) added the square belfry with Tuscan style loggia topping. Now the building houses the museum. Pretty lights festoon the Halle where the market and other town events happen.

In Orléans, the Christmas market fills the main place. A kaleidoscope of light hits the statue. No subtlety here, quite correctly as the charming garish quality is in keeping with the jolly bartering and playful goings on – skating, quaffing, tasting and more deliberate munching of fast and slow food  – of the townsfolk and visitors, like me.

Nearby, festive lights, less garish and more sophisticated while I dwell on two male ancestors, just discovered, with first names of ‘Worthy’ and ‘Gracious’.

Over the surging tides and the mountain kingdoms,
Over the pastoral valleys and the meadows,
Over the cities with their factory darkness,
Over the lands where peace is still a power,
Over all these and all this planet carries
A power broods, invisible monarch, a stranger
To some, but by many trusted. Man’s a believer
Until corrupted. This huge trusted power
Is spirit. He moves in the muscle of the world,
In continual creation. He burns the tides, he shines
From the matchless skies. He is the day’s surrender.
Recognize him in the eye of the angry tiger,
In the sign of a child stepping at last into sleep,
In whatever touches, graces and confesses,
In hopes fulfilled or forgotten, in promisesKept, in the resignation of old men –
This spirit, this power, this holder together of space
Is about, is aware, is working in your breathing.
But most he is the need that shows in hunger
And in the tears shed in the lonely fastness.
And in sorrow after anger.  Elizabeth Jennings  A Chorus

all things of quality have a timelessness – Tacita Dean and Gerhard Richter at Tate Modern for just a few more days . .

Iceberg in the Mist . . .

and abstract paintings CR 420 + 421  – like dreams – movement – three-dimensional – foreground background – oh, just like the mind floating and dropping into sleep . . .

. . well, no photographs in this exhibition so just a surreptitious one of the glass screens and all they reflect . .

. . . and this is the panorama reflected – a timelessness – could be medieval, the peasants issuing from the bowels of the great cathedral but the bridge lifts them into suspension. Lovely city that regenerates seamlessly. Wonderful paintings that soar above the mundane.

‘Art is the highest form of hope’. Gerhard Richter Text for catalogue of documenta 7, Kassel, 1982

town, towner and seafront

December 6, 2011

At the Towner Gallery, I always seem hung up on looking through the long windows to the context. I like the layers and abstract shapes made by the natural and unnatural light. 

The main reason for visiting was to catch the Franziska Furter ‘Stray Currents’. An eclectic mix shown in a single gallery space where the larger sculptures kind of overpowered the much smaller pieces. However, wandering around peering in, and at, and lying down looking through as well as hop scotching into coloured rings as well, made the whole exhibition user-friendly and rather jolly. 

But oh joy, the companion exhibition ‘Six artists explore the collection and reflect on the creative process’ was completely show stopping, for me anyway. Inspired by the Marcel Proust quote “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”. The immense pleasure of looking at a Peter Lanyon again – powerful environment where paint represents ‘experience and makes it actual’. The image below is another Lanyon ‘Over the Jaspar Sea’

And 1962 painting by Sandra Blow. The thrill of the leap, a daring and a lightness. What exhilaration – paint put on with a trowel – the energy zings out from the canvas.

Ivon Hitchens painted in Sussex for his last 40 years listening to the ‘subtlest nuances of the English landscape . . the musical appearance of things . . recreating the truth of nature by making my own song about it in paint’. ‘Divided Oak Tree’ below . . .

 . . and ‘Twisting Stream’.

Ursula Mommens, the potter, also lived locally. ‘Large Painted Jar’ was made in the 1970’s. Brushed decoration of foliage in single bold flourish – making the invisible visible. Mommens was great-great-granddaughter of the potter Josiah Wedgwood. Eric Ravilious designed the six cups (below) for Wedgwood in 1937. The illustrations are seen on existing stock shaped cups. The exhibition panel says: ‘Ravilious submitted his drawings which were then engraved by 10 Wedgwood employees. Since Ravilious was a very skilled wood engraver himself, this initially caused him some concern. However, after the first collaboration there was a mutual respect for each other’s craftsmanship. “I will never argue about the Wedgwood engraving anymore, these chaps are without doubt the finest engravers I have ever met”. The designs didn’t go into production but the display sheet is marvellous nonetheless.

Clare Richardson, photographer, spent time in Harlemville, a Rudolf Steiner community in upstate New York. A triptych of images showed clearly the unity between nature, the children and the Steiner principles that she experienced over a 2 year period.  A draft drawing for Eighteen Thousand Tides by David Nash and the sculpture finally executed and installed in an Eastbourne park. The timber for the work  is decommissioned groynes from The Eastbourne Seafront.

And so to the seafront, west of Sovereign Harbour, a great opportunity for creating and instilling an identity to this strip of landscape – a corridor edged on one side with cheap housing using poor materials. Described as ‘la-la’ land – it feels lost. Coastal landscapes are receiving attention, succesful and less so, recently. Dover Esplanade and Worthing Splash Point, are both relatively close neighbours. The view to the east on this piece of seafront is blocked by this horrible piece of architecture. Seating is encouraged here. The building is the waste water treatment works!

But to the west, Beachy Head rises above the town, linking the contextual landscape with the local town framework and generally easier on the eye. The inspirational exhibition –  seeing with new eyes – would be my starting point for nurturing ideas for this landscape.   

CONSIDER the sea’s listless chime:

Time’s self it is, made audible,–

The murmur of the earth’s own shell.

Secret continuance sublime

Is the sea’s end: our sight may pass

No furlong further. Since time was,

This sound hath told the lapse of time.


No quiet, which is death’s,–it hath

The mournfulness of ancient life,

Enduring always at dull strife.

As the world’s heart of rest and wrath,

Its painful pulse is in the sands.

Last utterly, the whole sky stands,

Gray and not known, along its path.


Listen alone beside the sea,

Listen alone among the woods;

Those voices of twin solitudes

Shall have one sound alike to thee:

Hark where the murmurs of thronged men

Surge and sink back and surge again,–

Still the one voice of wave and tree.


Gather a shell from the strown beach

And listen at its lips: they sigh

The same desire and mystery,

The echo of the whole sea’s speech.

And all mankind is thus at heart

Not anything but what thou art:

And Earth, Sea, Man, are all in each. Dante Gabriel Rossetti  The Sea Limits

protected landscape at rye

December 1, 2011

At Rye Harbour Wildlife Reserve, there are various circular routes for visitors and walkers running east/west and also the odd crossing north to south. The work of dredging, fencing, path making and integrating seats and the hides seems complete. The route starts, or finishes, with a view of Rye Bay church. . . .

. . . billowing seed heads on the blackish growth of Clematis vitalba transform the hedgerows now. Looking across to Camber Castle, the bittern remained elusive but plenty of  redshank and curlew generally bobbing around on and in this stretch of Castle Water. A moody landscape today . . . tones of grey here.

Towards Winchelsea Beach, the colours of the planting warm up this area with lines of salix glowing in front of the birch woods in the background. . and then, even more fiery tones of flowering gorse and fruiting roses complete the composition  . . .

. . . climbing the pebble ridge and the first sight of the beach. A great sea as usual here. Never disappoints  . . .

. . . groynes well repaired and newly washed  and an interesting collection of nets and carts outside the Mary Stamford Lifeboat House. My first visit here in 11 months . . .

. . . Joc‘s benches have a good scale and are placed suitably – most have a dedication now . . . . . .

From one of the hides, oyster catchers can be spied at rest below the spinning turbines. It’s a raw landscape but sort of cosy and at ease with itself. Wandering through and chatting intermittently, talking about the past and the future . . . .

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.  Mary Oliver  Wild Geese

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