February 24, 2013


Still frames are revealed in winter – there’s a clarity which the summer light diffuses – projections, simple statements, unexpected compositions. More wonderment on the exterior wall of Saint-Martin, the main church in San-Rémy-de –Provence,  than within the dark interior – the organ is famous not only for for the sound it produces but also its ‘chest’.

san remy church interior san remy cloisters portrait

Another religious building to the south of town has a cloistered garden. Saint Paule de Mausole is still a psychiatric hospital  – van Gogh was treated there before returning to the north and ending his life. His output during that year was prolific mainly focused on  the gardens and the countryside of Les Alpilles. Enclosed gardens are a big draw. This cloistered space was shut to visitors but, a small door was left enticingly open, so the opportunity to breathe in a little of the peaceful atmosphere was quickly taken!

san remy cloisters

Iris unguicularis just coming into flower . . . van Gogh painted the many of forms of iris flowering here.

iris unguicularis

san remy tour

Purity in another form – of stone and architecture – just close by at the ancient site of the Roman city. The mausoleum of the Julii and the triumphal arch stand intact. The carved dedication: SEX · M · L · IVLIEI · C · F · PARENTIBVS · SVEIS
Sextius, Marcus and Lucius Julius, sons of Gaius, to their forebears.

san remy tour 3

san remy arch close up

Corinthian columns support the  chapel with a conical roof carved in a fish scale pattern. Gorgons, quadrifons, putti and cupids are also included in the carvings of mythical and legendary scenes of battle between the Greeks and their enemies – Amazons + Trojans. Acanthus foliage, the plant of the Roman mortuary, included too as a sign of eternal rebirth. The image below shows the scale.

san remy tour 2

The triumphal arch, the Northern gate, to the city of Glanum is carved with figures of Gaullish prisoners showing the power of Rome and the threat of what might happen if . . . .

san remy arch san remy arch landscape san remy arch 2

. . high above Eygalières, stand the ruins of the château and the Chapelle des Pénitents. Pine trees surround the 17C buildings which dominate the olive and vine filled countryside lining the path of the Durance river.

pine church landscape church walls view

A peaceful Saturday with a little activity for those who play Pétanque.

view 2   petanque “When I opened my eyes I saw nothing but the pool of nocturnal sky, for I was lying on my back with out-stretched arms, face to face with that hatchery of stars. Only half awake, still unaware that those depths were sky, having no roof between those depths and me, no branches to screen them, no root to cling to, I was seized with vertigo and felt myself as if flung forth and plunging downward like a diver.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars

In the crazed mirror of my eye
the world is flawed irrevocably,
I walk without the grace of sight,
who made my whole world visually.

What giant hand above my head
shattered the mirror of the sky,
and left me with a blinded face;
dependent on an inner eye
to recreate the universe,
to force into the face of light
a world so faceted and bright,

refracting light, reflecting love,
out of an eye so picked with pain,
that none can see it, none can build
such private glasshouse in the brain. Dorothy Hewett  The Glass-House

on a mild day

February 17, 2013


February 17 marks the first meaningful trip to the allotment partially to enjoy the morning sun but also to make some sort of vague plan for what to do following the wet winter. So what to grow when and where. Some folks have maintained tidy plots – congratulations to whoever manages this plot (pic below) well sheltered within the hedges and light woodland of the West Hill. Feel ashamed when seeing the contrast with mine above (great borrowed view though) – what have I been doing this winter . . .

well kept 2

. . .  peeping through the opening of the plot opposite mine shows some well dug ground . . . . . .

growth 1l k

. .  and further along the site in the large open area, neat rows of leeks and signs of activity. Just noticed the road sign!


Even before this visit,  the plan was to give up one of the allotments, 53A, and try to make full use of the remaining plot. So 53A, with the higgledy piggledy character, as below, may find a new more attentive owner even ‘as tidy as a bachelor’ with ref. to the poem.


Before things sprout in late spring, the timber constructions take centre stage . . .

constructions 1

constructions 2

. . but the Hebe parviflora hedge retains a green presence.

hebe hedge


Ghostly qualities remain of seed heads just clinging to their final days.

artichoke 2012

artichoke 2013

And a hint of what might be. New arching foliage of artichokes and graceful young flowering heads of euphorbia. And some fun from U.A Fanthorpe. Still with us with zany wit.


As mute as monks, tidy as bachelors,
They manicure their little plots of earth.
Pop music from the council house estate
Counterpoints with the Sunday-morning bells,
But neither siren voice has power for these
Drab solitary men who spend their time
Kneeling, or fetching water, soberly,
Or walking softly down a row of beans.

Like drill-sergeants, they measure their recruits.
The infant sprig receives the proper space
The manly fullgrown cauliflower will need.
And all must toe the line here; stern and leaf,
As well as root, obey the rule of string.
Domesticated tilth aligns itself
In sweet conformity; but head in air
Soars the unruly loveliness of beans.

They visit hidden places of the earth
When tenderly with fork and hand they grope
To lift potatoes, and the round, flushed globes
Tumble like pearls out of the moving soil.
They share strange intuitions, know how much
Patience and energy and sense of poise
It takes to be an onion; and they share
The subtle benediction of the beans.

They see the casual holiness that spreads
Along obedient furrows. Cabbages
Unfurl their veined and rounded fans in joy,
And buds of sprouts rejoice along their stalks.
The ferny tops of carrots, stout red stems
Of beetroot, zany sunflowers with blond hair
And bloodshot faces, shine like seraphim
Under the long flat fingers of the beans. U A  Fanthorpe Men on Allotments

filigree of trees

February 7, 2013

photo (2).JPG chestnut

An installation with a sense of fragility at The Towner Gallery. The branches of sweet chestnut appear to hover across the floor of the gallery space. A strong material takes on another character when organised vertically. Olaf Eliasson made this Forked Forest Path as part of the Bon hiver exhibtion – it had great charm and the visitor is totally engaged physically. I wonder  how different woods would work – like stands of species in cash crop wood – in a large venue like the turbine hall at Tate Modern. Of course, Olaf knows all about that space.

photo (2).JPGolaf

Really don’t know if I should have taken these pix – the attendant was busy with a couple of young ladies – but the temptation was too great . . . .

photo (2).JPGolafson

. . . Kelly Richardson is also showing at The Towner. Her videos of known landscape elements taking on an unknown appearance through movement, treatment and juxtaposition are thought provoking, amusing and a little unnerving. The moving images have the strength to suck the onlooker in  – Richardson’s world easily becomes the real world.  I’m not linking directly to her videos but suggest this link.  . . .


the last frontier

the erudition2

the erudition3

. . back with my feet on the ground, I thought to engage with the still canopies in some quiet weather . . .



. .  the closest tree groups are in the local gardens designed and built by the Burtons. The environment felt frozen in time. Just gazing into the composition that the filigree of trees encapsulated was absorbing . . . .

gate house

the clockhouse

still tree

stretched tree

tree breasting a squall

tree regrouping

tree fingering a hill

tree-shadow on the mist above the moor

tree rain-blind against glass

tree with its hands flying

to its mouth

tree-branch whipping

a sky sullen as youth

tree-branch fallen in the garth

tree-log drying

at the fireside

tree-log knitting its red-and-black

patchwork in the hearth

tree-log whistling its psalm

of surrender

tree-log hollowing

tree-boat borne

on the yellow sails of the flames

funeral-boat whose tiller the axe

leans by the open door  Alison Fell   Lightyear January 3

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