Arles encore

August 4, 2021

This new urban landscape is refreshing – renovated industrial buildings, new landmark tower and parkland accesible to all until early evening – and stimulating in conception and realisation. read about it here

” its nearly cubist geometry, coupled with the spectacle of its 11,000 stainless steel panels, inscribes it definitively in the Arles landscape. Conceived as an ode to the ancient town, Luma Arles has become like a tower of Babel for modern times” says fisheye. ” It’s clear Frank (Gehry the architect of the tower) hates the French” a comment on Dezeen.

Existing buildings have been refaced . . . the end of the Grand Halle will be covered with wisteria in a couple of years . . .

. . . and inside a work of Pierre Huyghe ‘After UUmwelt’ where worlds with animals, artificial intelligence and materials compose their own stories – sculpture and video – and manage to instil a sense of familiarity in an imense space (5,000m2). Interesting floor too . .

In La Mécanique Générale, I was taken with the aroma from the bands and swathes of eucalyptus forming the soft structure for Kapwani Kiwanga – Flowers for Africa – based on images that show floral arrangements and, in essence, that’s what it was which were present at a moment of historical importance when an African country gained independence. The flowers and foliage are left to dry so the decay evokes history, nostalgia and a sense of melancholy showing the failings of modernity and political degradation – social transformation, disenchantment and collapse. Stunning.

The park is only recently planted so work in progress and difficult and unfair to comment at this stage.  I shall return  . . .

. . and have lunch under here again.

In the Drum Cafe in the Tower, some walls are made of sunflower pulp and concrete and the pipes are exposed . . .

. . . and in The Main Gallery also in the Tower, Maja Hoffman’s Collection/LUMA Foundation is an eclectic grouping of conceptual pieces and labelled impermanent so presumably more to see in the future . . .

The interior reflects the exterior perfectly. Arles and the Arlésiennes are lucky.

 

In a house which becomes a home,

one hands down and another takes up

the heritage of mind and heart,

laughter and tears, musings and deeds.

Love, like a carefully loaded ship,

crosses the gulf between the generations.

Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies

of our passage: when we wed, when we die,

and when we are blessed with a child;

When we depart and when we return;

When we plant and when we harvest.

Let us bring up our children. It is not

the place of some official to hand to them

their heritage.

If others impart to our children our knowledge

and ideals, they will lose all of us that is

wordless and full of wonder.

Let us build memories in our children,

lest they drag out joyless lives,

lest they allow treasures to be lost because

they have not been given the keys.

We live, not by things, but by the meanings

of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation to generation.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation.

And a post from before.

a verge or two

May 5, 2021

Oh, such delightful eruptions of iris this year on the road side – starting off in early April and full on in recurring displays through to May. It’s the outward curve in the stem of the plant set off by the cascading flower en double tier that is show stopping . . . seen in groups around the most modest sentiers. Of course, they love the drainage that a bank offers up. All photos from the roads and sentiers around the village . . .   

 . . . in some points a garrigue type planting has taken hold – a tapestry of cistus, thymes, lavandins, rosmarin, euphorb and aphyllanthes that looks like sisyrinchium, merge in a tapestry effect which can look shrubby and rough – many plants in this habitat have aromatic foliage and thus oils and monoterpenes will leach into the soils from leaf litter. This asserts the dominance of a plant over its companion and ensures the characateristic open spacing and, so restricted flora in the garrigue. 

And sometimes opuntia (prickly pear) throw out an aria on a bank situation (drainage again) – soprano, so middle C to high A, methinks – just to disconcert and mix in the exotic. 

From up close of the verges into longer views and back to understanding what this small in size,  agricultural in commerce, landscape here ( St Pons la Clam) is about – vines, apricots and cherries and asperges . . . 

from dawn to dusk the gatherers are at it. Lifting asperges – green and white – for the marketplace. The plastic that is used to force is a horrid development – presumably in the past sacking was employed . . . or the produce wasn’t forced.

The fruit is turning red already and promises much. 

In another environment, but not far away, this little blue flowering gem was noted in the verge – buglossoides purpurocaerulea – it’s a borage – but the little sweet thing below remains unnamed. I think its lamiaceae . . . 

 . . . and saw it wandering around St Gervais, near Bagnols, on the route to discovering Les Célettes, a charming hameau with good vineyard, Domaine Sante Anne, and with a forgotten but discovered again feel.:

Of course the poem stands as it does and now the term ‘weed’ is known as the right plant but in the wrong place but my thought on selecting it is that ‘they move in and colonise, if the environment suits them, and that’s what I love. Ah plants, so much more beautiful than human beings. 

Long live the weeds that overwhelm
My narrow vegetable realm! –
The bitter rock, the barren soil
That force the son of man to toil;
All things unholy, marked by curse,
The ugly of the universe.
The rough, the wicked and the wild
That keep the spirit undefiled.
With these I match my little wit
And earn the right to stand or sit,
Hope, look, create, or drink and die:
These shape the creature that is I.  Theodore Roethke

epitaph: roadside in the Camargue today – iris pseudoacorus in fosse plein d’eau. 

hope springs eternal

January 2, 2021

I hang my head in shame – refuse to blame covid or indeed political issues – and promise myself that in 2021 I must try harder . . .

to think about and organise and produce more posts to keep sane and hopeful. Today, January 2nd, it’s cold, windy and a tad grey – even here in the south of France – as the photo shows, but I appreciate the composition in the quickly snapped photo of the upper garden, the fore shortening and pixelation both of which have given the image an abstract quality. I appreciate and revel in the tones . . .

. . . as in the big view, the tones in winter are more beautiful and harmonious than in other seasons. The vines are mostly pruned and stand silently like battalions waiting to charge . . .

shame about the turquoise plastic collars around the new plants but they add a touch of something . . .

a cluster of poplars by the stream have the similar quiet attributes of clematis still now after scrambling along the verges – the fluffy seedheads still hanging on . . .

. . . returning home this winter musing is thrown up in the air like a jugglers ball when the persimmon greets me and shouts out ‘always to be blest’.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me. Emily Dickinson

bamboos and beyond

November 3, 2020

It’s been a while since the last post and, also, since the last visit to La Bamboueseraie a couple of years ago – how bizarre that the images are almost the same – eye to brain to camera to laptop to wordpress . . . and how strange that I selected a Neruda poem too. . . .

. . . and I see I mentioned the ‘endless photos of tall, upright” stems but I find them still so beautiful and evocative. The density of the spreading crop ensures complete shelter and seclusion from the surroundings. For a historical overview of this estate open the post of four years ago.

Installations from Pascale Planche using a few poles woven into ‘rhythmical dances that set a ‘ribbon of bamboo in motion. The ribbon rises and falls, sketching out its path and coils through space. It opens windows onto the landscape, providing an array of recollections in the minds and imagination of each person’. Materials used: phyllostachys bambusoides, viridiglauscens and Flexuosa; rubber and annealed wire.

The youngest member of our party working out how the bamboo water feature works  . . .

and he was sort of impressed with the laotian pigs in their well constructed, exotic habitat.

The Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ never disappoints – elegant, stately, self assured – along with the bamboo tunnel which received a small thumbs up.

Then we took the steam train from the small Bamboueseraie station on the Anduze – Saint Jean du Gard line which runs across viaducts over the Gardon nudging the edge of the Cévennes and saw fire ravaged but spectacular scenery as opposite to the landscape of bamboo garden as possible. The poem, well, it reminds me how the touch of an experience simmers for a while and then can grow, and overwhelm, in a delightfully meaningful way.

“I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.” Pablo Neruda  If you forget me.

what’s happening = not much and no excuses. Me, and the cat, have been lolling around trying to fill our days. He’s much better at it than I am. I was brought up in an industrious household where folks were always busy doing six things at once and shame on you if you didn’t follow suite.

We have had serendipitous tulip planting in the pots in the garden.  Interesting as I thought I bought soft pink and dark burgundy tulips but have ended up with strong reds and yellows . . .

. . . no matter and it’s good to be shaken up. The Bengal crimson rose is in full throttle – the cane and plant pot hood denote the position of a dahlia – such a jolly rose and marvellous value. Really I love it to bits.

Am also totally gone on the combination of Hardenbergia violocea (tender as an Australian native and so needs fleecing up in cold months) scrambling through Solanum laxum ‘Album’ (a South American native), evergreen, fast and easy to manage. It’s a romper.

Other containers are in party mode  – well it’s easy before they suffer from high heat  – before drying out – and there’s the perfume too. The osteospermum has a strong aroma thats reminds me of a lovely spliff . . .

. . . Iris ‘Bel Azur’ from Cayeux  – the only really decent Iris suppliers – with Solanum rantonetti, a marvel – goes on and on – and easily manageable.

At the allotment or ‘jardin’ across the square/ place,  I notice that I should contemplate hanging a new gate . . .

. . .  but we’re all ready to go. Although it looks bare under the earth  potatoes and sunflowers waiting to thrust through. Never have my grass paths received so much attention . . .  but looking upwards to the boundaries, my neighbour’s plot has espaliered pears that are showing beautifully . . .

. . . but the other neighbour needs to do some pruning here.

Across the small path, Chemin des Jardins by the lavoir, a plot that has always until now been a home to a couple of horses. However,   no more – what is this instead? some discussion on a possible art installation or just new trees . . .

. . .  good news to us all is that the lavoir is full.

Fumitory abounds in the verges and a delicate low sedum over the walls. I will do better. Somehow . . .

It was a perfect day
For sowing; just
As sweet and dry was the ground
As tobacco-dust.

I tasted deep the hour
Between the far
Owl’s chuckling first soft cry
And the first star.

A long stretched hour it was;
Nothing undone
Remained; the early seeds
All safely sown.

And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night. Edward Thomas Sowing

 

In the Soulages rooms at the Musée Fabre – a retrospective ‘(Re)découvrir Soulages. Montpellier is where he studied and he has given works to be hung and kept in the city . . . .

. . . there are many ‘outrenoirs’ – paintings that have evolved from applying layers of paint – some textured – where the light is reflected. The intense weight and deepness of tone magnify the effect. Interesting to see the exploration of technique and result.

I am still obsessed with figures in space but I become obsessed with the canvases too.

Other colour tones are shown – this shows the use of brou de noix (walnut ink) – ‘L’acrylique et le brou, plus fluides tous les deuxque lapeinture à l’huile, permettent un étirement, d’où cette qualité spontanée de la trace’.

L’accord noir/bleu est un classique de la peinture, qui a toujours retenu Soulages: ‘Le rapprochement d’un noir et d’un bleu, me confiait-il en 1996, toujours quelque chose d’assez sensuel, on s’y livre avec une certaine volupté”.

Now I feel ashamed to stick the camera up to the canavs to take details – what was I thinking – how crass. But, perhaps I could learn something from the composition . . . . such vital, joyful work – so positive hence the choice of poem.

 

The days of our future stand in front of us
like a row of little lit candles —
golden, warm, and lively little candles.

The days past remain behind us,
a mournful line of extinguished candles;
the ones nearest are still smoking,
cold candles, melted, and bent.

I do not want to look at them; their form saddens me,
and it saddens me to recall their first light.
I look ahead at my lit candles.

I do not want to turn back, lest I see and shudder
at how fast the dark line lengthens,
at how fast the extinguished candles multiply.  Constantine P Cavafy

At the collection lambert in December looking at works from the permanent collection.

The breakthroughs that occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the new ways of considering art that they led to, fostered artistic practices in the last 60 years and nurtured Yvon Lambert’s vision

‘Minimal art, conceptual art and land art, fields in which Yvon Lambert was one of the very first proponents in Europe, start off this new itinerary at the museum, in the company of some of the main players in these foundational artistic movements’.  – from the website.

For me the interior and exterior compositions are as compelling as the installations, photography, video and small amount of figurative painting . . .

     

. . . in front of the window, a minute silk pillow (Pillow for the Dead by Rei Naito) in a glass case shrouded in reflection of the plane trees in the entrance courtyard and close up of a pile of wooden masks dumped on the floor of one of the rooms . . .

. . . looking again into the courtyard, a grandmother walking and holding a small baby in her arms – she looked charmimg in the space.

In a corner, smashed tea glasses tea vases  (Erratum by Latifa Echakhch) and a glass sphere in the right angled gallery on the top floor where most of the figurative painting was hung. It was a relief to get here – the circulation is problematic but interesting . . .

. . . a few installations use sound. This very large head (Kamoya by Marguerite Hummeau) groans  – I preferred it in reflection . . .

. . . looking down at some pots in a courtyard and yes, it is an installation,  and looking up at the canopy of planes so hence the poem by Alison Fell.

In the ghost-mist above the rooftops

planes stalk one another

 

in spirals, punctilious,

Like the rakings of a sand-garden

 

In which someone might sit

and count his blessings.

 

Some bits of luck these last

Few days: ground has a good

 

fell to the heels, hair

Likes to crouch under it hat,

 

fingertips nest nicely

In their woollen gloves.

 

It’s the nose’s luck to be

stuck so firmly to a face,

 

it’s the mind’s luck to live

in the limitless house of the head. December Lightyear  Alison Fell

 

Son oeil, à l’horizon de lumière gorgée,
Voit des galères d’or, belles comme des cygnes
Sur un fleuve de pourpre et de parfums dormir.

(He sees, on the horizon filled with light,
Golden galleons as lovely as swans,
Moored on a broad river of scented purple.)

Je me mire et me vois ange! et je meurs, et j’aime
—Que la vitre soit l’art, soit la mysticité—
A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème,
Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté.

(I can see my reflection like that of an angel!
And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium
Of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn,
Wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land
Where beauty flourishes.) Stéphane Mallarmé

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to visit a project designed some years ago (previous visit and related post is here). The estate sits on the edge of town, Monte San Savino, with the majority of the productive land – vines and olives – to the south west. The drive sweeps around climbing up through the land . . .

. . . to the main courtyard. These clients have rather exquisite taste and furnish and decorate their house unusually and perfectly.

The old orto/ potager/vegetable garden sat behind these imposing gates. It’s a walled plot . . .

. . . and 15 years ago became the pool garden.

Lines of Acer campestre (field maple) originally planted for the functional attribute of using the young twiggy branches to tie in the vines. It has decorative attributes too, of course.

I see I was very taken with the cork oaks previously. Obvious functional uses but what glorious trunks . . .

. . . and the cupressus make fine full stops. We planted these below to make a screen from the town but also to allow views through from the house. These have been shaped . . .

. . . the rounded canopy of mature pines contrast the vertical habit of the cypress. Irrigation canals run discreetly around the site which is terraced.

Long breaches make air spiral

as tangibly as the heartwood.

Its’ only human to think the olive

speaks, that there are mouths

singing, screaming, even, in the gashes

and you can’t help but see a figure

twined in the trunk or struggling out.

Layers of xylem and crushed phloem

are other ways we see ‘tree’:

there are always these speaking

gaps to put a fist or a heart. Jo Shapcott  Trasimeno Olive

 

We also went to assist in the olive harvest and gathered 500 kgs over the weekend which made 90L of oil. Hundreds and hundreds of litres will be made from the 10,000 trees.

The youngest member took some time out on the odd occasion . . .

. . . but was very interested in our visit to the press ,Frantoio Mazzarrini, working 24 hrs at this time of year. Lovely trip, friends.

 

Close to the gates a spacious garden lies,

From storms defended, and inclement skies:

Four acres was th’alloted space of ground.

Tall thriving trees confess’d the fruitful mould;

The reddening apples ripens here to gold,

Here the blue fig with luscious juice o’erflows,

With deeper red the full pomegranate glows,

The branch here bends beneath the weighty pear,

And verdant olives flourish round the year.

The balmy spirit of the western gale

Eternal breathes on fruits untaught to fail:

Each dropping pear a following pear supplies,

On apples apples, figs on figs arise:

The same mild season gives the blooms to blow,

The buds to harden, and the fruit to grow.

Here ordered vines in equal ranks appear

With all the united labours of the year,

Some to unload the fertile branches run,

Some dry the blackening cluster in the sun,

Others to tread the liquid harvest join,

The groaning presses foam with floods of wine.

Here the vines in early flower descried,

Here the grapes discolour’d on the sunny side,

And there in autumn’s richest purple dyed.

Beds of all various herbs, for ever green,

In beauteous order terminate the scene.

Two plenteous fountains the whole prospect crowned:

This through the gardens leads its streams around:

Visits each plant, and waters all the ground:

While that in pipes beneath the palace flows,

And thence its current on the town bestows;

To various use their various streams they bring,

The people one, and one, supplies the king. Alexander Pope (mod version G. Greer)     The Gardens of Alcinous

 

 

 

We normally visit the festival every other year as not only are the show gardens a talking point but we also enjoy the land art and sculptures exhibited within the grounds as well as the art within parts of the chateau. The theme for the 28th, Paradise Gardens, interested us particularly. I had assisted students from the University of Greenwich on a garden 4 years ago so not only did I realise how tight the 11,000 euro budget was but also the potential and constrictions of the build over 2 months from February to April. The planting has to look ‘verdant’ from day one and continue through with seasonal change until November. The in – house maintenance team gave good advise on the conditions in this part of the Loire.

This was our concept: The Singing Garden seeks to enchant and create a sense of wonder in the viewer. The work is an invitation to dream, perhaps to transport you to the Persian Pairidaeza of the Koran, where the fruiting aromatic plants captivate our senses and the melodious song of birds tempt us to reflect on a time when humans and the natural world lived in harmony.

The dawn chorus lures the viewer through the portal, past a planted screen into the enclosed beauty of the woodland of fruiting trees which  provide a cool resting place, an opportunity to lie back on the cushions, relax, gaze upward to the filtered tracery of the sky and the ornamental nests of exotic birds.

The magic is there for children and adults alike. The Singing Garden questions our perception of nature and the enclosed space. The use of sound will evoke the fragile but resilient  character inherent in the natural world. The sound will rise and fall silent, reminding us that human impact on the world we share can be destructive to other life forms. At heart the message is one of hope without complacency.

 The planting emphasises the practical aims, the plants that provide fruits, oils, seeds, whilst enchanting with colour and form. Recycled hard materials are used with subtlety and to acknowledge the ecological dilemmas that we are faced with today.

 We hope that The Singing Garden will create tranquility whilst raising important questions about our outside spaces, both cultivated and wild.

Following our application (Anny’s visual formed the centre piece) . . . ,

. . . we heard nothing for a long time. However, when we got the nod, work began in earnest including a more detailed set of drawings; sourcing a sound consultant who assisted with technicalities advising on amplifiers and loudspeakers to be housed in the surrounding hedging (we wanted to use bird song and other wildlife sounds from the natural environment ; sourcing a willow worker (Blaise Cayol who works from Tavel in the Gard https://www.celuiquitresse.com) for the screen and the nests that were to be hung in the 14 Malus ‘Evereste’. Plants were to be sourced via the Domaine. Mostly of good quality but a few less so. First site visit to our alloted ‘parcelle’ on a cold January day . . .

. . . the plot was smaller than the surveyors diagram so we had to adjust and rejig but we liked this plot immensely especially the overhanging branches from, and the presence of the large oak just beyond.

The main contractor was local and efficient – thank you Julien Bourdin https://www.bourdin-terrassement-paysage.fr

We made 3 visits of about 4 days each during the build with final planting in the second week of April – a frost followed us across the Loire. . .

Once the garden was complete and open on April 25th, the maintenance team took control. It was good to see and hear the public response especially to the sound element within the garden especially from the school groups during our visits in May and July.  I would have liked to ‘finesse’ the planting early on – all the digitalis disappeared and the substitute roses were very disappointing – but that’s a no-no’.

IMG_1496 copy

click on this link for some sound

The Festival closes on November 3rd and most of the gardens will be taken apart.

I see that I used this poem in August 2010 blogging about nurturing and producing crops on the allotment in Hastings. I feel it’s apt as an adjunct here primarily for the classical references – the Loire valley being packed with mythological, classical and traditional allusions in architecture, landscape and literature.

 

Lady of kitchen-gardens, learned

In the ways of the early thin-skinned rhubarb,

Whose fingers fondle each gooseberry bristle,

Stout currants sagging on their flimsy stalks,

And sprinting strawberries, that colonise

As quick as Rome.

Goddess of verges,  whose methodical

Tenderness fosters the vagrant croppers,

Gawky raspberries refugees from gardens,

Hip, sloe, juniper, blackberry, crab,

Humble abundance of health, hedge, copse,

The layabouts’ harvest.

Patron of orchards, pedantic observer

Of rites, of prune, graft, spray and pick,

In whose honour the Bramley’s branches

Bow with their burly cargo, from grass-deep

To beyond ladders, you who teach pears their proper shape,

And brush the ripe plum’s tip with a touch of crystal.

I know your lovers, earth’s grubby godlings;

Silvanus, whose province is muck-heaps

And electric fences; yaffle-headed Picus;

Faunus the goatman. All of them friends

Of the mud-caked cattle, courting you gruffly

With awkward, touching gifts.

But I am irrepressible, irresponsible

Spirit of Now; no constant past,

No predictable future. All my genius

Goes into moments. I have nothing to give

But concentration and alteration.  Pomona and Vertumnus

U A Fanthorpe

 

 

 

 

Monclus sits above a snaking curve on the river Cèze. It boasts of being ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’ along with many others. It is beautiful and picturesque and maybe, but I am not sure, a village of ‘second homes’ as Dutch, Belgian and Swiss surnames on the postboxes are noticeable. There is a shop and there is a reasonable bus service and a school . . . the river here has a melancholic charm maybe due to the meandering course and the relaxed, nicely unkempt bordering vegetation . . .

. . . in the village, some of the walls are clothed vegetation that appears to flow upwards and downwards. Medieval whispers emit from the walls bordering narrow ‘ruelles’ that take the visitor on a subtle, gently curving route to the château . . .

. . .with majestic donjohn towering above the château fortifications used by the Benedictines as a monastery for many years.

Place des Aires marks the summit of the village – it has immense charm and is well named. Now I start to look at details having absorbed the overall character  . . .

. . . I find I’m a tad smitten and look forward to swimming in the river here looking up to the village of whispering voices.

Imagines voices, and beloved, too,

of those who died, or of those who are
lost to us like the dead.

Sometimes in our dream they they speak to us;
sometimes in its thought the mind will hear them.

And with their sound for a moment there return
sounds from the first poetry of our life –
like music,in the night, far off,that fades away. Constantine Cavafy   Voices     trans Daniel Mendelsohn

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