18 degrees forecast so a quick trip to Grau du Roi – takes about 1 1/2 hours from Uzès but with the tensions – blockages and difficulties finding petrol at the moment – all in the lap of the gods. Turned out very well with lunch by the canal.

The village, based around fishing cottages, gained administrative buildings and was recognised as a section of Aigues-Mortes in 1867, becoming a separate commune in 1879. The village of fishers and farmers turned to tourism at the end of the 19th century, with the extension of the Nîmes Aigues-Mortes railway line in 1909:[5] bathers arrived en masse, and on the 26 April 1924 the French President of the Republic decreed that Le Grau-du-Roi was a “station climatique et balnéaire” (beach resort town). The rail line enabled local producers to market their white grapes and fish nationally.

World War II affected the village profoundly. Axis troops were stationed in the village, and the local council dissolved. By 1942, many of the inhabitants had fled: the coast was on the front line and bristled with tank traps and minefields. The village was controlled by blockhouses, and the canal was shut off. Wood from houses was used to build defences. Le Grau-du-Roi was liberated in August 1944, and the coast started to rebuild, with a focus on tourism. The effort was coordinated by the plan Racine. Architect Jean Balladur was put in charge, and he designed structures capable of supporting a large number of tourists, while also supporting the local way of life and environment. Part of the plan included the new marina at Port Camargue.[2] This was launched in 1968 and finished in 1985 – info from Wikipedia.

The sandy L’Espiguette beach sits south-west of Aigues- Mortes ( dead – water) and the étangs, shallow and saline, and surrounding marshes of the Camargue inhabited by flamingoes, white horses and bulls.

Patterns of the effect of wind and water but no plastic to be seen. As a regional parkland it is very well maintained. one of those extra special days. The poem is about a different coast but I like it.

To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before—
The miniature gaiety of seasides.
Everything crowds under the low horizon:
Steep beach, blue water, towels, red bathing caps,
The small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse
Up the warm yellow sand, and further off
A white steamer stuck in the afternoon—
Still going on, all of it, still going on!
To lie, eat, sleep in hearing of the surf
(Ears to transistors, that sound tame enough
Under the sky), or gently up and down
Lead the uncertain children, frilled in white
And grasping at enormous air, or wheel
The rigid old along for them to feel
A final summer, plainly still occurs
As half an annual pleasure, half a rite,
As when, happy at being on my own,
I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers,
Or, farther back, my parents, listeners
To the same seaside quack, first became known.
Strange to it now, I watch the cloudless scene:
The same clear water over smoothed pebbles,
The distant bathers’ weak protesting trebles
Down at its edge, and then the cheap cigars,
The chocolate-papers, tea-leaves, and, between
The rocks, the rusting soup-tins, till the first
Few families start the trek back to the cars.
The white steamer has gone. Like breathed-on glass
The sunlight has turned milky. If the worst
Of flawless weather is our falling short,
It may be that through habit these do best,
Coming to the water clumsily undressed
Yearly; teaching their children by a sort
Of clowning; helping the old, too, as they ought.
Philip Larkin To the Sea

A new museum ,Musée de la Romanité, in Nîmes, beside the Arènes and very close to the La Maison Carré and the Carré d’Art.

As in most French cities, urban design, positioning, ergonomics and ‘the journey’ are a pleasurable experience. Here this new installation is regarded as a dialogue between the ancient and the contemporary – and it is, and it works. The square glass panelling covering the facade appears to float – the curves echo, slightly, the circular form of the ancient arena. The architect’s concept refers the art of the mosaic and the folds of the Roman toga  . . .

. . . the archeological garden, accessed easily from surrounding streets, shows a vegetative overview of the periods of history shown inside the museum. Not quite sure about these oleanders although the slection is correct within the scope here – just they smack of poor civic planting. There are, however, olives, green oak, pines and almonds. Also lavenders, thymes and garlic, sweet chestnut, tarragon, chives and lemon balm that the Romans and Crusaders introduced to the southern France.

On the roof, a green sward peppered with drought tolerant perennials. Low, and so sheltered from the weather, but well irrigated at least in the first growing season. Also the planted carpet does not distract from the views. The interior is packed with treasures too – archaeological not botanic. And packed with multi-media support.

. . . achillea, dianthus, centaura, trifolium sps. provide an airy silky veil.

The light wraps you in its mortal flame.
Abstracted pale mourner, standing that way
against the old propellers of the twighlight
that revolves around you.

Speechless, my friend,
alone in the loneliness of this hour of the dead
and filled with the lives of fire,
pure heir of the ruined day.

A bough of fruit falls from the sun on your dark garment.
The great roots of night
grow suddenly from your soul,
and the things that hide in you come out again
so that a blue and palled people
your newly born, takes nourishment.

Oh magnificent and fecund and magnetic slave
of the circle that moves in turn through black and gold:
rise, lead and possess a creation
so rich in life that its flowers perish
and it is full of sadness. Pablo Neruda  The Light that Wraps You

 

ville et campagne

May 28, 2018

Ville – Arles; appreciating a sculpture by Marc Nucera – elegant but purposeful and somehow wistful –  in front of the Chapelle de Méjan. Then on to the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh  . . .

. . . where the courtyard displays a feature bursting with colour and water.

Inside, one of the exhibitions is Soleil Chaud, Soleil Tardif. Les Modernes Indomptés. Vincent’s railway carriages with other works showing the influence of Millet and Monticelli; some Calder patterns; Polke’s work well lit.

Metaphors of the sun, Mediterranean region and experimentation from Modernists and Post Modernists. Joan Mitchell’s Sunflowers . .

. . . and No Birds. Also de Chirico and videos of performances by Sun Ra alongside vibrant LP covers – those were the days.

Later works from Picasso: Man playing the Guitar and Old Man Sitting.

Upstairs in the original rooms . . .

. . . an exhibition of an English Modernist, Paul Nash, curated as Eléments Lumineux –  “works imbued with a surreal atmosphere and a sense of the finite, against a background of death and war”(catalogue).

From the roof terrace, a well manged parthenocissus clings to the walls of a secret courtyard. And out into Place du Forum to gaze upwards.

Ville – Nimes; banks of Cistus monspeliensis flowering with panache alongside Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle.

Campagne – Anduze. La Bambouseraie en Cévennes a couple of weeks ago with wisteria in full bloom – heavenly scent – Davidia in discreet bloom and the final flowers on Akebia quinata and  so final whiff of chocolate.

from a previous visit

The Mind is a wonderful Thing  Marianne Moore

is an enchanted thing
like the glaze on a
katydid-wing
subdivided by sun
till the nettings are legion.
Like Giesking playing Scarltti;

like the apteryx-awl
as a beak, or the
kiwi’s rain-shawl
of haired feathers, the mind
feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.

It has memory’s ear
that can hear without
having to hear.
Like the gyroscope’s fall,
truly equivocal
because trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of strong enchantment. It
is like the dove-
neck animated by
sun; it is memory’s eye;
it’s conscientious inconsistency.

It tears off the veil; tears
the temptation, the
mist the heart wears,
from its eyes – if the heart
has a face; it takes apart
dejection. It’s fire in the dove-neck’s

iridescence; in the inconsistencies
of Scarlatti.
Unconfusion submits
its confusion to proof; it’s
not a Herod’s oath that cannot change.

 

 

An invitation by Mediterranean Gardening France to see the garden of 2 artists in St Remy de Provence. The view from M. Joseph Bayol’s studio on the first floor of his house across the wisteria to the bassin  . . .

. . .  just a small area of his studio packed with canvases, collections, materials and a few palettes with one below  . . .

. . . the bassin formally positioned with three cupressus at the far end and two very large and well proportioned metal structures on either side to support climbing roses. Scale and proportion are exquisitely handled in this garden superbly maintained by Mme Bayol. I use these superlatives in acknowledgement of both horticultural and aesthetic prowess. A garden to delight – purely personal and imaginatively handled. It shows love.

An informal pond inhabited by noisy frogs is well hidden but a charming discovery and typical of the elements and spaces to find unexpectedly on the journey around the garden . . .

. . . roses in full glory here in Provence at the start of May. Either clambering up an immense cupresses or a single bloom in a shady passageway.

The wisteria – gentle, elegant, discreet + certainly not the blowsy form – has a sculptural woven + twisted trunk. The finials on the rose pergola  – are equally underplayed . . .

. . . roses framing the entrance to the green house and quite wonderful cross views across the garden sheltered and hidden within a Provence town. One of the best gardens I’ve seen for a long while. Personal and poetic – a dream.

a few other days out to gardens with the MGF (I’m a tad smitten with this group):

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/art-on-show-large-space-small-space-chateau-la-coste-max-sauze-garden/

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/at-the-ecological-garden-au-jardin-ecologique/

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/un-jardin-anglais-but-is-it/

 

Summer: for a few days

you lay around with us

breathed in pollen,

counted aphids,

watched us drop

one by one on to the path

where the scent

was especially heavy. Rose multiflora Jo Shapcott

Richard Serra – an installation, a sculpture, a site specific sculpture – at Chateau la Coste to be viewed and interacted with on the Art and Arhcitecture walk around the domain. Seemingly I just snap away at things I like nowadays . . .

. . . remnants of the old farming estate have been kept such as the threshing floor outside a new chapel which I didn’t photograph.  A more interesting building ‘Four Cubes to Contemplate our Environment- a maze like structure from Tadao Ando. A palimpsest of translucent layers/facades offering plenty to absorb and think about  . . .

. . . on the way down to The Meditation Bell.

The Oak Room (Andy Goldsworthy), outside above and inside below, caught the imagination of the kids.

Big names here – Gehry, Ando, Bourgeois, Benech, Sigimoto – in this large glamorous and glossy winery vineyard cafe dining shop gallery space ‘art escape’.  Most likely the Ai Weiwei ‘Mountains and Seas’ might have flown away as my visit was some time ago . . . but I remember the very very beautiful work.

By contrast, also near Aix en Provence, a jardin remarquable, in a small town – Éguilles. Max and Anne Sauze have created somehing special in a relatively small space around one lone tree. Now there’s more and consequently increased shade and lots of bamboo. Max, the master of metal, is also a master of arrangements, of collections . . .

. . . and of pleating paper. All objets are recycled and put together to form whimsical and quirky and thought provoking ‘things’.

Mostly site specific and crossing from design to architeture to horticulture but intensely personal.

In every corner and on all surfaces, he can’t stop himself – thank goodness.

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
unintelligible,
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry. Marianne Moore   Poetry 

 

an afternoon with some sun prompts a visit to birds, habitats, landscape at Dungeness. Flat lands – gravel pits, pebbles, tamarisk, buckthorn, reeds – offer diverse habitats. Sparrows and Cetti’s warblers sing in the hedges. . .

. . . while shovelers, Slavonian grebe and smews can be viewed from the hides.

Apparently, just missed the Bewick swans and a bittern but a glimpse of a great white egret storking the shallows made up for the misses and there’s always someone to let you know what is where or was here – just now.

EDF own the power station and, now, the Dungeness estate. A strange back cloth to the cormorants perching like black shrouds on the submerged scrub . . .

. . . it’s very mellow and somewhat ghostlike. Perhaps this is fleece stretched into the twigs. The sheep are huge with thick wooly coats and some big bellies.

Lydd church standing proud and a few spreads of coppery willow . . .

 

. . . at Prospect Cottage as the clouds move in across the low sun – all is quiet.

 

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink. John Keats

A chance to walk a part of the Sentier des Lauzes through the pine and sweet chestnut forests in the Ardèche. Lauze are slate slabs so the terrain is often schist and therefore loose. Thanks to Louisa Jones for the nod on exploring this environment  – well described in her book Mediterranean Landscape Design Vernacular to Contemporary and giving some background on how a non – profit organisation of locals and incomers grew the project. “one of those abandoned terraced landscapes in the Mediterranean with an uncertain future” Martin Chenot, founder.

Took this pic through my legs – just one of those things.

The walk is well balanced with enclosed wooded areas contrasting with  those of openness. Here beyond the lonely pine  views across to Dompnac. Christan Lapie’s figures contemplating the view too . . .

. . . ‘Le Belvédère des Lichens’ discreetly positioned by Gilles Clément also looks across the valley of the Drobie. Louisa describes the decks as; ‘unobtrusive:simple wooden platforms placed among lichen-covered rocks and out towards the medieval chapel of Saint-Régis . . outlines,textures and tones participate in the same sense of flow. But Clément is a naturalist, concerned not only to feel but to know. It matters very much to him that lichens are symbiotic union of algae and mushroom, and that these four species – pale Rhizocarpon, silvery Parmelia, stiff sombre Lasallia and grey Aspicilia – involve different scales not only in space but also in time. In addition, some species indicate clean air. Learning how they live gives wider resonances to the art without the abstraction of the symbol. this particular mix can only exist right here, at this moment, and will be different tomorrow’. (Louisa Jones)

To discover the art works here needs a sense of exploration and inquisitiveness unlike those at Chateau  de la Coste  – but that’s another issue and another post – where attention is to the artwork as against to the setting. My opinion of course.  Commercialism against  . . .  romantic veneration and a wish to understand how the landscape and the inhabitants worked in a sense of harmony – that was necessary as it was a working environment. Martin Chénot: ‘The important thing is to keep walking, to harvest the landscape with eyes, muscles, feet, mind and dreams”.

The walk takes about 5 hours – my group suffered road closures and mapping errors so we only managed about a half – but looking forward to returning and seeing especially le Jardin des Figuiers et l’atelier refuge. An exhilarating day.

 

Back at our base, recharging the batteries and admiring the other residents and noting the signs of the change of the season.

Blind I know with senses arising from fern and tree,

Blind lips and fingers trace a god no eyes can see,

Blind I touch love’s monster from that bounds

My world of field and forest, crowns my hills.

Blind I worship a blind god in his hour

Whose serpent – wand over my soul has power

To lead the crowding souls back from the borders of death,

Heaven’s swift – winged fiat, earth’s primeval monolith. Kathleen Raine The Herm

 

 

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