Friday, November 06, 2015


Since the last time I blog-posted I've been back to Tavira, Portugal, where five years ago I was artist in residence at Casa 5 (documented starting here). This time I went with London friends to visit my brother who is living there at present.

It was a wonderful mind, body and vision-refreshing break which I'm very happy to share some visual proofs of. I realise that my photos are probably cliché postcardy things but I don't care. There's nothing cliché about actually being immersed in moments of splendour like these and if I've only got superficial records of the live experience, well, so be it. I'm not going to write about the history of Tavira or describe the place verbally - you can look up the former and I'm sure there are good travel writers who have done the latter.

Spectacular sunset on Gilao River, Tavira
Roman bridge, Tavira

The small hotel where we stayed, facing the Gilao River
Crossing bridge, Tavira

Orange stucco house, Tavira

Yellow front of demolished house, Tavira

House waiting to be restored, Tavira

Cloudy day, Tavira environs

Meanwhile, back home, I've made a photobook/catalogue of 109 of my old drawings, some of which were posted below. The printed copy (of which there's only one at present) will be sent to me soon and I'm going to look into having more copies printed for anyone who'd like to buy one. The drawings themselves are for sale individually - if interested let me know.The online version of the photobook can be viewed here (put it on full screen and click the arrow on the right to turn the pages).


Vincent said...

Your photos are magnificent, way beyond any postcard cliché.

But I want to talk about your photobook: a feast, a treasure and a diadem enhancing the WWW by its generosity. Please leave it there for posterity, as it brings an important collection together and I, for one, could browse it and then come back to it an indefinite number of times. The portraits in particular are valuable in several ways. The most striking is surely George Enescu, No. 62. Did you do it from life? In what circumstances? One of my most treasured CDs is his violin solo of Bach’s Partita BWV 1004, when he was old as in your drawing, already suffering from arthritis which must have hampered his playing, yet putting such intensity and pathos into this celebrated piece that he completely eclipses another version of the same piece by his pupil Yehudi Menuhin, whose playing is more stiffly correct.

Another drawing which I find especially fascinating is no. 31 for its use of line to provide hints and echoes of other things, for instance the curve above the model’s right hand which suggests the f-hole of a cello, and the emphasis afforded to the chair-leg, both of which seem to echo early 20th-century styles which I'm too ignorant to name

Tom said...

Quite right too! The pictures are great. The first one looked decidedly weird, as if it were made up of a series of disjointedly superimposed shots. When I saw the following shot I realised how clever the first picture was of the Roman bridge. And the colours.....!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Vincent, many thanks. I too am pleased with the photobook, it's a useful way to assemble early work. I still have masses of drawings, paintings,prints etc. and may do a few more volumes in this way - very inexpensive (£19 for 100 pages), easy to format and the printed version looks excellent.

But to answer your good comments: the first time I posted my sketch of Enescu (scroll right down this page) I asked if anyone could identify who it was because I couldn't recall his name though I knew it was a famous musician. Later on, a pianist friend recognised it as Enescu and of course it clicked. I had seen him on an ocean liner on which I was travelling with my parents either to or from France. He had this amazing, striking face but was bent over,like a hunchback. I'm pretty sure I did the drawing from a photo of him published later in a magazine. Fantastic that you have a CD of his Bach partita!
As for the nude in drawing No.31: interesting observations you make - I hadn't noticed these things! Am very happy that you appreciate this collection of some of my ancient work.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Tom, thank you. Yes that Roman bridge in Tavira is incredibly photogenic, you can't go wrong from any angle. The geometry of it, with its sharp reflections in the river - especially at sunset - is endlessly fascinating. I can imagine someone like Cezanne...or Escher...embarking on a whole series of artworks based on it. Unfortunately I didn't spend enough time focusing on it when I was in Tavira 5 years ago.

Vincent said...

Since your drawing of Georges Enescu is done on the lined page of a notebook, I would tend to assume it was done from life. Is there any way you could date this ocean liner trip? Here is a quote from a brief biography:

“The outbreak of World War II found him in Romania, where he lived on his farm in Sinaia, near Bucharest. He visited N.Y. again in 1946 as a teacher. On Jan. 21, 1950, during the 60th anniversary season of his debut as a violinist, he gave a farewell concert with the N.Y. Philharmonic in the multiple capacity of violinist, pianist, conductor, and composer, in a program comprising Bach's Double Concerto (with Menuhin), a violin sonata (playing the piano part with Menuhin), and his 1st ‘Romanian Rhapsody’ (conducting the orchestra). He then returned to Paris, where his last years were marked by near poverty and poor health. In July 1954 he suffered a stroke and remained an invalid for his remaining days.”

The CD referred to was first issued in 1949 as a series of records at 78rpm, apparently one of the last issues before LPs would replace them. I made my own copy from a download. It is the most moving rendition. My sleeve notes include this:

“You may wince at his intonation without ever quite being sure if it’s due to ravaged technique or an intentional bending of notes to exemplify the outlook he gained from having learned to fiddle with the gypsies of his native Romania. Earthy and soulful, his is deeply personal, passionate and altogether unique playing, bristling with spontaneity and conviction.”

I could make you a copy if you like, featuring your drawing on the album cover (with due acknowledgement of course).

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed leafing through those drawings. There were a lot of things I liked about them - including the way the Bookworks conference drawings somehow captured the body language of men trying to be "manly" if you know what I mean (the way a chair"man" sits at a table, for instance).

Roderick Robinson said...

Interesting to observe the evolution of your style. For what it's worth, the later ones seem more confident, more complete stylistically, more adventurous, perhaps (I'm going out on a limb here) even more eclectic.

Interesting too that the page-turner system delivers its own judgments: when we reach the pp 58-59 spread, p 58 is delivered immediately whereas we have wait for the little wheel to spin enough times before p 59 is disclosed. I realise there's a mundane reason for this (ie, p 59 is the more complex pictorial technique) but the process is seductive; after the wait I find myself looking more attentively at what's been revealed. If you were looking for a marketing tool you might build temporal delays into the pictures you most favour.

I included the phrase "for what it's worth" (above) advisedly, a sort of caveat emptor. It's a 100-1 you'll misunderstand what I'm about to say but in a sense I'm addressing myself as much as I am you and I need to see how this will pan out. It illustrates the difference beween those who have grown up responding primarily to words compared with those whose major stimulus comes from images, and is to be found in the nature of the captions.

The artist examines a real-life "thing" and, in subsequently processing the visual data, usually (perhaps always) depersonalises it. By which I mean accepts intellectually and subconsciously that the reality of the "thing" will disappear, to be replaced by a new kind of reality which may have only tenuous links with what existed in real life. The most obvious example of this in your book is the standing figure which echoes cubism.

Because of this process artists' captions are often reduced to labels (eg, John With Table, etc) their function being simply to identify, textually (if that word exists), one picture from another.

Such captions are perfectly legitimate and useful -for artists and those in the art trade. But, however unjustifiable this may seem to artists, the viewer who was nourished only by words wants more. Not much more, but something which creates some kind of link with the original reality.

I stress this is an unjustifiable response on the part of the wordsmith who has, by virtue of his conditioning, stepped out of his familiar world into another one. But he cannot help it. He sees these captions as essentially arid (Let me stress yet again, this is UNJUSTIFIABLE; I am not advocating CHANGE) and inhuman. As a result some alienation occurs and some wordsmiths - perhaps unconsciously - try to get their own back. Noel Coward, for instance, wrote a play called Nude With Violin and there's a bit of sarkiness in it.

Enough. This is not a complaint. Merely an observation which may just possibly have wider implications. Nor is it a baited trap intended to close on your misunderstanding.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dominic, I'm always happy to know you're still looking in over here and appreciate your comments. Yes, I know exactly what you mean about body (or mind/body) postures but if a quick sketch succeeds in capturing that intangible factor, it's entirely unplanned and unexpected. The concentrated looking/drawing process is so fast and so panicky that if anything of interest emerges, it's a surprise and a bonus to me.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Vincent, you'll have my emailed reply by now but thanks again for your offer, excitedly accepted!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Robbie, you've hit that tortured nail on the head. I hate writing titles/captions more than I can possibly express and even the effort of expressing how much I hate this is too much. So it's true, the titles I reluctantly inserted in this collection of drawings are beyond banal and only serve, as you put it:

" identify, textually (if that word exists), one picture from another."

Easier for me than simply giving them numbers since the drawings themselves are not numbered or titled. And, putting together one of these photobooks with the software provided, though not difficult, is quite tedious and I'd much prefer merely inserting pictures with no text at all. For cataloguing and selling purposes (most are for sale)some classification system is needed.

"... By which I mean accepts intellectually and subconsciously that the reality of the "thing" will disappear, to be replaced by a new kind of reality which may have only tenuous links with what existed in real life."
Very interesting and valid observation. Not being a 'wordsmith'I generally find it extremely difficult to describe what my feelings/thoughts are about works of art, though I sometimes venture to do so. Intelligent, perceptive, original as well as knowledgeable art-writing is extremely rare, at least in my opinion.

"..It's a 100-1 you'll misunderstand what I'm about to say.." Here we go again! I haven't misunderstood at all and I thank you for the whole of your commentary. Your mental picture of my mental attitude needs revising!

Vincent said...

In the post already.

Speaking as a latter-day wordsmith, I loved the clean and simple captions, which follow noble precedent, & contrast with those of Magritte or Dali, which seem a jarring distraction.

Roderick Robinson said...

It's for me to arrive at that final conclusion, not you.

Hattie said...

What a feast for the eyes. Thank you for sharing.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

And thanks for looking, Hattie.

Anonymous said...

beautiful photos, glad to hear you had a wonderful trip Natalie. As the grey Berlin winter starts to take hold here its been lovely reading this post and I’ve throughly enjoyed browsing through your old drawings, I love how you draw :-)

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Hi Phil, grey Berlin, grey London, but at least winter is late this year. Good to know you're working non-stop on brightening things up (in a dark mysterious way!) with your...what to call them? Tableaux? Thanks for your comments, always appreciated.