Thursday, March 25, 2010


For me every departure and every return involves a complete re-adjustment of focus, of purpose, of intention, as if the internal and external machinery which sets me in motion has ground to a halt. Like when you put new batteries in a digital camera and the screen message scolds: Date and time not set  and then you have to re-enter the whole shebang - year, month, day, hour, minutes - because the stupid camera has forgotten everything.

I am that stupid camera. It's me who needs re-setting every time but every time is not quite the same and with every departure and every return over the years, tiny changes take place, a kind of evolution and who knows what the end result will be or if there ever is an end result but I have a feeling it's all to the good. Going away is good, probably essential for an artist. And returning is good, certainly essential, but difficult.

There's a poem by Blaise Cendrars which begins (my translation) like this:

Quand tu aimes il faut partir            When you love you must go
Quitte ta femme quitte ton enfant    Leave your wife leave your child
Quitte ton ami quitte ton amie         Leave your boyfriend leave your girlfriend
Quitte ton amante quitte ton amant  Leave your mistress leave your lover
Quand tu aime il faut partir.             When you love you must go.

(read the whole poem in French here)

The title is: Tu est plus belle que le ciel et la mer and, in my view, it's Cendrars' hymn to love, passionate but not sentimental, leaving love behind only to stretch it out like a fishing net to collect all of life and then offer it back to loved ones, transformed. It reminds me of Van Gogh in his outsider solitude, caressing with brush and pen everything he saw.

What I like about going away is leaving the familiar. Even if, especially if, the familiar is good and is comfortable. Being somewhere else, where the walls are not your walls, the objects not your objects, the faces not the faces you know and the hours not the hours you waste or use at home - all this shakes up your body and your psyche, reminding you that you can always start again, no matter how late it is.

So I'm a bit overwhelmed by the familiar at the moment, dealing with some boring stuff that needs to be dealt with and trying to retain the impetus towards painting that was rekindled in Tavira. Hence my bloggish silence.

Don't go away, if you're here, and come back if you've given up on me. I am most definitely still here and will be visible again very shortly. �

Bli's dog with almond trees. Tavira, January 2010

PS: My website is currently being transferred to a new host and as it includes the main Blaugustine blog, I can't add new posts there until the transfer is complete. This should be within the next day or three.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Being back home is sweet indeed but I will continue to see, to feel and to make use of the light, the shadows, the shapes of Tavira. Certain images are forever engraved in my mind: the extraordinary array of lines and colours of the fishing boats moored along the riverbank; the clusters of old men in flat caps sitting on benches in the park; the sumptuously decaying fa├žades of abandoned houses; the independent dogs hurrying along the street, minding their own business; the plain white outer walls of the churches and their riotous baroque interiors; the enamel blue of the sky and of the azulejo-tiled walls. And so much more. I'm grateful to Casa 5 for giving me the opportunity to get back in touch with my painterly senses, disgracefully neglected in recent digitally-dominated times. 

Tree and balcony, Tavira  (coincidentally, Jean (tasting rhubarb) and I took a similar photograph, in a different place at a different time. See her March 5th post and scroll to the third picture down.)

Blue-red boat, Tavira 

Yesterday I had to go immediately to see the Real Van Gogh exhibition - the Artist and his Letters   and the ordeal of queuing for nearly two hours in the freezing courtyard of the Royal Academy did not dampen the joy, when finally inside the gallery, of being once again in the presence of Vincent, my old hero. The first encounter I had with his oeuvre was at a large exhibition in Paris which I saw as a student: it was love at first sight and Vincent became my inspiration, my goal. At that time I bought a paperback of his letters, in French, a book now falling apart from being avidly thumbed so often. 
The current R.A. exhibition is marvellously conceived and even if you think you know Vincent's work from ubiquitous reproductions, it's worth braving the crowds to see some of the original paintings, many stunning rarely shown drawings, and to come face-to-face with the passion of this man's life and his hard-won achievement. I can't have been the only visitor to wonder how he, the outsider, would react to this exhibition and to the universal acclaim his work and his letters have received. If you want to read all 902 letters from and to Van Gogh, you don't have to spend the £300-something it costs to buy the magnificent new edition on sale in the shop: you can see them all at leisure by visiting the excellent website of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.