Sunday, November 24, 2013


of artworks
by Natalie d'Arbeloff
will be held from Monday 2nd to Friday 20th December 2013
at Café Rustique
142 Fortess Road, London NW5 2HP
(Tufnell Park Underground)

If you are in London you're very welcome at the Private View from 8 to 10pm on Sunday 1st December.
I've made a page here showing the seventeen works which will be exhibited. Photos of most of these paintings and box-constructions have already been seen on the Blaug at various times but since I'm clearing space on my walls it seemed the right moment to put them up for sale. 

* * * * * 

Below is a photo of where I slept, or rather didn't sleep, last night. The amorphous shape on the right is a pile of builders' gear covered with paint-spattered dust sheet. The reason I dragged a mattress to try and sleep there was because the noise noise noise noise NOISE NOISE coming from a party in a house next door was vibrating the walls of the bedroom and shattering my ear drums. It was no better on the floor of the living room and as the repetitious pounding and shouting went on and on until one, two, three, four in the morning I dialled the number for noise pollution and shaking with rage demanded that something be done to stop this torture. Calmly, wearily, having heard it all before, someone took down details and said they would try to investigate. Ages later the noise stopped but I don't know if it was because the noise-police arrived or if the partying yoofs finally got tired. 
I know what I sound like: grumpy oldie objecting to young people enjoying themselves. Damn right I object because ear-drum-shattering by imbecilic repetition of the same note banged endlessly on metal drums at top top top volume along with wowoowoowoo howling cannot by any stretch of imagination be classified as enjoyment unless those enjoying it have lost whatever soupçon of brain matter they ever had and it's unlikely they'll ever get it back because it's been mangled by the NOISE

Oh yes I'm ranting but maybe that's because I didn't sleep and also because torture-by-music actually is torture, as used on prisoners, for instance at Guantanamo. So how do innocent young party-goers get away with the music-torturing of innocent neighbours? That's what I want to know.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Walls and woodwork in twenty years of wear and tear from me and the weather inside and outside this flat have accumulated signs of stress which needed to be dealt with but since there's never going to be a right time to attend to it, I thought: why not now? In times past I would have tackled it all myself but since I've been told I'm ageing, I've taken the soft option and called in the workers. Soft option my foot. I deliberately forgot the fact that I'd have to move everything - every single thing - all the pictures, books, records, hundreds of things out of the way, off the shelves and off the walls and off the tops of cupboards covered in ancient dust. I've declared my attic studio out of bounds but my study is where I've piled high many of the innumerable books. Here's a shot of one corner - on the top right are my desk and computer, where I huddle as I type this.

old shower curtain dust-sheet 
But you know what? There's something liberating about this disruption of my comfort zone. The clutter is a different kind of clutter from my usual one, which is passive. This clutter challenges me to act, to get rid of stuff, to clean up and make space. I've chosen to have all the walls painted white and the flat is looking bigger already. And letting the workmen in at 7:45 every morning forces me to change my night owl routine. Who knew there were so many early morning hours every day? Who knew that if you get up at 6:30 you're starving hungry by eleven o'clock? And who knew you can get so much more done in daylight than you can in the middle of the night? 

Do I hear scoffing from all you early risers?


Monday, November 11, 2013


Given enough time to get to know each other, the four of us would probably have had a useful and even inspirational conversation. But if you read face and body language in the photomontage below, you can get a pretty good idea of how the session actually developed. Ludmila Ulitskaya is the only one who looks at ease, perhaps because she spoke no English. Her Russian translator mumbled so softly that I could barely hear a word so I don't know what Ludmila thought but she had a sympathetic face. David Galenson held forth longer than anyone else in a manner that seemed defensive but perhaps that's because I didn't agree with most of his approach to the subject and perhaps that's because I'm deeply involved in, and perhaps also defensive, about the process of creation, while he is deeply involved in the theory he has painstakingly constructed about it. Pamela Ryckman had done her homework assiduously and tried her best to orchestrate the session but it was no easy task. It was more like a set of monologues than a discussion but if I look disgruntled perhaps that's because I was disappointed by the many empty chairs in the room - only about fifteen people in the audience.

But perhaps that's because many talks on different topics were scheduled at the same time on each day of the Forum and therefore people tended to graze buffet-style, wandering in and out of rooms to sample what was on offer. Understandable perhaps, but not exactly conducive to depth and concentration. That's a lot of perhapses ...Quisas quisas quisas: remember that old Latin American song?

I had written notes to prepare for the session but, as often happens on such occasions, I ended up improvising. It all seems far away already but since we're still on the subject, herewith my notes:

I've been invited here because I'm creative and I'm ageing. But I'm not going to say how old I am because a number, when associated with age, instantly brings up stereotypes which I want to avoid. If you've been a committed artist all your life you never reach retiring age - you just keep on working, trying to do better - or as Beckett said: fail again, fail better.

For me, creativity is a metaphorical room I have to enter in order to switch on the state of creativity: the state in which I can make objects that can be called artworks. I don't mean that I must perform some arcane ritual before picking up a brush or other tool, but there is a definite difference between this state and the ordinary state in which I do the shopping, cleaning, socialising, internet surfing etc. The creativity involved in writing is different: I can think of sentences to write while doing the dishes or sitting in a noisy café. But to fully engage in a process which will eventually end up as physical artworks, in whatever medium, demands a deliberate decision to enter and stay as long as possible in a space where anything other than the work at hand is excluded. I can't explain what neurons in my brain need to be activated but I do know that it is like tuning to a specific radio station and that I need complete silence in order to connect. 

One thing that ageing has done is to make me more aware that I have to choose to enter that state. It doesn't happen automatically just because I call myself an artist. I can decide to step into that room and make stuff (which may or may not be art) and keep on making more of it until my dying day, if health and energy permit. Or I can sit back and let age creep up while I'm surfing the internet, playing with my digital gadgets, watching TV, shopping and so on until suddenly I realise: hey, I'm old! I've got one foot in the grave and the other one is wobbling! 

But in my creative space I've got loads of time ahead because the child in me is still able to make discoveries and perhaps produce the best work I've ever done. It is still possible, as many artists have proved, that you can be an innovator, a rule-breaker, even when you're chronologically old. Creativity is about breaking or bending the rules and ageing doesn't necessarily kill one's inner rebel. Some will disagree, asserting that the brain ages and that's that. Well, even experts admit that, so far, little is known about exactly what goes on in the convoluted grey matter inside our skulls. So it may be that the brains of artists...ageing and aged....can teach the experts a thing or two about creativity.
Something else that ageing does is to prod me to shed, rather than to accumulate things and concepts, getting rid of anything that interferes with finding out what my own inner voice is trying to say.
And now a few more photos from the Deauville do. It was an eye-opening experience which I'm grateful to have been a part of and I will not forget the inspiring people I met or whose talks I heard - too many to mention and do justice to.

Mercy Oduyoye, theologian, Director of Women in Religion and Culture, Ghana


Wednesday, November 06, 2013



Amazing is an over-used word but I'm going to use it lavishly because it's too much of an effort to hunt for alternatives and I have an excuse: bunged up sinuses knocked out my cognitive faculties since I got back from France and writing a blog post, let alone thinking of one, has been about as feasible as climbing Everest. But here I am now so it must mean that the wool filling my head is starting to unravel and will, I hope, evaporate if I continue to inhale menthol-infused steam. 

Everything was amazing from the start of my privileged journey on Eurostar in a Premier class seat, breakfast served by solicitous attendants, and at the Gare du Nord my name was on a card held up by a chauffeur who took me to Deauville, a two and a half hour drive from Paris, without my having had to lift a finger or spend a single Euro just because I was one of the invited speakers at the Women's Forum. I was awed by the mind-blowing logistics of organising such an event, involving 207 speakers and 1200 participants from 70 countries, 600 organisations, 143 journalists, and much more. Amazingly, it all ran like Swiss clockwork with never a hitch, at least not visibly. 

My hotel was at the top of a hill, on a vast golf course overlooking the town - that pale blue strip in the distance is the ocean. Below is the view from the window of my room and below that, moi-même in the mirror on the first night, ready to go out to dinner (flat golden shoes) to meet the organisers. The dinner was at another luxury hotel where the company and the food were....amazing. Normandy is known for its gastronomic delights but don't ask me what I ate, or drank, because I don't remember except that it was all super-delicious and frequently timbale-shaped. 

At first I wondered if I'd have to make a long trek down from the hotel every day to Le CID  - Centre International de Deauville - where the Forum was held, but I soon realised that all possible contingencies had been taken care of: a fleet of navettes (coaches) appeared at regular intervals to transport participants to and from the venue. So much was going on during the three days of the Forum's duration that I saw more of Le Cid's interior than I ever saw of Deauville but in the few glimpses I had of the town, it seemed to me like a designer film set, all posh boutiques, hotels and shuttered second homes, deserted except for weekends and holidays when the well-heeled from Paris and elsewhere roll in to play at casino, race-course, golf or yacht. 

The nostalgic old-world, old-money ambiance surviving in a hard-edged new world was summed up when a well-dressed elderly gentleman hobbling with his cane down a shiny main street came up to me and said apologetically: Pardon madame, quel jour est aujourd'hui? (excuse me madam, what day is today?) It wasn't a chat-up line and he was perfectly sober and when I replied, he thanked me politely and hobbled elegantly away. 

There couldn't have been a more vivid contrast between that tiny melancholy incident and the forward-facing, high-powered, high-achieving, high-heeled goings-on at the Women's Global Forum 2013: compete, cooperate, create. There's no way I can give an adequate report of the event or do justice to the myriad praiseworthy projects happening, or about to happen, in many countries thanks to enterprising, inventive, energetic, courageous and clever women world-wide and to organisations and individuals who support them. It seemed odd that I was there at all: moi, an art-worker usually found sitting in her imitation-ivory tower, making things of no discernable use to the real world and occasionally blogging about it: what on earth was I doing in such real-world company? I was very happy to be there but wandered around in a daze, not sure where to focus my attention. Most interesting to me were the conversations I had with some of the fascinating women I met. The Creativity and Aging session (the reason I was invited) was probably the least interesting part of the Forum, in my opinion. But I'll write about that in the next post. 

One thing I did was to take photographs and, looking at them when I returned home, I see that visual content almost always holds my attention more than the verbal. The images I gathered and remember from this experience will, I'm sure, serve me for paintings or other media. I share some of them below. More words and pictures tomorrow. 

Heels and mobiles at the Forum

Welcome party given by the Mayor of Deauville at Villa le Cercle

Russian-themed party given by Cartier at Deauville casino in honour of the Russian delegation

 Cooking Boeuf Stroganoff

Serious Russians cooking

Blue dress, red lighting

 Listening to Russian musicians

In a Russian sled 

African winners

 Busy legs, shiny surfaces