The excitement for me as an artist lies not in exploring the unknown but in how I can effectively organise a visual arrangement that reflects the atmosphere and intensity of an environment, evoking a precise moment of the day under specific light and conditions. I hope you enjoy the work

Feature of the week  17/02/2019

Blue Door at Night

When I took up my painting again in 2013,  my attention turned to the seldom noticed mountainous area in Southern France known as the Cevennes. This was due in part to my recalling the passing over of my London work, which was still fresh in the memory, and as I have mentioned in one or two essays previously, I had been on friendly terms with the locality of the Cevennes since I was in my twenties, an even longer period than my stint in East London.

 

Over the next couple of years I had two shows at the Maison du Pays which serves as the Tourist Office in my local town of Valleraugue, this is situated eight miles from where I stay, a remote sleepy hamlet that goes by the name of La Valette. The reaction to the work on the part of many of the local Cévenols was similar to that of people in East London responding to my current exhibition. In each instance, France and East London, I notice a hunger and an appreciation for the every day, the overlooked that lies all around us and where the accumulated evidence of lives lived have left traces and marks, to be picked up perhaps by succeeding generations. Could this be a reaction to a world of the multi-focal imagery, digitally enhanced and providing instant accessibility in glorious technicolour? Painting, dare I say, is a more ‘analogue’ affair, requiring work, layering and contemplation in its making and probably, in its appreciation also. Try teaching that in a university department.

 

When in 2015, my friend sent Spitalfields Life some images of the space in which we worked, I think it must have been the painting here that caught the eye and made the Gentle Author intrigued to discover who the artist might be. It certainly couldn’t have been an East End painting as all those in my possession were stored away from view in my attic.

 

Blue Door at Night was one of the first oil paintings I did after a gap of almost a decade. It depicts the heart of a tiny hamlet buried away in the mountain valleys of the Cevennes. Forty years ago the building behind this door was lived in by the Pieyre family. The parents, in their fifties, earned a living from making goat’s cheese and selling seasonal fruit and vegetables they cultivated on terraces opposite. They had two children and one I knew quite well, Hubert was a little younger than myself. He was a ‘Jack the Lad’ carpenter who conned a highly impractical Gerald into believing he was a craftsman who could make windows for the windowless ruin he had acquired and that lay above the hamlet on higher terraces. None of the windows fitted properly but decades later, they still serve their primary purpose of keeping out the elements. The Pieyre parents died of old age in the late eighties and Hubert died not long afterwards, sadly young, probably as a result of the hand rolled cigarettes which were always protruding from the corner of his mouth. All three are buried close by in the make shift and over grown village plot as is the Protestant Huguenot tradition here. However these graves are not quite as close to the house as the grave of their neighbour, Louis Martin, whose remains lie buried beneath the chicken shed in the courtyard next door.

 

Both houses have been been on the market for nearly a decade. Last Summer to our surprise, we learned that someone had finally bought the house of the Blue Door so we will see what changes will be wrought next year to the Heart of the Village. Plus ca change..