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  14/04/2019

The Grand Hotel du Parc

I first saw Grand Hotel du Parc in 1976, although, as is normal for me, I didn’t get around to painting it for some time after. The image you see here is the second version, painted in 1990 when the symphony of greens in the facade had become a memory, for the hotel was painted a nutmeg brown, the colour it still is today. The hotel has now been developed into a sprawling rabbit warren of rooms for potential skiers and walkers. L’Esperou is the village in which the Grand Hotel is situated which is not and never has been pretty. It lies 1265 metres above sea level and has always felt like a shanty town, a crossroads for people passing through on the way to Mont Aiguoal which is the highest mountain in these parts- 1565 metres. It acts as a

watershed between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean down to the garrigue, the coastal plain surrounding Montpellier. I visited Vrises in Crete a few years ago and experienced a similar atmosphere of a town used as a transit point.

 

In the early 2000’s the local commune decided to invest in the area, setting up as a ski resort, and at its heart was L’Esperou. A number of modern wooden chalets were built in the Swiss style; they mushroomed in a higgledy- piggledy fashion on the rough ground up and above the hotel. The lay out appeared chaotic as if they had been dumped there any old how and indeed many probably had, as the majority of these constructions arrived in kit form. As well as French people, the properties were bought by Belgians and Dutch who seem to have a fondness for mountains. The venture was not a success. It has been reported by some that fumes given off by the treated wood had a detrimental effect on their health, but worst of all was the weather. There simply wasn’t enough snow! This was a grave disadvantage in a ski resort and the commune of Valleraugue has now decided not to sink any more of the local people’s taxes into the business but sell it (if they can) and improve the quality of life for the locals by mending roads, rebuilding crumbling walls and generally giving the villages a more aesthetic appearance by replacing the 1970s brutalist concrete that was considered the vogue all over Europe at the time.

 

The hamlet we live in for part of the year is at the end of a remote valley below L’Esperou, (‘Le bout du monde’, as described by one friend). We are one of only a few villages left in the region that is dependent solely on Source water for our water supply. This is fine when the winters are mild and there is plenty of rain during the Summer months. However our Source is located 600 metres up a steep mountain path above the house and there ‘is many a slip betwixt cup and lip’, as we found out to our cost arriving to no water this trip, due to a break in the pipe high up, which we then had to find and re-join, scrabbling through scree and thorns.

 

Today the Cafe du Parc remains stolidly standing like the ageing Madame of a Bordello. It has lost all of its magic and visual allure, only the balcony remains as a reminder of past glory and that is peeling and cracking in a most unattractive manner. One wonders how long it will be before the wooden Juliet balcony collapses onto the forecourt below, perhaps injuring a jolly tourist!