I was delighted to be asked to make this charcoal portrait of a photographer taking a photograph of a photographer.
I worked from a photograph…
…the stages are shown above.
And here she is resplendent in a frame.
Arte Vejer recently staged a group exhibition of artworks made by local artists inspired by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca who was murdered 80 years ago on the orders of Franco the fascist dictator.
Lorca was born on the 5th June (the same day as me) in 1898 (several years before me) in a small town close to Granada. That’s why I chose the pomegranate as the theme for my collage; granada means pomegranate in Spanish and the ancient town was renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period.
The pomegranate is also a symbol of abundance and fertility which aptly describes Lorca’s imagination, passion and creative genius; he was a prolific writer, considered to be one of Spain’s most important poets and published his first book at the age of 21.
The first stage of the process (above) was to blacken the background (paper on cardboard) and outline the pomegranate seeds with layers of charcoal.
Lorca moved to Madrid in 1919 and devoted himself entirely to his art which was infused with the flamenco culture of his native Andalusia. He was a contemporary of Buñuel and Dalí who introduced him to surrealism. Lorca and Dalí had a particularly intimate relationship involving ‘love, passion and respect‘ but it is rumoured that Dalí’s aversion to physical contact and his repressed sexuality led him to reject Lorca’s advances.
I painted the seeds and persistent calyx (the bit at the top of the fruit) with acrylic.
In 1929 Lorca left Spain to spend a year in New York where he was inspired by the African-American spirituals he heard in Harlem, his favourite part of the city.
Next I collaged a map of the world over the background (above), this represents the international reach of Lorca’s work and art in general as well as his time abroad. I then painted over it with acrylic.
The text is an extract from one of Lorca’s last interviews.
Here’s the full quote in Spanish:
“Yo soy español integral y me sería imposible vivir fuera de mis límites geográficos; pero odio al que es español por ser español nada más, yo soy hermano de todos y execro al hombre que se sacrifica por una idea nacionalista, abstracta, por el sólo hecho de que ama a su patria con una venda en los ojos. El chino bueno está más cerca de mí que el español malo. Canto a España y la siento hasta la médula, pero antes que esto soy hombre del mundo y hermano de todos. Desde luego no creo en la frontera política.”
And translated into English
“I am Spanish through and through and it would be impossible for me to live outside my geographic boundaries; but I hate those Spanish people who are merely Spanish and nothing more, I am brother to all and abhor the man who sacrifices himself to an abstract nationalist idea purely because he blindly loves his homeland. I feel closer to the good Chinese man than the bad Spanish man. I sing to Spain and feel her in my marrow, but before that I am a man of the world and brother of all. Of course I don’t believe in political borders.”
The quote really sang to me when I came across it; it seems particularly apposite in these times of Brexit and Trump when ugly nationalism and bigotry are on the rise again.
I cut the letters for the text from magazines and stuck them down in the style of an old fashioned ransom note (above) as a reference to the fact that Lorca was abducted before being killed by a falangist firing squad.
I added ‘A’s to the ‘O’s of ‘hermano’ and ‘todos’ to explicitly make the words gender neutral which also happily turned those letters into anarchist symbols.
Next I painted electrical cables emerging from the calyx of the pomegranate (below) to turn it into a fairy light. I made this piece just before Christmas so it was seasonally apt (although I am a huge fan of the year round fairy light) and it also suggests that the earth is but a bauble hanging in the vastness of the universe and that we humans take our opinions about our piffling differences far too seriously.
The final stage of the process (below) was to paint crackle glaze over the whole of the image before applying bitumen, gold paint and glitter as stains.
Lorca was staying at his family’s country home just outside Granada when the civil war started in 1936. About a month before his incarceration and murder on August 19th Lorca had a disturbing dream in which he was being menaced by a group of grieving women waving black crucifixes.
Archaeologists are still searching for the exact burial site of Lorca’s body.
I’m not a good sleeper.
The other night I was restless and wide awake in bed so I decided to get up and draw myself:
On seeing the drawing the next morning a visiting friend asked “Who’s that?”
“It’s me” I replied.
“No!” he said, “That’s nothing like you…”
Which is strange because every time I see the sketch I absolutely recognise it as me..
I joined the Vejer Sketchers in the castle for another life drawing session on Sunday morning, easily one of the coldest days we’ve had this winter.
Our model valiantly disrobed and while we drew, swathed in hats, scarfs and woollens, she patiently posed with a couple of meagre heaters and a hot water bottle to ward off the chill. Brave and generous to a fault.
All sketches charcoal and chalk pastel.
Cádiz Carnaval is one of the best know carnivals in Spain. For two weeks every February the whole city is crazily vibrant with elaborately costumed groups, the most famous of which are the chirigotas, singing satirical and humurous songs they have taken all year to prepare.
The exhibition space will be open on Saturdays and Sundays 12-2pm from 13th to 28th February 2016.
Click here to see photos of the event.
Carnaval is traditionally an opportunity to indulge in alcohol fueled mass revelry before the more austere Easter celebrations begin.
Masks and cross-dressing are typical so I went with a drag-queen inspired cartoon style character who is wearing a ‘Nuestra Señora‘ virgin inspired headdress (right).
I decided to crack open my new pastel set and experiment with bright colours and blending techniques. I used charcoal for the background and crumbled pastel dust over it to achieve a glittery effect.
All in all quite a messy, dusty process, but fun nevertheless.
The model we’d booked to sit for us couldn’t get her car started but luckily found us a splendid last minute stand-in and all went well until our half time coffee break in a local bar…
We returned to the castle to find ourselves locked out with all our equipment still inside. It took a fair amount of door thumping and shouting to attract the attention of the key toting tour guide inside.
All in all a very enjoyable if slightly chaotic morning. It was the first outing for my pastels too, I love the intensity of the colours, the granular texture and the smooth way they go on…I’m looking forward to conducting more experiments with them soon…