Residency

Art as a Memory Trigger by Jeannine Cook

A silverpoint drawing of a pine tree in the South Carolina mountains or many others drawings done in coastal Georgia brought back so many memories and sensations as I reorganised my framed art after Hurricane Irma's passage.  Their images were an astonishingly powerful trigger that collapsed time.

Read More

Hôtel Sainte Valière - from Winegrower’s “Folly” to Artists’ Residence by Jeannine Cook

 

Light footsteps flying down the spacious stairway, sunlight flooding through the big windows, laughter and a welcome soon sealed with a glass of wine: my stay at Hotel Sainte Valière began deliciously.

Hôtel Sainte Valière,  Sainte Valière, France

Hôtel Sainte Valière,  Sainte Valière, France

I soon learned that this gracious house, one of the main homes built in this small hilltop village during the 19th century wealthy heyday of wine culture in the Languedoc Roussillon area of southern France, was originally called a “winegrower’s folly”.  The Cayla family knew how to make a home of gracious proportions, and today’s guests at Eloise Caleo’s Artist Residency are the lucky beneficiaries.  The family lives on the top floor, with wonderful views out over the Minervois area and the green, bountiful vineyards, and on the middle floor are three spacious rooms and private bathrooms for the residents. Meals, if you chose to take them with the family, are out on the terrace or in a front room warmed by a wonderful fire framed by a local marble fireplace. Needless to say, the meals are seriously delicious.

Sainte Valière

Sainte Valière

Sainte Valière, from one of the many vineyards surrounding the village

Sainte Valière, from one of the many vineyards surrounding the village

My two-week residency flashed past but it was the perfect place to get down to working really hard.  I wanted to complete two big silverpoint drawings for an upcoming exhibition and this was the ideal situation simply to push through and finish them in dogged fashion.  My quiet and privacy were respected delightfully.

So many enticing trips, nonetheless, beckoned.  Sainte Valière is in bounteous wine-growing country,  a world punctuated by blue mountain ranges, dwarfed – one has to admit – by the snow-capped Pyrenees peaks floating in the distance to the south west. Lovely golden-stone villages all have their own “caves” or wine-growers where wine-tasting is offered, plane tree avenues shade and wind along roads that invite the explorer.  The Canal du Midi, serene and winding in stately fashion though the vineyards and past small towns that have known considerable wealth from the canal transport and commerce in the past, is now bringing new economic activity to the area.  Biking, boating, small restaurants along the water – so many attractions to delight, and all close enough to hand to Sainte Valière that an artist can slip off for a while to change gears from creating to celebrating life in France.

Bridge over the Canal du Midi at nearby Le Somail (image courtesy of  Peter Gugerell , Vienna, Austria)

Bridge over the Canal du Midi at nearby Le Somail (image courtesy of Peter Gugerell, Vienna, Austria)

Another wonderful side trip from Sainte Valière is the Abbey of Fontfroide, a mighty Cistercian twelfth century monastery that was restored and reinvigorated at the turn of the 20th century by Gustave Fayet. Art lovers know his name as a major late 19th century collector of Gauguin and other contemporary artists.  He was a wine grower from the area, an artist himself, painting and creating lovely ceramics and carpets.  He was also an experimenter in the astonishing stained glass windows that he and a master glazier, Richard Burghstal , created for the church and dormitory at Fontfroide.

Abbey of Fontfroide, south of Narbonne, France - the entrance

Abbey of Fontfroide, south of Narbonne, France - the entrance

Abbey of Fontfroide

Abbey of Fontfroide

Not only is the abbey itself beautiful, with its rose garden and hillside gardens framing it as it nestles the forest-clad valley in the Corbières hills, but its library hides another gem.  Gustave Fayet commissioned Odilon Redon to paint two huge canvases, each of three panels, in the vast stately library above the cloisters. Night and Day, they are considered his ultimate masterpiece.  Complex, highly allusive and full of symbols, they are a symphony of colour and lyricism.  A special guided visit to see them is well worth the effort; in truth, they are so many-layered that one could see them innumerable times and see something fresh each time.

Night , Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Night, Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Day,  Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Day, Odilon Redon, 1910-1911, one of the two paintings in the Library, Abbey of Fontfroide, France

Narbonne and Carcassonne are other visits well worth making as excursions from Sainte Valière.  But – remember –Hôtel Sainte Valière is an artist’s residency!  So, ideally, the creative juices should flow too and the side trips can be the rewards.  I certainly found that to be the case. As I rolled my two big silverpoint drawings in a tube to pack and take home, I felt I was packing far more than art.  The two weeks were a gift of gracious living, fascinating regional beauty and, best of all, the formation of new and delightful friendships.   

 

 

 

 

Romanesque Art in Ariège, France by Jeannine Cook

As so often happens, delicious coincidences have again come along to enhance life for me. When a fine day suddenly burst through from the clouds of rain and snow, I decided to give myself a break from silverpoint drawing at my wonderful artist's retreat perch at Bordeneuve, in Betchat in the French Pyrenees. My hostess, Noelle, extremely knowledgeable and a lover of all things natural, historic and beautiful in Ariège, confirmed that my plans for the day were good.

Read More

Landscapes by Jeannine Cook

The snow had fallen all night, but the morning dawned clear and sharp. To the south, as I topped the first rise of the hills, lay the Pyrenees, higher, more intricate in form and peak, more immense in span of horizon than I remembered. My second time as an artist in residence at Bordeneuve was beginning in beauty. Some of the peaks were blushed pink-apricot, others were subdued in greys and pearls. The foreground of rolling, energy-filled hills was their prelude, dark with winter filigree of trees. This massive display of seemingly timeless mountain ranges, so memorable, so old, so sacred and so wildly beautiful, left me with mixed emotions. I could understand why early man used the Pyrenees mountain caves and dwelt in these abodes close to their food sources and to their gods.

Read More

Burgundy as a State of Mind by Jeannine Cook

As I return to my less art-oriented daily life after my artist residency at La Porte Peinte in Noyers sur Serein, Burgundy, I realise that the time I have spent there, this year and last year, has subtle results. Something I would almost define as a state of mind.

There has been a curious combination of magical, positive elements to achieve such a state. The set-up at La Porte Peinte, first of all, was felicitious in the extreme for me: I thoroughly enjoy being with Michelle and Oreste Binzak who own and run LPP. They are delicious citizens of the world and ensure that artists are made most welcome and comfortable. My room, which I also used as my studio for drawing, was perched high above the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, the main square in the village, and provided a marvellous sight of what was going on and taking the pulse of the village. My view of timber-framed medieval houses around the square reminded me of those long-distant times during which monks were diligently using leadpoint to prepare their illuminated manuscripts in nearby abbeys whilst other agriculturalist monks were furthering the cultivation of vines and making wines already famous beyond Burgundy.

Read More

Burgundy and Art by Jeannine Cook

Copy of Burgundia-II-better-small-leader.jpg

It is hard to believe that the days can flash past so quickly, but I have spent four full days already here at Noyers sur Serein at La Porte Peinte for the first part of my artist residency. I flew to Paris and drove across a world of wondrously wide and luminously golden harvested cereal fields. La belle France! The home front finally has calmed a little, with health stable and so I was able to slip away to come here. The exciting events since I arrived – I hung my artwork as part of the overarching exhibit, Quotidiaen, here at the La Porte Peinte gallery. It is metalpoint work that I did as a result of my residency last year which I framed for exhibiting and brought with me. My part is entitled Les Pierres qui Chantent: Dessins en Pointe de Metal.

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

The other exciting news is that indeed I will be able to exhibit work that I am currently producing in the Noyers Museum in September. I am also preparing an informal talk about it all and about metalpoint in general for the Journées de la Patrimoine in September, when France’s wonderful patrimony is celebrated.

So thanks to all my generous friends who helped me reach the Hatchfund funding goal for this residency atLa Porte Peinte,  I am organized!

Now, of course, has come the other aspect of this venture – producing artwork. I have been working hard, perched in my magical eerie above the cobbled main square in Noyers, with the sounds of French, mingled with laughter, that drift up to the open window. The delicious swallows are still flying ceaselessly, calling and swirling as they dart in to feed their babies in their beautiful mud nests attached to the medieval oak beams of the porches and roofs. As I am high up, I see the flash of their white rumps and black wings in their aerial ballet beneath me – the perfect accompaniment to metalpoint’s black and white.

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

Les Pierres qui Chantent exhibit, July 2015 - La Porte Peinte, Noyers. Artist Jeannine Cook

I have just finished the third in the initial series of the project drawings – Burgundia – as Burgundy was named from Roman times onwards. I have tried to marry the main themes of the project together – fossilized shells, metalpoint, wine and the “horror vacui” of medieval manuscripts with their lettering in brilliant colour and details of nature covering each page. I managed to photograph one drawing – with complications – as normal scanners will not reproduce all the “whispered” lines in silver. The others will have to await my return home!

Burgundia II. silverpoint-watercolour. Artist Jeannine Cook

Burgundia II. silverpoint-watercolour. Artist Jeannine Cook

Step by step, line by line – what fun!

Thoughts on Crowdfunding for Art Projects by Jeannine Cook

bop-03-chablis-landscape.jpg
Noyers sur Serein, Burgundy, France

Noyers sur Serein, Burgundy, France

You certainly learn by doing! I decided to do a crowd-funding project on Hatchfund as an experiment, to push out frontiers as an artist and hopefully to give good publicity to a very worthy cause, the artist residences at La Porte Peinte, in Noyers, France.

The first frontier I had to extend was getting into video-making, an area I had not yet visited. I met charming video-makers and although the first video was not what I hoped for, simply because I was utterly inarticulate with 'flu at the time, the second was better because I was more coherent and able to talk.

I am fascinated with the idea I developed - namely to try to marry together the metalpoint monastic heritage that flowered in Burgundy and elsewhere, the wine-producing heritage there and the extraordinary fossilised oyster shells found in stones lying in some Chablis vineyards. It will be a really interesting challenge to weave these strands together into viable art. I suppose that is what art residencies are for - peace and time for experiments!

La diète de salut. France, Burgundy, c. 1490 (Image courtesy of the Morgani Library, New York)

La diète de salut. France, Burgundy, c. 1490 (Image courtesy of the Morgani Library, New York)

Chablis and vineyards, Burgundy

Chablis and vineyards, Burgundy

Chablis Stones containing Fossilised Oyster Shells

Chablis Stones containing Fossilised Oyster Shells

However, the other, and perhaps most time-consuming, aspect of my crowd-funding venture has been the actual fund-raising. I clearly had not thought through all the implications of such a project. Nonetheless, I soon found myself sitting down and writing to friends and supporters who have been wonderful enough to collect my art over the years.

I have to say the results have mostly been heart-warming and gratifying. There have of course been days of nothing at all happening, no one even acknowledging my e-mails, but then, out of the blue, comes a short e-mail from Hatchfund saying that such and such a person has supported the project.

Slowly the figures have crept up, until two days ago, I realised with a shock that I had passed the magic threshold mark of the minimum amount needed to fund the project and thus release the funds to me. What a relief!

En route to that point, I have learned a few aspects of this crowd-funding world. The first is distinctly cultural: I realise that a British background of not blowing one's own trumpet and not putting oneself forward does not prepare one well for the necessary soliciting of funds. Americans seem to have no such problems. The second is that the American way seems to require a considerable amount of outright hucksterism, two-for-the-price-of-one department. I think one has to be selective in approaches, depending on the type of project one is trying to promote.

The third and last consideration I have found to be interesting. In an era that supposedly has everyone fully converted to and comfortable with on-line financial transactions, there is still a high proportion of people very reticent indeed about putting a credit card on-line. Cheques still retain a high degree of reliability and safety to many people and on-line fraud is a very real threat.

However, towards the end of the Hatchfund fund-raising period on my Art Residency at La Porte Peinte, I am beginning to feel that it has been a good thing to have done. Mostly because it has given me reason to touch base with friends and supporters with whom I might not have exchanged news and greetings until later in the years. Also too, such a project, willy-nilly, forces one to measure oneself out there in the big, wild world -- and it is always nice to find that it is possible to bob along and keep afloat in the choppy waters of competition.

Thank you all, my generous supporters. And to my other friends from whom I have not heard, I hope to hear from you, especially to hear that your summer is going along happily.

Environments that Help Artists by Jeannine Cook

Every artist instinctively seeks an environment that helps them create their art.

It is not always so easy to find either the place, nor the time and serenity to create, however. Every artist knows those stumbling blocks. Sometimes they are easily surmounted, other times it is not so easy.

Sometimes, luck intervenes too. In my case, Lady Luck definitely came calling this summer.

For a multitude of reasons, it has become difficult to have the time to spend in my studio, so I have been fortunate enough to be able to slip away for a while to different art residencies that I have been awarded hither and yon. This year, I had a magical two weeks in spring in Portugal.I was then able to have time at another residency, La Porte Peinte, in Burgundy, France, a country I adore anyway.

It is of course always a bit of a gamble going to art residencies.

It may be a wonderful place, with good studio facilities, but the area may not sing or the people who run the residency may not be terribly compatible – there are so many variables.

Until you get to the place, it is difficult to judge accurately whether you will be able to be truly creative there.

Even recommendations from other artists are not always an accurate gauge for one’s own needs.

La Porte Peinte, in Noyers sur Serein, in north-east Burgundy, near Auxerre, proves to be the most wonderful place in which to create art.

I have just spent the first half of a month’s residency there, and it was the most supportive, comfortable and welcoming place I could have dreamt of.

For a start, the medieval village is a delight.

You enter from the south over the Serein river.

At the entrance to Noyers sur Serein, photo J. Cook. 

At the entrance to Noyers sur Serein, photo J. Cook. 

And these are views from my eyrie perch window in my room.

Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, Noyers, photo J. Cook

Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, Noyers, photo J. Cook

Up the street from La Porte Peinte, photo J. Cook

Up the street from La Porte Peinte, photo J. Cook

L'Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Noyers, photo J. Cook

L'Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Noyers, photo J. Cook

Michelle Anderson, the Executive Director of La Porte Peinte, is not only the most gracious of people, but her very international approach and wide knowledge of people and places make her able to help in so many ways. She also knows a lot of local people and that means that an artist has suddenly all sorts of insights and introductions into other ways of life in the area. That is beyond price. Her husband, Oreste, runs their elegant and diverse Gallery and does a million other things to make life at La Porte Peinte so pleasant and constructive. And yes, La Porte Peinte is situated in rue de la Porte Peinte - how about that for destiny!

The more I spend time at art residencies both in the United States and Europe, the more I realise that the atmosphere created by the people in charge is critical to an artist’s ability to create, explore new horizons and grow as an artist.

There is a subtle difference between being left to one’s own devices, to work in peace, and being left to be independent but at the same time, being offered the opportunity to involve oneself in the local cultural world, to meet other artists of all descriptions and disciplines and to be psychologically supported as an artist.

More Thoughts on Art Residencies by Jeannine Cook

I wrote about Art Residencies on 13th August, when I had just returned from a Residency in South Italy.  As life accelerates again, that experience is receeding a little into the past, although I am still creating art inspired by that visit.

Nonetheless, as I was reading the wonderful Eric R. Kandel book, The Age of Insight.  The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain, I found a passage that seems to me to be really pertinent to art residencies. My thanks go to Professor Kandel for these insights and my using the quotes from his wonderful book.

KANDEL_AgeInsight-660x983.jpg

Professor Kandel discusses the essential prerequisites for creativity - in other words, what an art residency seeks to offer.  The basic requirements are "technical competence and a willingness to work hard" (page 456), according to the famed Viennese art historian, Ernest Kris, and psychiatrist, Nancy Andreasen. Those criteria are givens, I suspect, in every selection an art residency makes of artists who will spend time at the residency. It would not make sense to have people coming if they could not perform competently as artists, unless, of course, they are coming for courses that are offered.

The other prerequisites that Professor Kandel cites are: "(1) the types of personalities that are likely to be particularly creative; (2) the period of preparation and incubation, when a person works on a problem consciously and unconsciously; (3)the initial moments of creativity themselves; and (4) subsequent working through of the creative idea."

The mixture of individuals who are knowledgeable in a discipline, the different cultures in which each individual works and the social field when the person comes all combine to form a creative mix.  That, to me, is a good summary of the interest and rewards of an art residency when the artists are all serious professionals, from different walks of life and coutnries, but all willing to share ideas and experiences.  This was the situation I experienced in South Italy, and it made the art residency there a delight, despite drawbacks on the administrative side of the residency.