Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Flowers (St Matthew`s Passion)

Flowers (St Matthew`s Passion), oil on card, 14 x 16 cm

Painted today: I shall start to identify some of the flower pictures by the music I`m listening to when working, I think.

My art at secondary school the excellent Alexander Hamilton, once warned me of the dangers of slickness: facile technical solutions that avoid grappling with subject matter or formal problems. I am wary of their dangers in working with still life.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A sun-filled valley; Parana

 A hillside, oil on card, 16 x 16.5 cm

 Trees in sunshine, oil on card, 15.5 x 17 cm

White tree, oil on card, 14.5 x 17.5 cm

Painted in a valley a few miles into the state. I have used oil pastels, which lend a greater variety of textures. 


It occurs to me that a drive up to Parana is in order. 

I am especially interested in the regions bordering middle Santa Catarina, Perhaps I will cross the border with Santa Catarina near Porto União then follow the road to São Mateus do Sul, and on to Lapa, before winding back to Floripa, all in a leisurely 5 days.

Digital entry to the Society of Scottish Artists annual open exhibition

Ponte Sisto, oil on card, 12 x 14 cm

An afternoon in the park with the gardener and the psychotherapist, oil on card, 14 x 13 cm

Heath, near Praia Moçambique, oil on card, 13 x 13 cm

These have been submitted to as digital images for the Society of Scottish Artists, for their Annual Open Exhibition, in the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.

 Let`s see how if they are accepted or not: last year they took two pictures.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bolivian charm sweets - Pachymama sugar tiles

The inverted perspective here is quite magnificent.

Bolivian sweets, bought in a Juju shop in Potosi, where they sold all manner of bizarre items, including dried lama calves. These are made of sugar and are about 2.5 cm across.

I don`t know how they are used, and I called them Charm Sweets for want of a better description. Please let me know if you do. And also what the last tile represents?

 My Bolivian friend, Solidad Villalta, replies:

 Bolivia is a country of many traditions, and the figures that you show me are very used by the persons who believe in the "pachamama" that she is the mother land, and the persons offer as offering these figures accompanied of incense on the pachamama, every figure has a meaning and they symbolize love, money, business, prosperity, health, it depends on what the person wants.

The persons buy the figuras accompanied of incense and put on fire. The persons drink alcohol and do as a small celebration for the pachamama. Much depends the occasion, and the dates.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Journey to Bolivia: part 4: La Paz; general impressions; self-criticism

My first impressions of la Paz were one of squalour and brokenness: good painting territory, therefore, especially given its hilliness.

 I wouldn`t reccomend visiting it for any other reason, however: the churches are not as interesting as in Sucre or Potosi, the museums seem reluctant to open, the city is dirty and almost all the buildings in the centre need restoration, or at least significant maintenance work.

Buildings in the centre, oil on card,17.5 x 16 cm

Above, the painting has obvious German Expressionist overtones: the general irregularity of La Paz is good for this sort of picture.

I am happy with this picture (below), in which i have (unconsciously) reproduced the elevated perspectives of Hiroshige. It`s fairly unusual for me to work by first delineating the pictorial components, then filling them in, a technique I usually find restrictive as it forces one to work in a series of irreversible stages.

La Paz, street with newspaper kiosk and card, oil on card, 13.5 x 16 cm

Roads, oil on card, 14 x 16 cm

Again (above), there are definite Germanic tendencies, not least in the Gothicising flattened spacial description.

I am very happy with this picture (below). I like the extremely bright colours that Latin Americans use on their very square shop fronts, as if bright colours offer clarity amid the general mayhem.

Shops, oil on card, 13.5 x 12.5 cm

Fruit sellers, oil on card, 12 x 14 cm

And I am happy with this one too, in which I felt  able to enjoy the paints without worrying too much about verisimilitude:

Street stall, oil on card, 13.5 x 16 cm


Bolivia: general impressions

The trip was mostly exhausting. I thought it might be when I looked at my itinerary before leaving and I was right. The problem with getting to Bolivia from this part of Brazil is that flights from Brazil (even from Campo Grande to Santa Cruz) are extremely expensive. So, to save money, I flew to Campo Grande, then got a bus to the border city of Corumba then a taxi to the crossing, then past Passport control over to Quijarro then another taxi to the bus station then a bus to Santa Cruz.   So there were logistical factors that lent themselves to my tiredness.

 There was also the fact that most of the places where I stayed were high up in the Andes, and the air is very thin. I think this depleted my energies a bit. I never suffered altitude sickness like some I met, but I got a slight buzzing headache at times.

The third factor, is psychological. Bolivia is not a difficult place like Egypt, where you are mercilessly pestered by salespeople, and I never felt fear of crime as I do in Brazil at times. But it isn`t as friendly as all that. I am not saying that I didn`t meet pleasant people, but in general I had the feeling that Bolivians were circumspect, wanting to maintain a distance from foreigners. I speculate that this is related to centuries of foreign oppression, and that this oppression was especially felt by indigenous populations, and consequently that Bolivians suspicious of whites. My observations were confirmed by several other travelers.

 I also observed that in terms of other social niceties they are not especially charming and dealings with Bolivians were slow and rarely fun, with few of the courtesies, and the sense of delight in interaction, that is commonplace in Brazil, for instance. The Bolivians rarely seemed to take pleasure in serving in restaurants, where they were gloomy faced and inefficient. They did not ask where one came from or much enjoy making small talk. Taxi drivers were brusque and seemed reluctant to state their prices (though, to be fair, taxi drivers are a dependably deplorable example of human behavior almost everywhere). In bus stations they stand in public areas, often with their children  blocking ready access to shops or corridors. Salespeople from the bus companies stand and shout out their destinations in the public areas of the bus stations making a horrible racket, and obstructing everyone else.

Blocking public space is commonplace and Bolivians do something that I haven`t seen anywhere else: they will walk down a narrow pavement, sometimes in a rank of three people and not step aside or allow the person coming in the opposite direction space to pass, so that the on-comer has to step onto the road, or squeeze against a wall. My Japanese friend confirmed this observation and said that he had discussed it with a Bolivian friend, who had responded that this occurred because Bolivians were selfish. Certainly, they do not seem to have an reluctance to arrive at the cinema a good twenty minutes after the programme has begun.

Bolivians rarely speak English, even in hostels, museums hotels and obvious touristic points. At many museums you will be compelled to suffer a guide who will frogmarch you through the galleries and force you to endure their tedious spiel, robotically delivered in battered English.

Kitsch power ballads are popular, as is Andean pipe music. These are played as often as possible, and at great volume on buses, in restaurants, cafes and bars: unfortunately. Brass bands, performing oomph-ah music, and accompanied by cheerleaders or dancers in lampshade dresses roam the streets looking for victims: this is more fun.

I suspect violence is common in Bolivian society. I watched an excellent film called, Voices of El Alto http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3425182/. A tent had beed set up in the Andean town and Bolivians of various ages, though most often adolescents, came to describe life experiences. I do not know to what extent the producer edited or encouraged the participants to speak particularly of such miseries, but the proportion who spoke about domestic violence, family exclusion, rape, poverty and misery, was very striking. There are large murals on some walls painted to campaign against domestic violence.

There are also murals featuring Evo Morales, and his magnificent achievements, and I got the feeling that Bolivians are rather patriotic. I wish they had better dental care.

Food is mediocre, featuring as many different carbohydrates as possible on the same plate: potato chips, spaghetti, rice, why not throw them all together! Coffee is sometimes very good, certainly compared to Brazil (though that is truly setting the bar low, for sure). But sometimes you receive Nescafe, often sweetened, or some imitation instead of real coffee.

Other travelers offer little respite. Nerdism has triumphed.  WIFI has effectively killed normal social interaction in a many places, so that in hotel receptions, cafes or bars, foreigners now, now spend their time huddled over their little screens exchanging inanities with distant  "friends" instead of engaging with those around them.

I emphasize that these observations are general, and that I experienced exceptions. It is necessarily a mistake to come to sure generalizations following just a month in a country.


Paintings from Bolivia: reflections, self criticism

I am a little dubious about some of the pictures I painted on this trip. But I am uncertain whether this is because of the pictures themselves, or rather simply how I feel about them. I suppose there are good, and bad as on any trip and the worst are probably not as bad as I imagine and the best not so superior. It takes time to gain the distance necessary to judge ones own work. It`s better to put them aside and see  in a month how I feel.

I attempted through the month to work more freely, to allow drawing errors, should the correction of those errors mar the freshness of brushmarks. I attempted to work as responsively as I could, without starting with too much of a clear final idea: sketching.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Journey to Bolivia: part 3: Sucre

Sucre, the capital, is a restored city of green squares and fine, white, often Beaux-Arts styled buildings.

 I found it difficult to work in the centre of town, however, where everything is a little too "finished" to suit my interests, and took to the outskirts.

 A boy in a street, oil on card, 12.5 x 14.5 cm

 These, above and below, are rather Japanese influenced.

The city cemetery is very good: well kept and planted and most serene.

 A garden in a cemetery, oil on card, 16 x 15.5 cm

It was the Bolivian National day, or perhaps rather week, given the extent of celebrations, with flags hanging all over and no end of brass bands parading the streets.

 National Day, oil on card, 19.5  x 16.3 cm

As in other Bolivian cities, there are sellers everywhere. But I felt the general economic level to be generally higher than elsewhere.

Orange sellers, oil on card, 10.5 x 14.5 cm

 Ice cream sellers, oil on card, 16 x 17.5 cm

A simple restaurant, oil on card, 12.5 x 11 cm
I went above the city and worked on views there:

Storehouses on a ridge, oil on card, 13.5 x 15.7 cm

 Garages, oil on card, 12.5 x 17 cm

This, above, is the sort of collection of broken down buildings and Tom Waits-ian junk that I like, set in a dramatic and unfriendly landscape. Prettier places don`t work so well for me. I think its like seeing the inside of a mechanical clock: so much more interesting, and so much more revealing of the clock`s functioning than the bland finished exterior.

Trees on a mountainside, oil on card, 10.5 x 14.5 cm

 Farms and smallholdings, the Andes, oil on card, 12.5 x 15.5 cm

Scucre, above the city, oil on card, 15.5 x 18 cm

Sucre, a view of the Andes, 19 x 13.5 cm

A Journey to Bolivia: part 2: Potosi

These are from Potosi, the extraordinary city high up in the Andes, famous for silver mining, and dominated by a strikingly triangular mountain. The air is thin and the light is sharp and the colours are bright: excellent for painting.
 It`s freezing at night. My Japanese friend became very ill after the twelve hour night bus jurney here from Cochabamba, because there was no heating on the bus.

View, oil on card, 13 x 12.5 cm

Arch, oil on card, 14.5 x 19 cm

Housing on a hillside, oil on card, 16  x 17.5 cm

 Housing, oil on card, 19 x 16.5 cm

As always, it`s enjoyable to wander out to the edges to cities. The centre has been elegantly restored and is given over mainly to tourism and services. The fringes are developing, fairly rapidly, with dense housing, some of it rather basic.

Periphery, oil on card, 10.5 x 15.5 cm

 A side street, oil on card, 16 x 17 cm

 The Andes seen through a street, oil on card, 15.5 x 18 cm

These last two are from the centre, the first very much like Utrillo, I think:

 A street, oil on card, 15.5 x 17.5 cm

 A view showing the barracks, oil on card, 17 x 16.5 cm

This last is among the best of the trip.

I`m often seeking a balance between spontanaity of paint application and exactitude, and not always finding it. Sometimes the pictures become overworked, at other times they appear unfinished, or incomplete. I think here I achieve this balance.
These subjective critical qualities are very difficult to put into words. There`s very much a you know you`ve got it right when you feel it`s right aspect to them.