Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Edinburgh: pochades; some conclusions; travel; thanks

Edinburgh winter (Smith´s Place), oil on card, 11 / 13 cm

Warehouses on Jane Street, Leith, oil on card, 9/ 12.5 cm  SOLD

Winter, Edinburgh winter (Smith´s Place), oil on card, 11 / 13 cm

I went up to Edinburgh and delivered paintings to the Union Gallery: they have a fair selection now from Brazil, Tunisia and the UK.

I stayed down in Leith- thanks to Anna and Kenneth for putting me up.

Very cold, of course, but splendid and Edinburgh is splendidly schizophrenic too: that mixture of elevated architecture and ground level squalor that characterises Georgian British cities. In Leith on the ground: endless pubs, cut-price barbers shops, Polish delicatessents, advice centres and pound stores:  magnificent, sometimes battered, soiled sandstone neo-classical  above.

While I was in Scotland, a painting sold at the Royal Scottish Academy :

Small Pines, oil on card, 10 / 12 cm   SOLD


The best paintings of the trip are those which refect some subjective intimacy with the place: ergo those from the UK are, I feel, in some way richer. The Tunisian ones tend, at their most slight, towards a sort of orientalist tourist painting,. This is because I felt some obligation to paint the things that most obviously define somewhere,  not unforgivably as those are the reasons for visiting in the first place. But all places have a skin and the skin is not necessarily as interesting as the other organs within.

But, of course, one develops subjective relations with a place over time, and as I plan more visits to the Islamic world  this will surely develop.

The better pictures were mostly not the larger size (5/ 13 cm or so) but smaller say (10/ 11 cm). This has something to do with concentration, and to do with the changes in light (this is much less of an issue in Brasil where the sun rises and sets rapidly and more or less stays put in between).

The boxes I  use to transport pictures are popular and I have to develop these: not necessarily to make them fancier, but perhaps to make more consistent in terms of quality. The buyers do not like polystyrene: a pity as it is very easy to use to for packing: they prefer cardboard which has more charm. Also, the boxes need better labelling. I need to make a simple label I can write on and sign to identify the pictures after painting.

I am annoyed with the photos I took of some of the pictures, which is not the fault of the camera but my own carelessness. So I must endeavor to improve that.


Travel is often detestable. Of course seeing new places new places and trying new food and so on is wonderful. I mean lugging things about, waiting in check-in queues, feeling very tired, being ripped off and worriying about something or other; misunderstanding something pitifully simple because your school French is rusty. Unpacking is a bore too, as is packing and wearing grubby clothes. If I were wealthy these travails would lessen considerably: sadly the likelihood of that in the near future is not high. The poorer traveller must rely on wit, good planning, stamina and  the friendship of strangers.

The Tunisia trip was reasonably good in this respect: I had the sensible notion that staying anywhere for less than two nights would mean all the above challenges would be increased. And the Rough Guide is really very good (though I arrived in El Jem to find that the only hotel had been demolished).

If one is visiting a new country there is the tendency to want to see everything. But really good painting, is not a product so much of the subject as the mindset of the maker. Good pictures are constructed on a balance of knowledge and its opposite: ignorance and surprise. So a short-ish  trip allows both, and fleeting fleeting visits are usually hopeless (digital photography, which has become almost cost free, is aften a false friend to the traveller as it encourages an erroneous notion that experience can effortlessly be "captured").


Many thanks to those who helped me over this trip : Lise, Chris, my parents, Anna and Kenneth, Matthew Cushen, Chris Anderson, Bilel,  and Chokri.

And thanks to the many anonymous souls who helped out in the innumerable small ways that make life more than tolerable.

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