Monday, November 24, 2014

Wooden Bones

View of Sint Salvators from the repaired flat roof below. 

Now that the ceiling of the living room is finally stripped its resemblance to a spine and ribcage is more apparent than ever. I am still considering the aesthetics of whether or not to remove the old cladding around the central oak spine beam supporting the joists. There are still many hours of cleaning before treating the wood with beeswax.

Meanwhile I have scraped, sanded and primed the salvaged window of the Kleine Slaapkamer which should be good for a few years yet.

 I continue to reflect on the four elements and how they arise and cease, both inside and outside the body, the house, the city and in nature, the earth and space and how all of these are interconnected.

Re-reading Thoreau's account of how he lived at Walden Pond several   passages have a particular resonance for me 

'The gentle rain which waters my beans and keeps me in the house prevents my hoeing them, it is of far more worth than my hoeing. If it should continue so long as to cause the seeds to rot in the ground and destroy the potatoes in the low lands, it would still be good for the grass on the uplands and, being good for the grass, it would be good for me.' 

'I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself'

'Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am not I partly leaves and vegetable mould myself ?'

This last especially when I am brushing leaves in the terrace.................. 

Meanwhile I continue to work on a series of small colourful acrylic paintings on panels prepared with gesso using masking tape and layers of overlapping paint. these small studies are simple and playful experiments, variations on elemental shapes, light and colour and I am happy to work intuitively reading each movement and gesture as it arises in relation to the accumulated previous ones.   


The following 'collages' where revealed in the course of stripping the walls back to either plaster or masonry.  Their colours have the faded elegance of 18th century silk................. 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Of chimneys and gable ends...

'But a man has no more to do with the style of architecture of his house than a tortoise with that of its shell.......... 

...........What of architectural beauty I now see, I know has gradually grown from within outward, out of the necessities and character of the indweller, who is the only builder - out of some unconscious truthfulness, and nobleness, without ever a thought for the appearance and whatever additional beauty of this kind is destined to be produced will be preceded by the unconscious beauty of life. 

Henry Thoreau  'Walden' 
fragments of text discovered attached to the
underside of the joists and floorboards.  

The October break gave me a chance to really begin to strip back the layers of wallpaper, board, vinyl and plastics that seem to have stifled and suffocated the structure of the house over the years. It is strange but it feels rather like being inside a three dimensional version of one of my paintings, peeling back layers of time packed with dust and memories long since discarded and forgotten 

Emblemata 6.
Egg tempera, Indian ink acrylic and silver-point on wood 25x33cm. 
Partially stripped wall in the house.

In getting to know the character of the place I have encountered other significant occupants in addition to my human neighbours. The man from the brandweer assured me that the wasps from the nest in the roof who have been gathering in significant numbers on the kitchen window were sleepy and likely die now that winter was coming and the best thing I could do would be to release them - which I did - about thirty or so individually by knocking them gently into a small wicker tea strainer and then tapping them out onto the window sill in the terrace outside from where they could fly off to the freedom of an uncertain future. 
Above a wasp in the kitchen before being released 
and below a fragment of one of several long since 
abandoned nests discovered in the ceilings

I discovered a mummified mouse behind the tongue and groove cladding which I am removing in the living room. Goodness knows what I will discover when I start to dig the trench for the septic tank and drainage...

Of all my neighbours however the most significant are the great horse chestnut tree and its companion beech tree in the garden adjacent which shelter the gable end of the house shedding between them a vast quantity of leaves, beechnuts and horse chestnuts which clog up the guttering and have to be continually swept. 

The Beech Tree
The Horse Chestnut Tree
Apart from the voices of tourists and the clatter of wheeled cases on the cobbles the sound of birds and bells adds significantly to the sense of both place and space especially in the morning when I open the door to the terrace and look up. 

Reading 'Walden' during a lunch break ........
Reconstruction of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond, Massachusetts from a visit I made a few years ago.