Monday, November 29, 2010

Can Serrat Exhibition: ¨And Then There Were Three¨

Just three of us left now at Can Serrat. On Saturday we had an exhibition of the work we´ve done while we have been at the residency.

Colores del Monasterio de Montserrat    174x201cm (68x79¨)   Janice Mason Steeves 2010

View of the studio/exhibition space

Pinhole Cameras by Natalie McQuade 2010

Natalie McQuade exhibited a  video comprised of her black and white photographs of ceramic sidewalk tiles in Barcelona and El Bruc.  She also created a sculpture using three Spanish cigar boxes she found here that she made into pinhole cameras.

Erica Scourti´s piece was a video remake of the movie Three Kings.

My painting, called Colores del Monasterio de Montserrat was an edited assemblage of the more than eighty small acrylic/monastery pigment paintings I´ve made while I´ve been here. 

The residency is over.  It´s getting cold here in the hills of El Bruc overlooking Barcelona.  I´ll be happy to get home to central heating. And just happy to get home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Colores del Monasterio de Montserrat

Dry Pigments
Before I came to Can Serrat, I had hoped to use local materials in my work.  In the first few days here, I found all of these small containers of dry pigments in the upstairs studio. I learned from Marcel that these pigments were used to paint the Monastery of Montserrat when it was restored about five years ago. 

Over the weeks I have been here, I have been using these dry pigments mixed with acrylic matte medium on paper.  I tore the paper into sheets that are approximately 9x12¨...some are smaller because I used various sizes of watercolour paper.  I tore each sheet of paper into eight sections.  I´ve consistently worked on this small size, playing with these various pigments, pouring and experimenting with them.  I´ve been interested in the colours of Spain...reds, oranges, golds, the colours and shapes of the mountains behind the residency... blue greys, warm greys, oranges, browns and blacks, depending on the time of day.  I´ve also been interested in using the circle...the globe representing the universe, that the Black Madonna holds in her hand in the Monastery at Montserrat, and the idea of mosaic tiles that one sees all over Barcelona.  In a very casual way, I´m attempting to integrate all of these shapes and colours.

As I sorted through the work the other day, I realized that there were many of the small paintings that didn´t work and I debated about whether I wanted to carry them home.  Before they went into the garbage, I tried tossing them onto a white paper on a table and photographing that random assortment.  The photos have suggested their own work.  The photos of the paintings become the work, or at least they become one of the ways to see these small paintings. I will have some of these photos printed on the same watercolour paper when I go home.  Each painting adds to the whole, whether it works individually or not. The white paper becomes part of the work, as do the shadows of the edges.

A new way of seeing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Residency Residents

Erica Scourti at Can Serrat

There are only two other artists here now.  The rest have finished their residencies. Can Serrat will close for December.  Things are winding down here.  But I still have eleven days left and will continue to absorb this area of Cataluña, Montserrat, El Bruc and Barcelona.  I´m loving spending time with the other artists and learning about their work.  Erica Scourti is an exceptionally creative artist/filmmaker from London, England who works mainly with digital media, and is interested in language/word-based video art. She has recently done a residency at I-Park in Connecticut.

Natalie McQuade at the Museu Nacional d Art de Catalunya
Natalie McQuade is a brilliant multi-media artist from Melbourne, Australia. She incorporates sculpture, sound, installation and printmaking into her work ...among other things. At Can Serrat, among other projects, she is making several pinhole cameras out of found Spanish cigar boxes.

These are two very creative, very exciting young artists and I so much enjoyed sitting with them while they discussed their work.  I´d recommend spending some time visiting their websites.

Otto Castillo, Karine Argile, Jessica Hirst, Marcel Sala
Karine and Marcel run Can Serrat
 Jessica Hirst and her partner Otto Castillo have just finished their residency here.  Jessica is a multi-media artist.  Her current work involves considering logos on the clothing we wear.  She has created a personal logo and is collecting used or found clothing and applying her Palmer Fishman logo to these items. They are at once hilarious, and yet worthy of consideration.  Her blog has photos of her newly introduced line of Palmer Fishman clothing.

Abde Samad Chakour
 Abde Samad Chour, from Casa Blanca, Morrocco, works here at the residency.

 There are also six cats here at Can Serrat.  I´ve only been able to capture three of them. I´m not crazy about cats so this is a test for me to have six cats wandering in and out of bedrooms, dining room, shower....everywhere.........

Bully Boy who bullies the other cats

Moushou the brother of Noor

Noor the friendly one

There are also two resident ghosts at Can Serrat, whom I have not been able to photograph. I guess it is not surprising that there are at least a couple of ghosts here, considering that the building is perhaps 350 years old. One reportedly is a woman who died here in childbirth.  The other is a man who hanged himself after gambling away this building which was his home and farm.  The male ghost resides in the blue room on te Norwegian student side of the building and has been known to throw objects around the room.  On the Can Serrat side we have the quieter, sadder woman who supposedly drifts from room to room.  Makes me alittle sleepless I must say.

It all makes for an exciting, eclectic mix of characters and personalities, animals and ghosts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Second Week Artist Residency

There are some beautiful hikes nearby the residency that eventually lead to Montserrat. I haven´t quite made it to the base of the mountain yet.  The weather here in the more mountainous region of Catalonia has been cool, around 14 degrees and mostly sunny. Great for hiking.

Yesterday I went into Barcelona to meet up with my friend Rebecca Crowell and her husband Don Ticknor from the U.S.  We met up at the Fundacion Antoni Tapies where we saw a small number of Tapies pieces and a terrific film about him and his work..  On the lower level of the museum was a retrospective of the work of Anna Maria Maiolino, an Italian-born artist who lives in Brazil.

The Tapies website says that Maiolino´s ¨complex works have developed through a variety of media: poetry, woodcuts, photography, film, performance, sculpture, installation and, above all, drawing. The wide spectrum of subjects, interests and attitudes that underlies her work does not follow a linear development, either in the work itself or in time. Rather, through the diversity of her work, she creates a web where themes and attitudes intertwine while meanings slip between one work and another. ¨

Leaving the work of Tapies and Maiolino, we caught the Metro to Parc Guell to see some of Gaudi´s work.

Parc Guell is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of el Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona. It was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudí"

Rebecca and I in Parc Guell overlooking Barcelona

Heading back to catch the bus to Can Serrat as the sun is going down. My feet are aching.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Visiting Barcelona from Can Serrat

I spent the day yesterday in Barcelona, which is less than one hour by bus from El Bruc and Can Serrat.  Easy access to the city center by Metro.  My destination was first, an art supply store...where I wasn´t too impressed by the supply of paint and paper....and then to the CCCB...the Centre de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona.  Before I left home I learned that there was an exhibition about the history of Labyrinths at the CCCB which runs until January 2011.

I walked down Las Ramblas, the main pedestrian walkway, on my way to the CCCB.  It was bustling with excitement on a warm November day in Barcelona.

A couple  dressed up for the crowd as though they were sculptures, and covered with something that looked like clay.

Below is the entrance to the CCCB.  The exhibition I went to see was called ¨Through the Labyrinth¨.

This was a kind of video of people walking the labyrinth at Chartres, taken from above.

 This part of the exhibition was laid out as a maze, with walls to imitate shrubbery.

Photo of a landscape labyrinth in England.

Back home to Can Serrat in time for dinner..................

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can Serrat, Spain

I arrived in Barcelona on Saturday October 31 for a one month artist residency at Can Serrat.  As we drove toward the town of El Bruc, an enormous rainbow arched over the highway  and stayed there for the entire drive to Can Serrat-definitely a good omen.

 The residency is located in a little valley at the base of Monserrat-the serrated mountain, or Magic Mountain as it´s  called here.  The famous pilgrimage site, the Monastery of Montserrat, home of a Black Madonna is located on the other side of these mountains.

I´m here for a month, along with five other artists: one other Canadian, a sculptor from New Brunswick; a film-maker from England; a performance artist from Barcelona via the US, who is here with her partner from  Honduras who a mixed media artist; and an artist from Australia.  Another American artist, a painter, just left today.  Two other artists are coming within the next two weeks.

I went with a couple of the other artists yesterday to visit the monastery at Montserrat. It was a spectacular day....25 degrees in El Bruc, where Can Serrat is located. It was cooler high up in the mountains where the monastery is located.

The other side of the mountain on the way to the Monastery, looking toward the snow-covered Pyrenees in the distance.

  The photo above  of the Monastery was taken on the winding trail down to the Cave.
Below is the Cave, perched on the edge of the cliff, where the Black Madonna was found.

This image of the Black Madonna, a bronze copy, is in the cave where the original was found.  Legend has it that a light came from this cave at night about 800 years ago.  Some men climbed up to see what the source of the light was and they discovered the Black Madonna sculpture.  They tried to take her from the mountain, but could not move her very far before she became too heavy to carry.  They felt this was a sign, and built the Monastery around her. 

 I stood in line at the Monastery to touch the hand of the Black Madonna.  One million pilgrims per year visit this sacred Madonna to touch her hand and pray for blessings.