BLAUGUSTINE / BACK TO ARCHIVE

December 21, 2012

SEASONAL GREETING

To everyone who stops by: may these days and every day of the New Year be bright and filled with unexpected gifts.

Season's greeting from Natalie

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December 19, 2012

SOUPERIOR ALPHABETS

There's enough creativity in the delicious Alphabet Soup online exhibition over at Clive's place to warm and lighten the rest of this winter, no matter how cold, dark, wet and windy it is where you are. Every entry is bursting with flavour and individuality - if you haven't already done so, go and dip into it now.

The brief was to limit entries to black and white, plus one colour. My own contributions are included and I'll duplicate them here....well, why not?

A bee Alphabet

The one below is a new black version of a colour one which I originally posted in April 2005 and then made a video of in 2009.

My Alphabet from Natalie d'Arbeloff on Vimeo.

 

 

Nat-alphabet-black

Natalphabet colour

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December 14, 2012

THIS IS THE NEW HEADER

I like it now but might change my mind again in future.

Later today the long-lost portrait of Rennie Walker (see November 1st post below) will start its journey all the way to California. He has bought it and when it will be hung in their living room, he and his wife Kathy will send me a photo. We are all excited about this unexpected and happy conclusion to a surprising story.

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December 11, 2012

TESTING NEW HEADER

I know it's still too much, too busy, too distracting. I'm just going to leave it up for a few days while I try and work out something else, without the over-active figure. Calm down dear, it's only a blog!  

December 9, 2012

THE KINDNESS AND TALENT OF STRANGERS

Tripped on gritty asphalt while running to cross the street in Camden Town just as the traffic lights were changing to red and landed bang on my knees in front of a bus and other vehicles about to surge forward. The only person to rescue me was a Japanese girl who came over and gave me her hand to pull me to my feet. I wasn't down for more than a few seconds but rather shaken and I leaned on a bollard to steady myself. At that moment a young woman rushed over from across the road and gently asked me if I was allright - she said she saw me from the window of the bank where she works and would I like to come in and sit down? I thanked her and went into a cafe where I drank comforting hot chocolate and massaged my sore knees.

Did you ever notice that mishaps tend to come in clusters? And that they tend to occur when the colour of one's mood is an angry red or maybe dark blue? That's just how it was on Friday. The day began with a cancelled appointment, ongoing dental irritation and the sudden breakdown of my television when I wanted to watch something. So I went to Camden Town in a really bad mood, muttering inwardly, and that's when I fell. You may call this kind of thinking woo-woo but I do believe it's possible for the inner to affect the outer, just as the outer affects the inner. A friend told me that when he was depressed his car stopped working and various electrical equipment would malfunction. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Anyway, apart from dental hassles which are too-slowly being dealt with, I'm okay now and a couple of days ago had the pleasure of meeting Phil Cooper who blogs at Hedgecrows. I was introduced to him via Clive Hicks-Jenkins' terrific Artlog, which not only lets us share Clive's own wonderfully abundant and diverse creativity but also frequently calls our attention to the work of others. Thus I saw some examples of the marvellous collages Phil is making for the about-to-begin Alphabet Soup online exhibition which Clive initiated (I've sent a couple of entries) and which is being curated by Lucy Kempton and Shellie Byatt. I invited Phil over so we could talk printmaking and other matters and thoroughly enjoyed his visit. He is so modest that if you hadn't seen his work you wouldn't guess how strong and confident his talent is. I strongly urge you to visit his blog and keep up to date with what he's doing. Thanks to the blogging phenomenon, this former stranger is now a friend.

Phil Coopr in my studio

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December 5, 2012

HAMPDEN COMMUNITY CENTRE MURAL R.I.P.

I finished it in February 1984 and the year I spent working on it daily was one of the happiest experiences of my life. I tried to express enjoyment and community in the composition, incorporating about sixty portraits of regulars at the centre - pensioners, mothers and children, teenagers, kitchen staff, organisers - all assembled within a 'geometrified' version of the interior and the neighbourhood.

The centre offered cheap meals for pensioners and every day at lunchtime they poured in. I would chat with them while I painted and sometimes there would be sing-songs, all the old favourites they knew by heart. One of the regulars was a skilled accordéoniste and I'd sing my Piaf repertoire - they always wanted La Vie en Rose! I've got a tape of one of these rambunctious sessions which makes me very nostalgic.

Finished Hampden mural by NdA

People in the hampden mural

Hampden mural detail 1

Hampden mural detail 2

Hampden mural-in-progress, teens

I painted myself into the picture and on a poster-like rectangle, I asked my models to sign their names. In the middle of the wall I painted my work table with brushes and tubes of acrylic paint laid out on it.

Early stages, Hampden mural.

 

Inauguration, hampden Mural

A couple of months before I completed it, the mural was inaugurated by Ron Heffernan, Mayor of Camden at the time. The occasion was covered by the local press and one tabloid (Daily Telegraph, January 30, 1984) but not a single critic or other art establishment person was, as far as I know, ever aware of the existence of this particular oeuvre. Which is perhaps just as well since its visible life was cruelly extinguished after only ten years.

Perhaps its DNA still lingers beneath the layers of industrial paint with which the wall was covered in 1994. I only found out about its obliteration long after the event when a friend told me he'd been to the centre and was astonished that my mural had disappeared. The new managers at the Community Centre never contacted me about their decision and when I went there to protest, the explanation they gave was that the mural was no longer relevant because most of the pensioners I portrayed had died. My jaw dropped to the floor but I refrained from saying that a great deal of art would be banished from museums if this reasoning was enforced. I looked into the legalities but apparently, since I had been employed to paint it, I was technically not the owner of this work. A law concerning the defacing of artworks did come into being later but too late to apply in this case. The only concession the managers would make was to put up in the entrance hall a small framed photo of the mural before its cover-up.

Fortunately I have slides of the entire wall, with close-ups. But that was the end of my mural aspirations.

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December 2 , 2012

BACK TO THE WALL

When I was an art student a long time ago, inspired by early Italian frescoes and the carved walls of ancient Egypt, I thought I wanted to be a muralist. So I enrolled at the Instituto Allende in Mexico in order to learn mural techniques. The two photos below are from that time, described in my autobiography-in-progress (no progress! But I will get back to it, yes).

Plaster relief. mural study.
Fresco study. NdA. Instituto Allende, Mexico La Despedida. Plaster bas-relief study. 3.25 x 2.5 meters. NdA. Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Some time later, when I lived in Paraguay, I won a competition (scroll to the bottom of this page) to design and execute an abstract mural for a new hotel in Asunción. But it was not until the 1980s in London that an opportunity arose to really exercise my wall-painting inclinations. I happened to see a job advertisement to join a team of artists, organised by CSV (Community Service Volunteers) to paint murals for public locations in the borough of Camden. I was interviewed, accepted and began a thrilling, if ephemeral, adventure. Ephemeral for reasons I willl explain.

There were seven of us, artists of various backgrounds, ages and experience but all keen to use our skills on a large scale. We discussed ideas and made general plans but each person was responsible for designing and executing different sections of some murals while in other projects only one artist was needed. This was an ideal situation since I prefer to work independently but also enjoy the camaraderie of a congenial group. On the façade of Godwin Court, a building on Crowndale Road near Mornington Crescent, my designated section was alongside the entrance to a mother-and-child clinic. I decided to paint it as though you were looking through the wall into the waiting room and reception area. I took photos and made a lot of preparatory drawings, transferred my final sketch to the rough brick wall and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of painting in the middle of a busy street, cars and buses whizzing past and curious pedestrians stopping by to chat. The other artists were busy on their own sections of the long wall but at lunchtime we would all go to the pub, like good workmen, and talk about art and life and all that jazz. It was the best job imaginable.

Godwin Court 1983
NdA mural, Godwin Court
Godwin Court mural, detail1
Godwin mural details

Sadly, all that's left of this mural are the photos and slides I and other people took of it. This is not the age of sacred walls! The lovingly painted surfaces gradually became fair game for the aerosol and magic marker-wielding vandals of the neighbourhood and several years of this activity later, Camden Council decided to cover the entire façade with grafitti-proof gloss paint. None of us were ever consulted or told our work was being destroyed and there's no law that could have prevented it. Nevertheless I'm proud of this work and of the huge assignment I was offered next.

The Hampden Community Centre off St.Pancras Road was a popular social meeting place for local people and when the idea of a mural in the common room was suggested, the organisers embraced it enthusiastically. I was still part of the Mural Team but the other artists were busy in various locations and I was delighted to take on the 50' x 12' wall entirely on my own. The scale drawing I submitted was approved by a committee and I began working on the wall on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 1983.

Hampden Centre, NdA early stage of mural
(to be continued tomorrow)

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