15 x 11″ – 28 x 38 cm
Tanglewood. A bird song corridor through an empty land. Sluggish shallow river. Old roots holding the banks together. Old place, old beings. Being quiet here… the Dropt has an intimate & hidden charm, different from the majestic Dordogne with it’s mighty flow. Being quiet here & now … even in a modest landscape, a hidden corner. One of the last spaces for nature in our monetised countryside.

Wendell Berry on Local Care of Shared Places:”My wife, Tanya, and I were just in Massachusetts visiting with a friend of ours, Rachel Fletcher, who had organized some of her neighbors in her town to make a “riverwalk.”

A little river runs right through the middle of her town. For maybe generations people had looked at the river the way we Americans have learned to look at rivers—as something to carry things away that we don’t want. The town had just tumbled whatever they didn’t want down among the trees on the river bank.

Rachel began to persuade people to allow a riverwalk to be built across their back lots. She organized cleanups, and people would come and bring their children. They picked up all the trash and cleared the river bank and built their walk, and they made a beautiful thing.

Any walk through the woods gives one a lot to look at, especially a walk along a riverbank. People made donations to put in seats in memory of loved ones who had died and so on. That was how it started.

The next thing that happened was that people who had property on the other side of the river, who weren’t organized into this effort at all, began to clean up their lots. So here you’ve got a neighborhood institution that is minimally organized. So far as I know, it has no trust fund. But it’s cherishing something local that everybody can have in common, and to me a thing like that can’t go wrong. It’s just a little narrow walkway, scaled right, but it’s an enormously suggestive thing.

It was a way for people in the neighborhood to give days of their labor to one another, to give one another shares in their mutual place, to make a place where they would meet each other without agenda or schedule. And as the cleanup across the river would indicate, it has an influence.

So that’s the way my instinct says to work. If you believe in goodness, if you believe that goodness has a power, then why not act on your faith and do something good and see if it won’t call forth more goodness?”

Jack Jezreel interviews Wendell Berry, U.S. Catholic magazine.

 

Concernant la Destruction de la Ripisylve de la Riviére Dropt dans les Cantons de Villeréal, Castillonnès et Eymet.

Le Dropt à St. Quentin (avant la coups de hiver 2011)
oil on canvas
46 x 38 cm
© adam cope

I went downstream to the next commune to paint.Wild wood. Tangle wood. Quiet days dreaming besides the sluggish flow. An intimate space of tangles & branches. You climb inside it & leave the wide & bare fields behind.

These trees will be destroyed in next winter. 2011.

Condemned beings. Death row, the calmness of the alders, ashes & poplars unaware.

 

NO SPACE FOR NATURE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE ?




The Dropt at St.Dizier before & after the cutting in winter 2009

The three deer that lived here are now flushed out & run for their lives around the neighbourhood. Looking for shelter, of which there is precious little. Their homes are steadily being destroyed. “tué habitat, tué animal” (to kill the habit is to kill the animal). It was the same with the nightingales when hedgerows were all grubbed out in 2006. How I miss their song!

BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF 2010


‘Berges du Dropt, St.Dizier’
38 x 46 cm
oil on canvas
2006
©adam cope

SAME SPOT (looking downriver) AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF 2010

POSTSCRIPT 2013

Some of the coppices have grown back, not all. The plot on the left hand side of the river is now entire grubbed out. No more nightingales nor deer. Some regeneration. the canton is now replanting with a budget of 7200 euros… funny old world. The upside is that no flooding has occurred these last years, even if the wild life is dying. I hope teh land can regenerate & reclaiming it’s biodiversity

after we’ve gone

we shall be litter and leaves

– a lyrebird’s song

Harry Laing , ‘Forest Meditations’

 

 

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Legislation now requires a 6 meter grass band either side of the river. This serves to filter the ground water as it flows off the farm land. The Dropt is green with nitrates & slurry from cow farming (domestic grey-water isn’t always properly filtered either). Not much bio-diversity in a grass band in comparison to a riparian zone.

Machines have great power to sculpt the landscape. But what type of landscape are we making?

A square mile field without hedges? How much more public money via agricultural subsidies will be spent on this?

Is this a  river with bio-diversity?

No space for nature in the countryside…. pretty isn’t it?

“Contempt for Small Places, Minor Destructions Add Up” – WENDELL BERRY

A GREEN CORRIDOR

The basic idea of a green corridor is to leave a corridor through which animals can migrate from one safe place to another. Good for nature, good for tourism, good for the soul.

A green corridor = Une trame verte

 

A well preserved riparian strip on a tributary to Lake Erie.

riparian zone – wiki

 

‘L’Esperance’
oil on canvas
©adam cope
Sold

Observe the band of trees each side of the river.

The banks of the river Dordogne are a classified nature reserve: Natura 2000, part of the European government’s legislation to protect nature. The banks of the river Dropt are also classified down river from Allemans sur Dropt, just after Eymet. http://natura2000.ecologie.gouv.fr/sites/FR7200692.html

The basic idea of a green corridor is to leave a corridor through which animals can migrate from one safe place to another. It also has the happy advantage that humans can walk or canoe along these passages. This is very good for tourism, which is the second economic activity of the Dordogne department & IMO, would become more important for the Lot & Garonne if the people in power had a better vision of how they take care of nature.

” Great problems call for many small solutions.” – Wendell Berry

NO SPACE FOR NATURE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE?

OF NATURE RESERVES & SUPERMARKET CONSUMPTION

“In Human culture lies the preservation of wildness.” – Wendell Berry

“The question we must deal with is not whether the domestic and the wild are separate or can be separated; it is how, in the human economy, their indissoluble and necessary connection can be properly maintained.” Wendell Berry For Love of the Land, Sierra magazine, May/June 2002

“The awareness that we are slowly growing into now is that the earthly wildness that we are so complexly dependent upon is at our mercy. It has become, in a sense, our artifact because it can only survive by a human understanding and forbearance that we now must make. The only thing we have to preserve nature with is culture; the only thing we have to preserve wildness with is domesticity.

“To me, this means simply that we are not safe in assuming that we can preserve wildness by making wilderness preserves. Those of us who see that wildness and wilderness need to be preserved are going to have to understand the dependence of these things upon our domestic economy and our domestic behavior. If we do not have an economy capable of valuing in particular terms the durable good of localities and communities, then we are not going to be able to preserve anything. We are going to have to see that, if we want our forests to last, then we must make wood products that last, for our forests are more threatened by shoddy workmanship than by clear-cutting or by fire. Good workmanship–that is, careful, considerate, and loving work–requires us to think considerately of the whole process, natural and cultural, involved in the making of wooden artifacts, because the good worker does not share the industrial contempt for ‘raw material.’ The good worker loves the board before it becomes a table, loves the tree before it yields the board, loves the forest before it gives up the tree. The good worker understands that a badly made artifact is both an insult to its user and a danger to its source. We could say, then, that good forestry begins with the respectful husbanding of the forest that we call stewardship and ends with well-made tables and chairs and houses, just as good agriculture begins with stewardship of the fields and ends with good meals.”
– Exerpt from ‘Home Economics’ by Wendell BERRY

“…. the great causes of agrarianism and conservation, despite local victories, have suffered an accumulation of losses, some of them probably irreparable-while the third side, that of the land-exploiting corporations, has appeared to grow ever richer.” —For Love of the Land by Wendell Berry

Futher Reading:

Natura 2000
European Union Water Framework Directive
A green corridor.
Une trame verte

Wendell Berry

For Love of the Land by Wendell Berry
Contempt for Small Places Minor Destructions Add Up – WENDELL BERRY

Read more in this blog in the artists & ecology categories.

 

Nyiad – Le Dropt à St.Dizier (avant les’
oil on canvas
38 x 46 cm
2010
© adam cope

An ash tree growing out of the middle of an old crack willow, not coppiced for many a year.

Nyiad’
Sketchbook
pen & ink
2010
©adam cope

Wild Wood. Tangle Wood.

Nyiad. Dryiad. River. Tree. Older things than you & I.


This is a condemned being. These trees will be cut down in a week’s time or so.
Death row.

the execution has now been done

Great sadness as all the little pockets of tangle wood are irradiated & ‘cleaned up. “Pas propre”…
developed into agriculture, money, gardens & water supply.

No space for nature in the countryside.

 

Tangle Wood. Wild Wood. Mole & Ratty – if you listen, you can hear the wind in the willows.

 


Some photos from www.valleedudropt.com

Le Dropt à St.Dizier avant les coups de 2010A green corridor.  =  une trame verte”To write a love song, you have to be love” Henry Hensche (Cape Cod School of Art).

‘Berges du Dropt, St.Dizier’
38 x 46 cm
oil on canvas
2006
©adam cope

 Le Dropt, Castillonnès – une trame verte?

The river Dropt downriver from Allemans de Dropt is a Natura 2000 site. http://natura2000.ecologie.gouv.fr/sites/FR7200692.html

Up River, near Castillonnès, things are different. The banks are privately owned but the water board owns the water. Agricultors pay for irrigation water for their crops. Trees drink the water. Tangle wood block the water.

‘Le Dropt à St.Dizier’
quarter sheet
2007
©adam cope

No space for nature in the countryside.

Berges du Dropt 3′ – S.Quentin
Oil on Masonite
30 x 40 cm
2007
©adam cope
No home now for the deers, water rats, moles, rabbits & others who try & find their place in a human landscape that has no place left for pests & those who dare eat crops.

Beautiful tanglewood, wildwood. Not the garden of Le Notre. Versailles. All clipped. Perfect. The hand of man dominating the profusion of nature.

Man vs. Nature?


Over 30 kilometres of river bank cleared. Not cut to the bone, true … but cut to the quick.

 

Brave New World?

coppicing = taillus
Pray that the willows, alders & ashes may regenerate. Wild Wood no more. The hand of man decides who shall be left to attain a wild old age & who shall be ‘restored’.

POST SCRIPT 2013

Happily  most of the willows have regenerated, some of the alders, less of the alders 🙂  However, little scrub & bramble & cover for animals remain. It took me three years wait befoore I could face going down to the river again & see what had become of my friends. When shall I regain the courage to paint this brave new world?  These little wold places where you can breathe & feel close to nature, the nature that man allows to persist… these spots help us live happily.

Fichier:Coppice stool2.JPG

A coppiced alder stool after one year’s growth. photo :wikicommons


Alnus glutinosa (English: Black Alder, European Alder or Common Alder)

“In celtic mythology, Bran the Blessed is associated with the alder tree “The Alder deity is considered to be Bran the Blessed, God of the Underworld. He was also known as the God of Prophecy, Arts, War and Writing. With the size of a giant, it was impossible for Bran to fit in a house or in a boat. According to medieval Christian writings, Bran the Blessed is considered to be the first British man. ” – WIKI

Look at this 300 year old ‘têtard’ or coppiced willow, a survivor, here in St.Dizier. Regeneration?

‘Têtard, Saule, St.Dizier’
Oil on Masonite
30 x 40cm
2006
©adam cope

Futher Reading:

Natura 2000
European Union Water Framework Directive
A green corridor.
Une trame verte

Read more artists & ecology in this blog:

Artists & Ecology #1 – Festival Flore Faune
Artists and Ecology #2 – Robert HAINARD – how to ‘blind contour draw’
Artists & Ecology #3 – Constable, Corn & the Destruction of Hedgerows
Artists & Ecology # 4 – Paintings of Potatoes, Semances & Homage à José Bové
Artists & Ecology # 5 -Le Dropt, Castillonnés , a green corridor?
Artists & Ecology # 6 – No Space for Nature in the Countryside? Wendell Berry

Paintings of Potatoes

Following on the walnuts, here’s some more brown, earthy still-lives.

‘Gardez vos Oignons, ce sont mes Patates’
1996
Oil on Panel
approx 24 x 23cm (9,5 x 9 inches).
© The Artist.

150 euros via PayPal

‘Semence (Hommage à José Bové)’

2001
Oil on Canvas
76 x 63 cm ( 30 x 25 inches)
© The Artist

 

‘Semence’ in french is the name for the portion of seed kept for seed for planting next year’s crop.

Hommage à José Bové

José Bové is a radical French ‘paysan’ farmer, who is also a political activist against genetically modified grain. A bit like Wendell Berry in the States, with his oppostition to industrial farming. I painted this as a hommage to him during his campaign against the genetically modified seed given to third world farmers. This new ‘wonder seed’ gives bumper crops but can’t give a semance (outside of the laboratory), & hence the third world paysan must forthwith buy their grain semance. In principal this would be OK for a cash crop suplus ecomony but as these are subsistance farmers, they don’t generate the surplus cash to acquire next year’s semance. Thus they fall into debt & can’t even assure next year’s semance. Some paysans give their organs to pay for this super-grain-no-semance.

Whilst I don’t agree with everything that Bové believes in, I admire him for standing up for his beliefs (as well as miraculously being allowed to enter the USA with thirty kilograms of Roquefort cheese – ha! Best cheese in the world, IMO yum!).

Artists & Ecology # 4

This is one of my “j’accuse” spud paintings.

It’s difficult to accept an overt political discourse to a painting… but as a painter who love snature & want s to be in close contact with her… thus i cannot help but listen to the suffering & abuses that are done to her in the name of money etc. But yes, cameras are a better tool fpor the rough area of politics than poor little painting, about whom few understand & even fewer care about.

I once exhibited this painting in Bergerac in the summer rush of tourist, who are mostly city dwellers & thus are far from farming. I asked one little girl where she thought seeds came from? She replied from packets, which you can buy in shops… City dwellers live far from ‘nature’. She’d never heard of semance. How I love gardening!

BTW – the name of this particularly knobbly new potato is ‘rat’. They taste good too 🙂

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semence_(agriculture)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Bové

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendell_Berry

‘Divergence’
2001
oil on two 8 F canvases – 2 x ( 46x 38 cm)
© The Artist
SOLD

More ‘j’accuse’ spuds from a winter -bound plein-airist.

Read more artists & ecology in this blog:

Artists & Ecology #1 – Festival Flore Faune
Artists and Ecology #2 – Robert HAINARD – how to ‘blind contour draw’
Artists & Ecology #3 – Constable, Corn & the Destruction of Hedgerows
Artists & Ecology # 4 – Paintings of Potatoes, Semances & Homage à José Bové
Artists & Ecology # 5 -Le Dropt, Castillonnés , a green corridor?
Artists & Ecology # 6 – No Space for Nature in the Countryside? Wendell Berry

‘Hibou Effrayé’ Robert Hainard
Bronze 32 cm

Robert Hainard (Born in Geneva, 1906, lived a long time in the French Jura & died in 1999) is sadly not widely known outside of France & Switzerland. He is rightly considered one of Europe’s greatest ‘artiste-animalier’ (animal artists). His book « Les Mammifères Sauvages d’Europe »(Delachaux & Niestlé) remained the key field-book for decades, both for art lovers & lovers of wildlife alike & even today, his images of foxes, owls, boar & all kinds of animals remains a true bestiary, a celebration of wildlife.

Cerf et loup 1948, Slovaquie
Robert HAINARD
Gravure

His woodcuts reveal a knowledge of animals in their natural habit that can only be gained by long hours of close observation in the wild. This is not something that you can gain from copying from a book, a zoo or a photograph. His sketchbooks trace a lifetime of nights spent bivou-wacking under the stars & of whole days spent hidden in the undergrowth, watching the faune. He saw his first lynx at the age of 73, after 48 hours under canvas. Slowly letting the animals come to you, rather than you going chasing after them.

Artists and Ecology

Here is the work of a man who is no stranger to animals. As fine as anything you might find in Grotte de Chauvet or Lascaux.

Je n’ai personne à rendre responsable de ma passion de la nature. Elle est le fruit inévitable de mon goût d’être pleinement ( I have nobody to hold responsible for my passion for nature. It is the fruit of my taste to live live to the full  ) Robert Hainard,(rough translations into English by myself)

Apparently there are over 30 000 sketches that remain. Here’s one of beaver that I esteem to be of genius.

‘Castor’
Robert Hainard

Many of these sketches are drawn ‘sur la vif’ or asd the english say ‘on the hoof’. Literally whilst the animal is moving about. Just look at the wonderful sense of life & movement that these drawing exude!

‘Renard’
Robert Hainard

Anyone who has tried this will know that this is amongst the most difficult of drawing techniques. It requires great powers of summarising an good understanding about the animal’s anatomy as well as identifying the typical way the animal moves typically whilst doing a routine gesture. Obiviously an element of caricaturising the animal helps.

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Blind Contour Drawing …. ‘Sur la Vif’

In my limited experience of drawing children moving about, I suspect that the primary skill needed is blind contour drawing, that’s to say ‘where the eye goes, the hand follows.’

 

‘Elly’
Adam Cope

The recipe is as follows : pick out an obvious edge or contour & follow along it with the point of the pencil in your drawing. That’s contour drawing … a simple line that follows the edges.

Now for the really difficult thing: do this ‘blind’ , that’s to say without looking at your drawing. You need to be able to plot the drawing in your mind’s eye. Hold it in your head, let your hand find the correspondence ( I suspect it’s a sensual way of knowing the world).

The reason why blind contour drawing is essential for drawing ‘moving targets’ is that you often have less than three or four seconds to get it down before the subject has moved on. You simply don’t have the time to cross-reference the marks made against the subject.

‘Vally’ Adam Cope

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Robert Hainard – The Artist & Ecologist

He was also something of a scientific naturalist, having gained much experience & years of close observation in the field. His love for animals pushed him into action. For example, he was militant in speaking out against the embankment project of the Rhone & was involved in achieving a wildlife protection reserve, albeit a small part of the river banks. Sadly today the Rhone is very badly polluted & ‘denaturised’. Someone recently told me that the government has forbidden eating fish caught in the Rhone from Lyon downwards.

Si le savant n’est que scientifique, s’il n’est pas du tout intuitif, artiste, poète, mystique (…), il n’est qu’une brute scientifique…S’il ne s’accroche pas durement à l’analyse, à l’expérience, à l’action, le poète est une brute poétique.

If the learned person is only a scientific, if he is not all intuitive, artist, poet, mystic (…), he is only a coarse scientist… if he does no stick firmly to analysis, to experience, to action, the poet is only a coarse poet.  – Le Miracle d’Être. Robert Hainard, Edtions Sang de la Terre, 1946 (rough translations into English by myself)

Other than his artwork, what I admire in the artist & the man Robert Hainard is his outspoken words in defense of the enviroment, making him one of the forefathers of modern-day ecology :

La destruction de la nature, que je ressens à la fois comme un predjuice personnel et direct, comme un acte de vandalisme et comme un sacrilège, pourquoi leur est-elle si légère, indifférente pour beaucoup? Il se diront peut-être plus résignés, moins gâtés ou moins egoïstes. Mais combien peuvent avoir leur sommeil troublé par une perte d’argent? Ce n’est pourtant qu’un transfert de puissnace, a leur détriment il est vrai, et je n’oublie pas mon egoïsme conscient et organisé. Mais encore, c’est une perte de puissance toute abstraite, indeterminée, la plus part réparable qui soit.  – Le miracle d’être, Robert Hainard, Edtions Sang de la Terre, 1946, pp.73

The destruction of nature, which I feel both as a direct, personal attack, as an act of vandalism and as a sacrilege, why is it to so many others so light & so indifferent? Maybe they find themselves more resigned, less spoilt or less selfish? But just how many can have their sleep troubled by a loss of money? But this is only a transfer of power, to their detriment it’s true, and I don’t forget my conscious & organised selfishness. But again, it’s a loss of power, abstract & indeterment & for the most part, repairable. — Le miracle d’être, Robert Hainard, Edtions Sang de la Terre, 1946

(rough translations into English by myself)

La Société. de plus en plus, s’intéresse au développement de l’individu. Mais c’est encore une ruse(…) Elle l’enrichit, mais de plus en plus elle dirige ces enrichissements. Elle lui prépare les cadres, les casiers où toute cette matière viendra s’emballer sans trouble et sans à-coup. La réalité concrète, la nature est toujours nouvelle, étonnante, bouleversante.

Society, more and more, is interested in the development of the individual. But this is again a ruse… It enriches him but more & more it directs these riches. It prepares for him the contexts, the tills where all this material will come & sweep him away without trouble & without comeback. Concrete reality, nature is always new, stunning, moving.

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Le plus tragique, ce n’est pas le manque de nature, c’est qu’elle diminue. Je veux le renversement de la tendance. Et je veux non seulement le plus de nature possible, mais avec le plus possible de civilisation.”

The most tragic thing is not the lack of nature but that it is diminishing. I want to reverse this tendancy. And I not only want the most possible of nature, but also with the most possible of civilization.

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Est-il sensé, pour maintenir pendant quelques générations un excédent démographique, de sacrifier (si c’était possible) toute vie sauvage, de défricher la Terre entière, de supprimer toute liberté, tout amour (car pas de liberté sans espace, ni d’amour sans choix) pour nous heurter bientôt, de toute manière, au bilan implacable : une vie pour une mort – eût-on défriché l’Amazonie, irrigué le Sahara, le désert de Gobi, urbanisé l’Antarctique ? Le pire fléau pour une espèce est la surpopulation.  —Robert Hainard, Le monde plein, Ed. Melchior 1991. p35 (quoted by Philippe ROCH on http://www.pirassay.com/textes.php?id=11 )

These nightmarish thoughts, these darks thoughts …. are they true or are they chimeraic? Sometimes the words of artists are necessary to hear, even if they came from bad nightmares.

(Is it wise, to maintain for a few generations such a demographic excess, to sacrifice (if it were possible) all wildlife, to land-clear the whole Earth, to suppress all freedom, all love (because there’s no freedom without space, no love without choice) so as to send us clashing, in any case, against the implacable bottomline : a life for a death? Land-clear the Amazon, Irrigate the Sahara & the Gobi, Urbanise the Antartic? The worst plague for a species is over-population.” Robert Hainard, Le monde plein, Ed. Melchior 1991. p35 (quoted by Philippe ROCH on http://www.pirassay.com/textes.php?id=11 )

 

If an artist genuinely loves his or her subject matter then why shouldn’t he or she be concerned about it’s well-being?

  Si j’aime tant ma vie de peintre, c’est qu’elle est à la fois immense et très centrée, car je vis la vie de la vaste nature, mais je la veux tenir entre mes mains par une conquête très âpre et personnelle. J’ai l’infini à ma portée, je le vois, je le sens, je le touche, je m’en nourris et je sais que je ne pourrais jamais l’épuiser. Et je comprends mon irrépressible révolte lorsque je vois supprimer la nature : on me tue mon infini.

For more on Hainard on the web :

Fondation Hainard

This site also generously has an ebook online in french : ‘Le Monde Plein by Robert Hainard’

wikipedia.fr – Robert Hainard

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Read more artists & ecology in this blog:

Artists & Ecology #1 – Festival Flore Faune
Artists and Ecology #2 – Robert HAINARD – how to ‘blind contour draw’
Artists & Ecology #3 – Constable, Corn & the Destruction of Hedgerows
Artists & Ecology # 4 – Paintings of Potatoes, Semances & Homage à José Bové
Artists & Ecology # 5 -Le Dropt, Castillonnés , a green corridor?
Artists & Ecology # 6 – No Space for Nature in the Countryside? Wendell Berry

Here’s the details of the Fourth Festival d’Art en Périgord Pourpre. The opening night is at the mairie de Thenac on the 31 May at 19,30hrs.

Expositions du 31 mai au 8 juin 2008
dans les villes d’ Eymet, Cunèges, Puyguilhem (Thénac), Saussignac et Sigoulès

I believe I’m in Eymet at Le Centre Culturel with the other ‘Artistes Invitées’. Just follow the banners. I’ll be exhiting my owls which I posted in Quatre Carte-Postales de Mon Co-Locataire, L’Hibou Some good contemporary art in these shows. Don’t miss them.

 

Click on image for bigger picture

HOMMAGE à HENRI MORI

This year the central artist is the sculptor Henri MORI. Anyone who has been to Sarlat will have seen his geese besides the covered market place (geese being the source of the livers used in the making of fois-gras, one of the principle export items of the Dordogne). The Museum of Sarlat is loaning out 51 sculptures for this show, made in the local stone of Les Eyzies (see my ‘rocks’ category, where I’ve had a stab at painting some of the cliffs of Les Eyzies).

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CONCERNING ARTISTS & ECOLOGY

‘La Nature peut vivre sans L’Homme mais l’Homme ne peut vivre sans la Nature’ – bon mot Francais (Nature can live without Man but Man can not live without Nature)

This is a subject close to my heart as a landscape painter with some thirty or so years experience. It is also the key theme to this annual event.

“To write a love song, you have to be love” Henry Hensche (Cape Cod School of Art).

The experience of being in a landscape & painting what you love, what you care about is central to my practice. It tends to follow on naturally , in my experience, that (some) artists become engaged for the well-being of their subject matter. I think of Leonardo da Vinci, who bought pigeons in the market place & then set them free, with his hands, right in the middle of the market place, much to amazement of the onlookers. Why did he do this?

I’ve written fairly extensively elsewhere abour ‘artists & ecology’ & so what I’ll do over the period of this festival is post these writings & images here. à suivre ….

Read more artists & ecology in this blog:

Artists & Ecology #1 – Festival Flore Faune
Artists and Ecology #2 – Robert HAINARD – how to ‘blind contour draw’
Artists & Ecology #3 – Constable, Corn & the Destruction of Hedgerows
Artists & Ecology # 4 – Paintings of Potatoes, Semances & Homage à José Bové
Artists & Ecology # 5 -Le Dropt, Castillonnés , a green corridor?
Artists & Ecology # 6 – No Space for Nature in the Countryside? Wendell Berry

72 x 34 cm. Oil on Panel.© The Artist.
sold
 

Constable’s ‘Cornfield’

While now a fresher gale, sweeping with shadowy gust the fields of corn –
Text used by John Constable in exhibition catalogue, for his ‘The Cornfield’ in The National Gallery, London
 

 

John Constable, “The Cornfield”, painted 1826. Size: 56 by 48 inches (143 by 122 cm).

National Gallery, London (UK).

It was a friend of mine that remarked on the similarity of my painting above to Constable’s famous painting. Constable’s ‘Cornfield’ is so well known & such an English national icon, that it’s become something of a cliché, and so is difficult to see and admire without a strong feeling of going backwards in time…

Of Chocolate Box Paintings?

…. to an England & a countryside that no longer exists, other than on lids of chocolate boxes…. though sometimes you can still find snippets & glimpses of Constable’s subject matter, feeling abit like Keat’s nightingale song, briefly present for a moment only…. Is this what we mean when we say a landscape is “unspoilt”? That it resembles a pastoral painting?…. An expression of painful yearning for a lost arcadia, an unreal place that never was?… I remember going to the National Gallery to admire this painting with my Granny around the impressionable age of twelve. I guess I’m the type of expat Englishman who was taught to be skeptical of nationalist feelings, to love gardens… and to like chocolates! ….

The English countryside has changed greatly since 1826, as has the French countryside here in the Dordogne, the principal change being ‘remembrement’ (literally ‘dismemberment’), the reorganisation of smaller fields into larger fields, which involves the grubbing out of hedgerows and any tree-lined path, such the one that leads us into Constable’s painting. Other changes are the use of pesticides & modern seed grain, which give the beautiful expanses of (mono-culture) wheat, which to my eye, still remain an incredibly beautiful sight.

It was partly because the association with such a nostaligic & traditional (outdated?) icon that the next day I painted the same type of subject mattter ‘à la contemporaine’ ,

Blé & Chene (fr) = wheat & oak (en)

“Blé & Chene” Oil on Canvas, 12 F, Sold.
© The Artist
sold

Fields of colour, not quite colour field painting.

Each year ‘en plein-air’ , following the yearly crop cycles, still asking some of the same questions, still paint…here’s another painting, from ten years ago, of corn & the ‘vibrating emptiness’ of huge fields of mono-culture, sun, summer & colour. Fields of colour, not quite colour field painting.


“42 ° Centigrade, Corn” Oil on panel. 1997. Sold
© The Artist.
sold
 

No space for nature in the countryside?

What I still hold to be of great interest in Constable’s work, other than his love for nature & weather & plein-air, is his intense interest & knowledge of the countryside & it’s economy. The rural economy here in the Dordogne remains principally agriculture but… in certain areas, tourism has now the principal economic activity. This can lead to a clash of ideas & financial interests of what & how the countryside should look like. And if there should be any space for nature in the countryside… hedgerows with trees, nightingales & wildflowers or remembrement? (literally the cutting off of members…the grubbing out of hedgerows to make larger fields).

Must everything be destroyed by a mechanical, pesticided, subsided agriculture? Isn’t nature part of the countryside? Aren’t we part of nature? The trees and the other parts of the eco-system, what about them? Don’t they too have the right to be part of the countryside?

It breaks my heart & makes me despair.

Read more artists & ecology in this blog:
Artists & Ecology #1 – Festival Flore Faune
Artists and Ecology #2 – Robert HAINARD – how to ‘blind contour draw’ Artists & Ecology #3 – Constable, Corn & the Destruction of Hedgerows Artists & Ecology # 4 – Paintings of Potatoes, Semances & Homage à José Bové Artists & Ecology # 5 -Le Dropt, Castillonnés , a green corridor? Artists & Ecology # 6 – No Space for Nature in the Countryside? Wendell Berry

Vignoble & Orge, St. Dizier

30 x 40 cm. Oil on Panel.© The Artist.
Post-scriptum 2009 : passed by this place yesterday & was saddened to see that many of the hedges & trees are no longer there. Grubbed out. Gone.
they’ve gone mad
the tractors & the chain saws aren’t enough
the trees have gone
now it’s the turn of the hills
the great mechanical diggers are attacking the very slopes
levelling all lines
flattening everything
no long now till they kill the very soil
this generation of farmers & ECC grant givers & ‘agricultural technicians’
don’t know what they’re doing
their paysan grandfathers
who tended the earth
with less greed
less ignorance
less government grants
less despair
now all gone
ruined
gone
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